Nonimmigrant Visas

Visitors (B-1/B-2)

There are two types of nonimmigrant visitor visas: one for those who will temporarily visit the country for business purposes (B-1) and another for all other reasons such as tourism, pleasure, or medical treatment (B-2). Some scenarios appropriate for having a B-1 visa include professional athletes, religious workers, domestic servants, professional individuals considering making an E-2 investment, and foreign corporate personnel who seek to set up a subsidiary. Along with the usual reasons of a B-2 visa, foreign students might be able to qualify if the respective embassy is informed and aware of the student’s purposes. Luckily for B-1 and B-2 visa holders, the visa status may be changed or extended within the U.S.

NAFTA Treaty (TN)

The NAFTA Treaty under the TN nonimmigrant category allows specific professionals to enter the U.S. if 1) the professional is working for a U.S. company on a temporary basis and paid like an H-1B, or 2) the professional is working on a U.S.-contracted project and employed by a Canadian or Mexican company. In order to qualify, the professional must have a Schedule 2 profession, as dictated by the foreign national that has the proper credentials to make such a decision. Unless otherwise specified, the professional is required to have a bachelor’s degree or higher education and comparable substitute is not allowed. Depending on which country from which the professional emigrated, such as Canada and Mexico, there will be slight changes to the procedures.

Professional Workers (H-1B)

Those applying for an H-1B visa are required to have a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent, which is defined as outstanding past work experience that relates to the professional’s specialty, as the professional is acquiring the visa on the grounds that he or she has a “specialty occupation”. In addition, the beneficiary must meet the requirements of the specialty occupation. Here are some factors to take into consideration concerning an H-B visa:

  • The H1-B visa is temporary for a three-year duration, with the option to extend another three years;
  • Dependents of H-1B professionals can file under an H-4 status, but they are not granted the right to work in the U.S. unless an exception is made;
  • Processing time will take about three to seven months, but can be expedited within 15 business days for an extra $1,000 under a Premium processing service;
  • There is an annual cap of 65,000 H-1B visas allowed per year, but exceptions are made in some circumstances.

Intra-company Transferees (L-1)

This type of visa is for employees who will be transferred from a foreign company to its corresponding branch in the U.S. Here are some of the requirements for the L-1 visa:

  • Must be a manager, executive or an employee with specialized knowledge with at least one year’s experience with another foreign company;
  • A relationship must exist between then foreign and U.S. branches of the companies (either the foreign or the U.S. companies must be a branch, affiliate or subsidiary of the other), along with having over 50% stock control or joint veto power in a 50/50 joint venture;
  • Must have proof of continuous employment for the first year in the three years of the visa allotment.

In addition, an individual with an L-1 visa with a foreign national spouse or minor children grants them with a nonimmigrant classification and the same duration in the U.S. (these are referred to as L-2 visas). With this visa, the L-1 visa’s spouse may apply to work legally in the country.

Treaty Traders / Investors (E-1/E-2)

A professional seeking E-1 entry into the U.S. as a treaty trader must intend to carry on a substantial trade in goods or services, but not necessarily as a supervisor or an executive. Goods refer to real and tangible merchandise that hold intrinsic value, while services may refer to economic activities such as tourism, banking, advertising, transportation, insurance, accounting, and so on. Your firm must be owned by a Treaty Foreign National by at least 50%, a treaty must already be in place, and you must resolve to leave the U.S. at the time the visa status is terminated. In addition, you must fulfill either a managerial or executive role, or possess special skills that define you as essential to operations.

To apply for an E-2 investor visa, you must intent to develop and/or direct the operations of a business in which you have invested, or are currently investing. Again, the firm must be owned by a Treaty Foreign National by at least 50%, and you are required to have invested in it as it was at risk of not succeeding as a bona fide U.S. enterprise. Your involvement in operations must be executive, supervisory, or of an essential nature to the success of the business.

Students (F-1)

F-1 visas are flexible in the way that a student is permitted to stay within the U.S. under the status for as long as he or she is enrolled in academic programs. In addition, practical training is considered toward the visa and students receive a 60-day grace period in which they depart. This visa is only available to individuals who intend to become full-time students at a U.S. academic institution (i.e. university or lower education) or within a language-training program, and either must be approved by the U.S. Attorney General. All F-1 visa students must be able to provide proof of financial stability in relation to school costs and general living expenses, as they are not permitted to receive welfare or other U.S. government benefits. F-2 visas may be issued to spouses and/or children of the student, but they are not allowed to seek employment in the U.S.

Athletes, Entertainers, Artists (O-1)

Applicants who qualify for the O-1 visa include those who demonstrate “extraordinary ability” in fields including education, art, science, business, or athletics. An O-1 individual must be acclaimed nationally or internationally as a part of a small upper percentile in his or her respective field, as shown by extensive documentation. In addition, the O-1 visa applicant must be traveling to the U.S. to work in his or her field of expertise.

To qualify for an O-1 visa, an individual must have at least three of the following requirements:

  • Proof of a national or international award or prize displaying excellence in the field;
  • Publication praising the individual in a professional publication or major media;
  • Published work in a scholarly journal or major media in the field;
  • Being employed by a reputable organization in which an individual’s participation is essential to operations;
  • Original, documented contributions to business, science or scholarly fields;
  • Exclusive membership in an organization that requires superior achievement as a part of membership, as evaluated by legitimate experts;
  • An official judge or part of a panel of judges who evaluate the efforts of others in the field;
  • Proof of either a high salary or other compensation for skills in the field;
  • Other evidence of outstanding achievement in the field.

Religious Workers (R-1)

This visa is available to those who hold occupations within a religious organization. The religious organization must be a nonprofit and have another location within the U.S., such as an office, a branch, or some kind of official presence. In addition, the organization must be tax exempt and be a currently functioning and accepted religious domination, of which the individual must be practicing for at least two years before applying for an R-1 visa. While it’s not required for the individual to have previous work experience with any specific organization, at least two years of related experience may qualify the applying individual for either an immigrant visa or even permanent residence following the visa. The organization must officially employ the individual and demonstrate proof of qualification, along with providing authorization for the individual to work for the organization.

Essential Workers (H-2B)

American employers may petition to hire a non-American worker, skilled or unskilled, for a position in which qualified U.S. workers are not available. The visa must fulfill a job that is for one time only, seasonal, or to meet a certain amount within context. Before filing for an H-2B visa, the employer must file a document proving that there are no available U.S. workers and that wage requirements meet lawful standards.