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Everything You Need to Know About Visas


Foreign nationals who wish to live and work in the United States must apply for a visa. However, With over 185 different types of U.S. visas, how do you know which one applies to you? While obtaining a visa without the assistance of an immigration attorney can be complicated, here are some basics to help you get the process started.

The Two Categories of Visas

There are two types of visas that allow foreign nationals a chance to visit the U.S. Depending on the purpose of your travel, the kind of visa you need will fall into the category of an immigrant visa or nonimmigrant visa. Here’s an explanation of each:

Immigrant Visa

Immigrant visas are issued to individuals who were born outside of the U.S. with the intention to move to the United States permanently. Also known as green card holders, those who have an immigrant visa are allowed to live and work in the U.S. as well as have the same rights and privileges as a United States citizen.

To be considered for an immigrant visa, an individual must be sponsored by an employer or family member based in the United States. While there are certain criteria to be met, one may be able to acquire an immigrant visa through gaining refugee status or other humanitarian immigration programs.

Common Immigrant Visa Applications

If you are a foreign national who lives abroad, you must apply for an immigrant visa through the consular office of the Department of State. Immigrant visas may include but are not limited to:

  • K-1 - fiancé visa
  • V- visa for spouses and unmarried children under 21 of any green card holders who have applied for immigrant visas on or before December 21, 2000, and are still in the process
  • U - visa for victims of crime

Nonimmigrant Visa

If your travel to the United States will be temporary, then you would apply for a nonimmigrant visa. Nonimmigrant visas typically require an individual to depart the U.S. within a certain time period. The following travel situations may fall under a nonimmigrant visa:

Once an individual is granted a nonimmigrant visa, there may be restrictions on the activities related to the purpose of their temporary stay in the United States. For example, someone who has been issued a student visa must be enrolled in school throughout their time in the U.S. and must abide by the terms of the issued nonimmigrant visa.

Most Common Nonimmigrant Visa Applications

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services agency, (a division of the Department of Homeland Security), is responsible for visas and other aspects of naturalization and immigration services. The most common nonimmigrant visas may include but are not limited to the following:

H1-B - work visa

O-1 - self-petition/entrepreneur visa

L-1 - Intracompany transfer visa

E-1 - Investor visa

B1 and B2 - Business and tourism visa

Who is Eligible for a Work Visa?

Foreign nationals who wish to seek employment in the United States may do so by applying for a work visa. Obtaining a temporary work visa will require your employer to file a petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If approved, you will then be eligible to apply for a temporary work visa. The following are types of visas that may permit you to work in the United States:

  • EB-1 visas are granted to priority workers such as business executives and managers; professors and researchers; and those who have demonstrated expertise in art, business, science, and athletics.
  • EB-2 visas are designed for professionals with advanced degrees. For example, physicians and those with training in science, education, and other fields.
  • EB-3 visas are designated for skilled workers and professionals with a minimum degree of education equal to a bachelor's degree or two years of training.
  • EB-4 visas are designated for certain immigrants; mostly foreign nationals who work for the U.S. government in another country and religious workers.
  • EB-5 visas are investor visas, designed for foreign nationals who want to invest significant resources into a new business in the U.S.

If you are an entrepreneur or self-employed, you may be eligible to apply for an O-1 visa. An O-1 Visa still requires an individual to have a sponsoring employer, which can make the process more complicated. Having an immigration attorney assist you with your O-1 visa application can help increase the chance of a favorable outcome.

Common Reasons for Visa Denials

Having an attorney assist you with your work visa application can increase the chances of your visa approval, but making the following mistakes could complicate your case:

You will be required to participate in an interview as part of the screening process. While you may have all the appropriate documentation and other requirements to obtain a visa, how you conduct yourself during the interview is paramount.

Insufficient Documentation
Some temporary work visas require at least a bachelor's degree, or documentation indicating that your specialized knowledge is needed in the U.S. If you cannot show this proof, you may be denied.

Non-Specialized Skills
The H-1B visa requires you to have specialized skills or knowledge. If your interviewer finds that your intended job does not require this, you may have a denied visa request.

No Ties to Your Home Country
Interviewers often ask interviewees about their ties to their home country. For example, they may ask if you have a family or if your family resides in the U.S. The purpose of these types of questions is to ensure that the person on a temporary work visa will not overstay, and will return home after the visa has expired.

Navigating the visa process is complex, especially when unfamiliar with immigration law. Having an experienced immigration attorney on your side can make all the difference. If you or a loved one needs assistance with obtaining a visa, we can help. Contact Yekrangi & Associates at (949) 478-4963 today to learn more. Our experienced immigration attorneys will guide you through every step of the way.

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