For qualified foreign-born people who wish to visit the country for a prolonged period of time, the United States issues both immigrant and nonimmigrant visas. The fundamental distinction between a nonimmigrant visa and an immigrant visa is as follows:

  • Foreign nationals who wish to settle permanently in the U.S. are granted immigrant visas.
  • Nonimmigrant visas are required for foreign people who wish to enter the country temporarily, such as for tourism, commerce, medical treatment, temporary employment, research, or other similar purposes.

What Separates an Immigrant from a Nonimmigrant Status?

United States citizens standing with us flag in backgroundLet’s start by discussing what “immigrant” and “nonimmigrant” mean.

The majority of the terminology used in American immigration law are found in Title 8, Section 1101 of the United States Code. Chapter 1101 states:

  • An “alien” is somebody who is not a citizen or national of the United States.
  • Each and every non-citizen is either an “immigrant” or a “noncitizen.”
  • The majority of aliens are immigrants. An alien is only considered a “nonimmigrant” if one of the classifications stated in 1101(a) applies to them.

Generally speaking, an “immigrant” is a person who intends to reside permanently in the United States. A person who wants to stay in the United States temporarily for a particular reason is referred to as a “non-immigrant.”

Typical immigration visas include, for example:

  • Members of a citizen’s family
  • Members of lawful permanent residents’ families
  • Some immigrants who are here for work

Nonimmigrant visa examples that are frequently obtained include:

  • Diplomats and representatives of foreign governments
  • Students
  • Temporary employees
  • Tourists
  • Performers, athletes, and entertainers
  • Professors, researchers, and educators
  • Business clients

The entire list of people who qualify as “nonimmigrants” is extensive and convoluted. Any non-citizen who does not fit into one of these categories is considered an immigrant.

Immigrant Visa Categories

Sponsored by Immediate Family:

  • Spouse of an American citizen
  • Parents of an American citizen
  • A U.S. citizen’s child
  • Adult child or son of a U.S. citizen who is not married
  • The spouse and children of a U.S. citizen who is a lawful permanent resident
  • Married child of an American citizen
  • The sibling of an American citizen

Sponsored by Employer:

  • Exceptional professors and researchers, as well as international CEOs and managers, and extraordinary foreigners
  • Experts with advanced degrees and those with outstanding talent
  • Professionals, professionals with skills, and other workers
  • Foreign businesspeople investing $1 million (or $500,000) in the United States

Special Immigrants:

  • Afghan or Iraqi translators/interpreters
  • Iraqis who worked for or on behalf of the U.S. government
  • Religious personnel
  • National Interest Waiver for Physicians
  • Non-employment: Dependents of Juvenile Courts Diversity Visa Program

The nations from which the visas are issued are those with low U.S. immigration rates. Diversity Visas (DV) don’t need a petition because they don’t need a U.S. sponsor like other immigrant visa kinds do.

Visas for Immigrants

A person with an immigrant visa may also be referred to as a resident alien, a permanent resident, or an immigrant. Many—but not all—of the privileges and rights enjoyed by citizens of the United States are also available to people with immigrant visas. Most immigrants who enter the country on a visa do so through family members.

Family members of U.S. citizens may be eligible for legal permanent residence. Through a family member is one of the most popular routes taken by non-citizens to receive a Green Card. That does not necessarily imply that every relative of a citizen or lawful permanent resident will be eligible for a Green Card.

Visas for Nonimmigrants

Nonimmigrant visas permit a brief stay in the United States. Each nonimmigrant visa has a time limit during which the bearer may work in the United States, and it is necessary for a company to sponsor the applicant and to hire them once they have been granted the visa and arrived.

An individual with a qualified nonimmigrant visa, such as a multinational executive (L-1), a person in a specialty occupation (H-1B), or someone with exceptional ability, is permitted to work in the United States if their knowledge, training, or experience will benefit their employer, their industry, or the United States in general.

Nonimmigrant visas and Green Cards are both examples of business immigration.

Dual Intent Visas

A person with a nonimmigrant visa may enter the country with the hope of eventually becoming a permanent resident thanks to the dual intent visa class. This enables individuals with visas, such as H-1B workers, to enter the country while applying for legal permanent residence status. Nonimmigrants in the E, H-1, and L categories may enter the country and continue to do so while applying for permanent resident status.

How to Apply for a Visa, Immigrant or Nonimmigrant

visa application form

The list of “immigrant” and “nonimmigrant” visa categories, as well as directions on how to apply for a visa, are available on the website of the U.S. State Department.

Look through the list to determine which category best fits your needs. Please get in touch with our office if you need assistance with your visa application.

Are You Eligible to Move to the United States? Consult an Immigration Attorney for Assistance

Please get in touch with our office if you have any concerns about your ability to go to the United States. To address your immigration questions, we can arrange an assessment or a lawyer appointment. Contact Pride Immigration, our knowledgeable immigration attorneys can address all of your questions and help you through each step of the procedure.

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Beeraj Patel, Esq.

Partner at KPPB Law
Beeraj Patel's philosophy is simple - make it easy for talented and ambitious individuals to have access to immigration materials so that they can make the choice which is right for them.
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