Immigrant Visas

In general, in order to be eligible to apply for an immigrant visa, a foreign citizen must be sponsored by a U.S. citizen relative(s) or by a prospective employer. Unlike most other immigrant categories, Immediate Relatives are not subject to numerical limits under immigration law. For an overview of the types of immigrant visas available under immigration law, please see Immigrant Visa Classifications on the USCIS Website. Major immigrant categories are:

* Immediate Relatives
* Special Immigrants
* Family-sponsored
* Employer-sponsored

Non-Immigrant Visas

Non-Immigrant Visas

B Visa

A B visa allows a foreigner to enter the U.S. temporarily as a tourist (B2) or as a business visitor (B1). A successful applicant must demonstrate the following:

  • That his/her planned trip to the U.S. is only temporary
  • That he/she maintains a residence outside of the U.S. that he/she has no intention of abandoning
  • That he/she has made adequate financial arrangements to support him/herself during the planned period of stay in the U.S.

A B1 visitor must demonstrate that he/she will not perform any productive employment while in the U.S. There are very specific guidelines as to what may be considered permissible B1 activity.

E1 Treaty Trader & E2 Treaty Investor Visa

The E-1 and E-2 visa categories were created by various Treaties of Friendship, Commerce, & Navigation signed by the United States and certain foreign countries. These treaties allow U.S. companies that are owned and controlled by entities or citizens of the foreign qualifying country (who are not also permanent residents or citizens of the U.S.) to acquire E visa status on behalf of their foreign nationals who are coming to the U.S. as executives, managers, or employees with essential skills.

In order to qualify for an E-1 Treaty Trader Visa, the applicant must prove the following:

  • The U.S. company is at least 50% owned and controlled by companies or citizens of the E visa applicant’s country of citizenship
  • The U.S. company is engaged in “substantial” trade between the treaty country and the United States
  • More than 50% of the U.S. company’s international trade occurs between the U.S. and the country of the applicant’s nationality
  • The foreign national will be coming to the United States in order to assume employment in a managerial or executive capacity or as an individual with essential skills

In order to qualify for an E-2 Treaty Investor Visa, the applicant must prove that:

  • The investor, either an individual or a corporation, is or is owned by nationals of a treaty country
  • The investment in the U.S. is “substantial” and is sufficient to ensure the successful operation of the enterprise
  • The investment has been made in a real, operating enterprise
  • The investment is not marginal and will generate significantly more income than just what is needed to provide a living to the investor and his/her family, or the investment will have a significant economic impact in the United States
  • The investor has control of the funds, and the investment is at risk in the commercial sense
  • The investor will be coming to the U.S. to develop and direct the enterprise. If the applicant is not the principal investor, he/she must be employed in a supervisory, executive, or highly specialized skilled capacity. Ordinary skilled and unskilled workers do not qualify.

Generally, E visas are issued for a period of five years and are renewable for the duration of the individual’s employment with the sponsoring company. The spouse and minor children of the E visa applicant are also eligible for E-1 or E-2 classification, and after entering the United States in E status, the spouse may file an application for employment authorization.

H1B Visa

The H-1B visa category is available to individuals who have been offered a position with a U.S. company for which a Bachelor’s degree in a specific field is the minimum qualification. An individual who does not possess a Bachelor’s degree or its foreign equivalent may nonetheless qualify for H-1B nonimmigrant classification if he/she can demonstrate the equivalency of a Bachelor’s degree by virtue of extensive employment experience in a related field or a combination of employment experience and post-secondary education. Prior to filing an H-1B nonimmigrant visa petition, the petitioning U.S. employer must obtain certification of a Labor Condition Application (LCA) from the Department of Labor in the occupational specialty in which the foreign national will be employed, certifying that the individual will be paid at least the prevailing wage in the industry in the specific geographic location of the job offered.

