Non-Immigrant Visas

A non-immigrant visa allows an individual to enter the U.S. for a temporary period of time, for a specific purpose; some permit employment and others do not. In general, individual who enter the U.S. in non-immigrant status have an intent to depart at some point in time (this can be contrasted with immigrant intent, where the foreign nation intends to live and work in the US indefinitely). While there are a number of non-immigrant visa classifications available, those outlined below are the more commonly used ones:

B Visa

The B non-immigrant visa category covers foreign visitors for business (B-1) and pleasure (B-2).

F Visa (Student Visa) / Optional Practical Training

F visas are for full-time students in a degree program. When a student is in a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral program and has completed all course requirements for the degree, he or she is eligible for a 12 month period of OPT or Optional Practical Training.

J Visa

J visas cover exchange visitors, such as students, scholars, and au pairs. J-1 students are eligible for academic training after graduation. Academic training provides an opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge obtained in an academic program to a practical work experience. Doctoral students who obtain a post-doc position may be eligible for academic training. Employment must be authorized by the Responsible Officer at the academic institution.

H-1B Visa

The H-1B visa program is intended to permit US employers to hire the highly educated employees for “specialty occupations” (positions that require at least a Bachelor’s Degree in a specialized field). Examples include Research Associates, engineers, accountants, medical personnel, and computer professionals. The period of stay for H-1B holder is 6 years, and an application must be made to USCIS. Extensions beyond six (6) years may be possible under certain circumstances.

O and P Visa

Foreign nationals who have demonstrated extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics may be able to receive an O visa to work in their area of expertise. By way of example, an art school graduate with an exceptional portfolio might be eligible for an O visa. The period of stay for an O visa is 3 years and incremental extensions are available. P visas are available for performing artists and athletes. These visas require applications to USCIS.

TN Visa

TN visas are similar to H-1B visas, but they are available only to Canadian and Mexican nationals, and cover a limited number of job titles.

R Visa

R visas are for religious workers. The workers must be performing a religious function, such as a Minister or Music Director.