What is a US Nonimmigrant Visa?
If you are a non-US national and you want to visit, live or work in the United States, you will need to consider what visa options are available to you. Often, if you are staying for a limited period of time, a nonimmigrant visa is your best option.
Types of Nonimmigrant Visas to the US
Nonimmigrant US visa categories for various purposes of travel include: B-1 for athletes, J for au pairs (an exchange visitor), E-3 Australian professional specialty, the BCC (border crossing card) for Mexico, B-1 for business visitors, CW-1 for CNMI-only transitional workers, D visa for crewmembers, A visa for diplomats/foreign government officials, B-1 for domestic employees/nannies, the G-1 to G-5/NATO visa for employees of a designated international organization or NATO, J visa for exchange visitors, A-2 or NATO1-6 visa for foreign military personnel stationed in the US, the O visa for foreign nationals with extraordinary abilities in sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, and the H-1B1 for either Chile or Singapore for free trade agreement (FTA) professionals.
Additionally, there is the Q visa for international cultural exchange visitors, the L visa for an intra-company transferee, B2 visa for a visitor receiving medical treatment in the US, I visa for journalists and media, TN/TD visa for NAFTA professional workers from Mexico or Canada, the P visa for a performing artist, athlete, or entertainer, the J or H-1B visa for physicians, the J1 visa for visiting professors, scholars, or teachers, R visa for religious workers, H-1B for specialty occupations in fields requiring highly specialized knowledge, the F or M visa for students, the H-2A for a temporary agricultural worker, the H-2B for a temporary worker performing seasonal services/labour, and the B-2 visa for visitors on vacation/traveling for pleasure.
Lastly, the list includes the H-3 visa for training in a program not primarily for employment, the E visa for treaty traders/treaty investors, the C visa for transiting the US, the U visa for victims of criminal activity, the T visa for victims of human trafficking, and the V visa for nonimmigrant spouses or children of a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR).
Spouses and Children Seeking Dependent Nonimmigrant Classification
Spouses and children requesting a change of status or extension of stay in a dependent nonimmigrant classification must file Form I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status.
How to Apply for Nonimmigrant Visas to the US
If you are planning a brief visit to the U.S. for business or tourism, you might need to apply for a visitor or a transit visa.
The steps you should take include finding out if you need a visa (check to see if your country participates in the Visa Waiver Program), determine which visa you might need for your visit (most business and tourism travelers use B-1 and B-1 visitor visas), and then apply for the visa.
In general, you will need a photo, the funds to cover the visa application fee, to complete the online nonimmigrant visa application form DS-160, and to schedule an interview.
How to Apply Online for a Business or Tourism Visitor Visa to the US
The steps you should take include finding out if you need a visa (check to see if your country participates in the Visa Waiver Program), determine which visa you might need for your visit (most business and tourism travelers use B-1 and B-1 visitor visas), and then apply for the visa online (typically through the US embassy or consulate).
How to Apply for ESTA and Get Approval to Travel to the US
If you plan to visit the U.S. under the Visitor Waiver Program (VWP), you must get an approved travel authorization before your trip. Authorization approvals are determined using the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).
To apply and get approval to travel to the US, check the list of the 39 countries that participate in the VWP. You must have an e-Passport to use the VWP.
You will then need to fill out the ESTA online application. The processing fee is USD$4.00, and if you are approved there is an additional USD$10.00 authorization charge.
When you fill out your application, you will get an ESTA application number. Use this number to check the status of your application pertaining to whether you have been accepted to travel to the US.
Visitors traveling to the US for tourism or business meetings or conferences under the VWP can stay for up to 90 days without a visa.
Student and Vocational Training
Student and Vocational Training Visas
An international student can apply for a student or exchange visitor visa only after being accepted by a school certified in the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). Students’ records are kept in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).
Types of Educational Visas
The most common student visas are F-1 and M-1 visas. F-1 visa classification is for a full-time international student pursuing academic studies. M-1 visa classification is for a full-time international student pursuing vocational studies.
Applicants Under 14 or Over 79
North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Professional Visa
The NAFTA Professional visa classification is TN and grants the holder temporary entry into the U.S. to work in business activities at a professional level for an initial period of up to three years.
Conditions for Eligibility
Only citizens of Canada and Mexico are eligible for a nonimmigrant North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Professional visa to work in the U.S.
How to Apply
After getting a letter from your future employer confirming your offer of a position, the application processes varies for Canadian and Mexican citizens.
For Canadian citizens, a NAFTA Professional (TN) visa is usually not required. You can go directly to a US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) port of entry with your documentation for an interview to be admitted to the U.S. as a nonimmigrant who can legally work in the U.S.
For Mexican citizens, a NAFTA Professional (TN) visa is required. Complete the online visa application form DS-160, print out the confirmation page, and bring it to your interview. If you are applying in Mexico, a photo is not required for your application.
Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application (DS-160)
The DS-160 is an online visa application form for applicants who require a TN visa to travel to the United States.
The top 10 reasons for nonimmigrant visa denial include current and/or past immigration status and history in the US or abroad (including overstaying and unauthorized employment), insufficient funds to support oneself during your stay, incorrect or incomplete petition, insufficient supporting evidence, conflicts with travel documentation, health concerns, suspicion of malicious intent, problems with background check, criminal history/being convicted of a crime, and material misrepresentation.