Are you struggling to understand United States immigration laws? If you are, you’re not alone. The country has some of the most complex immigration and visa laws in the world.
Despite being convoluted, they also change often under different administrations. All of that can make the process difficult to navigate.
To break things down for you, we’ve put together this guide on the different types of US visas. By the time you finish reading, you’ll have a better understanding of which visas you or a loved one can pursue.
Let’s take a look at the different US visa types and which you may qualify for.
Who Needs a Visa?
The first thing you’ll want to be clear on is whether you need a visa to enter the country. Not everyone does, so it’s worth doing some research beforehand.
There are 156 countries around the world whose citizens require visas to enter the US. The majority of these countries are outside of Europe, so if you live in Asia, the Americas, or Africa, there’s a good chance you’ll need a visa.
Citizens from these countries need a visa no matter how long they plan on spending time in the US.
The US government allows citizens from 39 countries to enter without a visa. However, they can only enter for business or tourism, and they don’t just get to walk in.
Citizens from these countries qualify for a program known as ESTA, or Electronic System for Travel Authorization. This program is essentially a visa waiver program.
To take advantage of this program, you’ll need to be from one of the specified countries and have a special stamp in your passport. This lets custom agents know that you’re a part of the visa waiver program through ESTA.
Countries That Don’t Require Any Pre-Entry Authorization
If you’re from Canada or Bermuda, you’re in luck—you don’t need to worry about getting a visa or qualifying for ESTA.
Citizens of Bermuda get to stay in the country for up to six months without having to worry about a visa. This makes it easy for citizens to travel and visit family members.
Laws pertaining to Canadian citizens are even laxer. Canadians can enter, stay, and even work in the US. In some cases, they might need an enhanced driver’s license or some other specialized ID, but the process as a whole is quite straightforward.
US Visa Types
After figuring out whether you need a visa to enter the country, you can then move on to determining which visa you need to apply for.
Let’s take a look at some of the different visa types:
Visitor visas fall into two categories: B1 and B2.
B1 visits are for people traveling to the US for business, while B2 visas are for tourists. Once you get a visitor visa, you can stay in the country for up to six months.
As their name suggests, student visas are for students coming to the US for educational purposes. F1 visas are for students, while M1 visas are for vocational purposes.
If either an F1 visa holder or an M1 visa holder has a dependant, they can apply for an F2 visa holder.
Exchange Visitor Visas
If someone plans on participating in an exchange program for work or education, they’ll apply for a J1 or Q visa. Oftentimes, exchange visitor visas can lead to a work visa down the road.
There are several different types of diplomatic visas. These include A1, G1, and G5.
If someone works for NATO, there’s even a special NATO visa that they will apply for.
Temporary Work Visas
There are over a dozen different types of temporary work visas. The one you should apply for depends on your nationality, profession, and the length of time you’ll be in the US.
Treaty Trader and Investor Visas
The E1 and E2 visas are the treaty trader and investor visas. These are for people with treaties of navigation and commerce in the US.
Transit visas are for people passing through the US en route to somewhere else. The D visa is for people who work on an international airline or ship, while the C visa is the standard transit visa.
If you’re immigrating to the US for long-term employment, you’ll apply for an employer-sponsored visa. Some of these visas include the EBI, the SI, and the SQ visas.
Check out this guide to learn about how an EB2 downgrade might help you get into the country faster.
If you’re married to someone who’s a permanent resident of the United States, you’ll apply for an IR1 or CR1 visa.
A K3 visa is for someone whose partner is in the process of getting long-term citizenship. K4 visas are for the children of K3 applicants.
Family-sponsored visas can help immediate family members of US citizens get into the country. There are many different types, and depending on which country your family resides in, the wait time can be long (hundreds of years long).
Visas for Crime Victims
T and U visas are for victims of crime that are looking to live in the US. These people often assist with prosecuting the individuals responsible.
Understand the Different Types of US Visas
The United States has one of the most complicated immigration systems in the world. That can make it difficult to know which visa you qualify for.
Use this guide to help you understand the different types of US visas. Remember that if you still need some help deciphering complicated legal jargon, turning to a migration lawyer for assistance might not be a bad idea.
Are you looking to learn more about US visa types and other legal topics? If so, make sure to check out the rest of our site for more great content.