With few exceptions, the number of new H-1B petitions that USCIS may approve annually is limited to 65,000 plus 20,000 additional visas for individuals with advanced degrees awarded by U.S. institutions of higher education. USCIS accepts new H-1B visa petitions according to the start of the fiscal year on October 1st of each year, and H-1B visa petitions may be submitted six months in advance of the October 1st start date on April 1st of each year. For the past two years, H-1B visa numbers have been exhausted within the first day of filing on April 1st, leaving H-1B visa numbers for first-time H-1B beneficiaries unavailable for the remainder of the fiscal year.

Generally, H-1B visa status is available for three years and is renewable for an additional three years. There are some exceptions to the six year limit on H-1B eligibility based on an individual’s participation in the permanent residence process. Additionally, spouses and minor children of H-1B visa holders are eligible to enter the U.S. in H-4 status, but this status does not include eligibility for employment authorization.

H-2 Visa

The H-2 visa category is divided between temporary workers who perform agricultural labor or services of a temporary or seasonal nature (H-2A), and workers who perform other temporary services or labor (H-2B). In order to qualify for H-2 nonimmigrant visa classification, an applicant must be entering the U.S. to perform temporary services or labor, and the U.S. sponsoring employer must demonstrate to the satisfaction of the U.S. Department of Labor that no U.S. workers who are capable of performing such services or labor are available in the specific labor market where the offered job is located at the time that the petition is filed. The number of new H-2B visa petitions that USCIS may approve annually is subject to seasonal quotas, and only 33,000 H-2B visas are available for each half of the fiscal year.

Spouses and minor children of H-2 visa holders are eligible to enter the U.S. in H-4 status, but this status does not include eligibility for employment authorization.

H-3 Visa

H-3 visas are for trainees in any field of endeavor except for physicians coming to the United States to receive graduate medical education or training. For these petitions, the employer is the petitioner, and the foreign visitor is the beneficiary/trainee. A successful petition for H-3 visa status will include the U.S. employer’s demonstration that:

  • The proposed training is not available in the beneficiary’s own country
  • The beneficiary will not be placed in a position that falls within the normal operation of the business and in which U.S. citizens and resident workers are regularly employed
  • The beneficiary will not engage in productive employment unless such employment is incidental and necessary to the training program
  • The training will benefit the beneficiary’s career outside of the U.S.

Each visa petition for H-3 nonimmigrant status must be accompanied by a schedule of training which includes specific concepts to be learned and a timeline for the comprehension of each concept. H-3 visa status may be approved for up to two years, however, an H-3 trainee who has spent 24 months in the U.S. may not seek extension, change status, or be readmitted to the U.S. in H or L status unless he/she has resided outside the U.S. for the prior six months, unless the applicant did not reside continuously in the U.S. and the employment in the U.S. was seasonal or intermittent or was for an aggregate of six months or fewer per year.

Spouses and minor children of H-3 visa holders are eligible to enter the U.S. in H-4 status, but this status does not include eligibility for employment authorization.

I Visa

The I visa, often referred to as the “media visa,” allows representatives of the foreign media, including members of the press, radio, film, or print industries who will render services for a foreign media outlet to enter the United States in order to engage in their profession. Examples of foreign media correspondents include reporters, film crews, video tape editors, and journalists working under contract who are covering newsworthy events or are involved in the production of documentaries.

I visa applications are prepared for direct filing at the U.S. Consulate or Embassy in the applicant’s home country without first filing a petition with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services. Visas are typically issued for one year, and extensions may be granted in one-year increments without limit.

J Visa

Although there are many different J-1 visa categories (including au pairs, pilots, foreign medical students, researchers, etc.), Liuzzo & Associates is most commonly retained to prepare and file applications for individuals wishing to come to the U.S. temporarily to engage in the U.S. Department of State’s Exchange Visitor Trainee category.
Through the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program, foreign nationals may visit the United States temporarily to study, observe, and train in a specific field or industry in which they possess either a Bachelor’s degree or five years of work experience, if such training is not available in their home country. Designated sponsoring organizations facilitate the entry of foreign nationals into the United States in order to complete the objectives of a U.S.-based program of training for periods not to exceed eighteen (18) months. At the conclusion of their program, it is anticipated that participants shall return to their home countries in order to resume their careers and utilize those skills that were learned while training in the United States.

