Temporary Visa Overview

The non-immigrant visa classification covers a broad range of visas used to enter the United States for work, pleasure or study. Some visas are considered ‘dual status’; you may attempt to obtain permanent residency (a green card) while under that classification. Most non-immigrant visas, however, require you establish the demonstration of non-immigrant intent. This means you should demonstrate that you have a permanent residence in your home country that you have no intention of abandoning. The duration of time you may spend in the U.S. can range from a few days to several years, depending on the visa. In most situations, your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may accompany you on a derivative visa.

On this page:

Temporary Work Permits (H, L, E, O, P, Q and R)

H-1B Visas are for persons in a specialty occupation, that requires at least a bachelor’s degree. The alien does not need to maintain a foreign residence and may have “dual intent,” meaning that he or she may also intend to remain in the U.S. permanently. The petitioning employer is required to obtain a certification from the Department of Labor that it has filed a Labor Condition Application. There is a cap on the number of H-1B visas available each year.

H-2 Visas are for temporary workers performing “agricultural labor or services of a temporary nature,” and temporary workers performing “other temporary service or labor.” The employer must demonstrate that no U.S. workers capable of performing the service/labor are available. Under the H-2A program, there is a 50% rule, which requires employers to hire qualified U.S. farmworkers who apply for the job until 50% of the contract period has been completed. Under the H-2B program, the employer must get a temporary labor certification demonstrating that (1) no USC/LPR workers are available for the position; and (2)

Intra-company Transferee (L-1) Visas are for persons who have been employed continuously abroad for one of the past 3 years by the parent, branch, affiliate or subsidiary of a U.S. company and who are being transferred to the U.S. company. The person is not required to perform full-time services in the U.S. but must dedicate a significant portion of his or her time on a regular and systematic basis. Furthermore, the person must work in a capacity that is managerial, executive or involve specialized knowledge.

Investor (E-1, E-2) Visas are based on a treaty between the U.S. and the country of which the applicant is a national. For an E-1 visa, the applicant must be entering the U.S. solely to carry on substantial trade that is international in scope principally between the U.S. and the foreign state of which he or she is a national. For an E-2 visa, the applicant must invest a substantial amount of capital in a bona fide enterprise. E visas may be renewed indefinitely, although the applicant should not intend to remain in the U.S. permanently.

O-1 Visas are for persons with “extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics which has been demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim.”

P-1 Visas are for:

  • an individual or team of alien athletes recognized internationally, and
  • alien artists or entertainers who will perform with, or are an essential or integral part of an internationally recognized entertainment group or performance.

P-2 Visas are available to artists or entertainers who will be performing under a reciprocal exchange program, which is between a U.S.-based and foreign-based organization. P-2 applicants do not need to make any showing of outstanding or extraordinary ability or even that they have any particular level of experience.

Essential support personnel may be included in these applications.

Q Visas are for persons “who has a residence in a foreign country which he or she has no intention of abandoning, and who is coming temporarily to the United States to take part in an international cultural exchange program approved by the Attorney General” “for the purpose of providing practical training, employment, and the sharing of the history, culture, and traditions of the country of the alien’s nationality.”

R Visas are for religious workers “who, for at least the two (2) years immediately preceding the time of application for admission, has been a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide nonprofit religious organization in the United States,” who “must be coming to the United States for one of the following purposes: solely to carry on the vocation of a minister of the religious denomination; to work for the religious organization at the request of the organization in a professional capacity; or to work for the organization, or a bona fide organization which is affiliated with the religious denomination, at the request of the organization in a religious vocation or occupation.”

For more information see my Temporary Work Visa page.

Family-related Visas for Fiancé, Spouse and Children

K-1 Visas are for the fiancé(e)s of U.S. Citizens. The fiancée must seek to enter the U.S. solely to conclude a valid marriage with the petitioner. The couple must marry within 90 days after the fiancee’s entry. Any minor children of the fiancée may accompany the fiancée to the U.S. with K-2 visas.

K-3 Visas are for persons who have valid marriages to U.S. citizens, where the U.S. citizen has filed an I-130 petition on the person’s behalf and the person wishes to enter the U.S. to await the approval. If the I-130 is denied, the authorized admission under K-3 terminates 30 days after the denial. The K-3 visa includes minor children of the beneficiary.

Visas For Students and Trainees (F, M, J, H-3)

F-1 Student Visas are for bona fide academic students, fully qualified to pursue a full course of study, who have a foreign residence with no intention of abandoning it. The applicant must study only at the institution designated and approved in compliance with the SEVIS program. Institutions must comply with certain reporting and other requirements to maintain their status as an approved school. After completions of the course of study, students may complete 12 months of Optional Practical Training (OPT).

J-1 Visas are for exchange visitors who are bona fide trainees and have no intention of abandoning their foreign residence. Participation in an exchange program may be for purposes such as teaching, studying, observing, conducting research, consulting, and receiving training. The applicant must have sufficient funds and fluency in English. Certain J visa holders are subject to a requirement that they must return to their home country or country of last residence for two years upon completion of their training in the U.S. Waivers to this 2-year residency requirement may be granted.

H-3 Visas are for temporary workers invited by an individual or organization for purposes of receiving instruction and training other than to receive graduate medical education or training. The training program must be one “that is not designed primarily to provide productive employment.”

For more information see my Student Visa page.

Law Enforcement Visas (S, T. U)

T Visas are for persons who have subjected to “severe trafficking,” including the use of force, fraud or coercion for sex trafficking and/or involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery. The applicant must either agree to assist in a reasonable request by law enforcement authorities in the investigation or prosecution of such trafficking or be less than 18 years old. In addition, the applicant must show that she would “suffer extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm upon removal.” If the applicant is under 21 years at the time of filing, the visa includes the applicant’s spouse, parents, unmarried siblings under 18, and children. If the applicant is 21 or over, the visa includes the applicant’s spouse and children.

U Visas are for persons who have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of one of the following crimes or similar activities: rape, torture, trafficking, incest, domestic violence, sexual assault, abusive sexual contact, prostitution, sexual exploitation, female genital mutilation, being held hostage, peonage, involuntary servitude, slave trade, kidnapping, abduction, unlawful criminal restraint, extortion, manslaughter, murder, felonious assault, witness tampering, obstruction of justice, perjury, or attempt, conspiracy or solicitation to commit any of these crimes. The applicant must also demonstrate that s/he possesses information concerning the criminal activity, that she has been or is likely to be helpful to law enforcement officials or prosecutors, and that the criminal activity violated the laws of the U.S. or occurred in the U.S.. If the applicant is under 16 his or her parent, guardian or next friend may also be included. In certain cases, the spouse or children may also be included.

Visas for Temporary Visitors (B1/B2)

BI Visitors for Business are admissible if they are engaging in commercial transactions not involving gainful employment, such as negotiating contracts, litigation, consulting with clients or business associates. In addition, persons participating in scientific, educational, professional, religious or business conventions may obtain B1 visas.

B2 Visitors for Pleasure are admissible if they are tourists, socially visiting friends or relatives, coming to the U.S. for health purposes, participating in conventions or amateur musical, sports or similar events with no renumerous, and for other limited reasons. Employment is not permitted with a B2 visa.

For more information see my Visitor Visa page.