K Visa

There are two types of visas that allow foreign nationals to enter the United States if they are either engaged or married to a U.S. citizen and plan to apply for U.S. permanent residence based upon that marriage. The fianc(e)é of a U.S. citizen who is currently living abroad may apply for a K-1 visa in order to enter the U.S. to marry the U.S. citizen to whom he/she is engaged. Foreign nationals who have already married a U.S. citizen may apply for a K-3 visa, which will allow them to remain in the United States for the duration of the sometimes lengthy family-based immigration process while they are waiting for their application for permanent residence to be adjudicated. The foreign spouse may also apply for work authorization during this period. Also, the minor children of such individuals may apply for derivative K-2 or K-4 status.

L-1 Visa

USCIS provides that an alien may be classified as an L-1 nonimmigrant if he/she has been employed for a U.S. company’s foreign parent, branch, affiliate, or subsidiary company for at least one full year in the three years preceding their entry into the United States. L-1 classification is only available to those individuals who are being transferred to the U.S. office in order to assume a managerial or executive level position (L-1A) or a position requiring specialized knowledge of the company’s proprietary tools or methodologies (L-1B).

Generally, L-1 status is granted for an initial period of three years. L-1B nonimmigrants are eligible for one extension of two years’ duration for a total period of five (5) years in L-1B status. L-1A nonimmigrants are eligible for two two-year extensions and therefore may remain in the U.S. in lawful L-1A nonimmigrant status for a total of seven (7) years, if desired.

O Visa

O-1 visa classification is available to individuals of demonstrated extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics (O-1A), or who have a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry (O-1B).

Scientists, artists, educators, businessmen, and athletes must have extraordinary ability as “demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim,” while artists and entertainers in motion pictures and television must have a “demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement.” The achievements of all types of O-1 beneficiaries must be recognized in the field of their endeavor through extensive documentation and must be accompanied by a consultation letter from an appropriate peer group or labor organization attesting to the individual’s qualifications. Current regulations authorize the approval of initial O visa petitions for up three years with no limit on extensions.

P Visa

The P visa category provides a method by which athletes and certain foreign entertainers may enter the United States temporarily. An individual is eligible for P-1 nonimmigrant visa classification and temporary entry into the U.S. if he/she is an athlete performing individually or as part of a group or team that is “internationally recognized” (P-1A) or is an individual who performs with or is an integral or essential part of an entertainment group that has been recognized internationally as being outstanding in the discipline for a sustained and substantial period of time (P-1B).

P-1 visas issued to members of an entertainment group may not exceed one year, and extensions of P-1 status are permitted provided that there is adequate evidence of the group’s continuing engagement in the United States. Spouses and dependents of P-1 performers and athletes may be admitted to the U.S. for the same period as the principal P nonimmigrant.

Q Visa Category

Q visa classification may be utilized by a participant in an international cultural exchange program as designated by the Attorney General for the purpose of providing practical training, employment and sharing of the history, culture, and traditions of the person’s nationality. The program applies to an employer that has employees (that is not an agent or office) and that provides systematic goods and/or services (including lectures, seminars, and other types of cultural programs) on a regular, continuous basis. In order to qualify, the foreign national must demonstrate that:

  • The program in which the applicant wishes to participate will take place in a school, museum, business, or other establishment where the American public, or a segment of the public sharing a common cultural interest, is exposed to aspects of a foreign culture as part of a structured program
  • The cultural component is designed on the whole “to exhibit or explain the attitude, customs, history, heritage, philosophy, or traditions” of the applicant’s home country. Standard instructional activities such as courses or lectures are acceptable.
  • The proposed work will serve as a vehicle to achieve the cultural objectives and will not be separate from it.
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