Types of U.S. Non Immigrant Visas

Posted on April 4, 2014 by Akshay Study Abroad in Applications, Study Abroad


Visitors to the United States of America require nonimmigrant visas.  The type of visa needed depends on the visitor’s purpose of travel or sojourn.  Unless specifically noted, all nonimmigrant visa applicants follow the same application process.

Following are the types of U.S. non immigrant visas

Students and Exchange Visitors

If you are attending school, participating in student or faculty exchange programs, or performing research scholarship, you will need an F, M or J visa.

Academic Students (F1, F2)
Students planning to pursue degrees in full-time academic programs for bachelors, masters or doctoral programs must obtain F-1 visas. Dependent spouse and children would be applying for F2 Visa.

Non-Academic Students (M1, M2)
The M-1 visa is for students wishing to pursue non-academic or vocational studies. Typically, these programs are of short duration and lead to professional or vocational certification rather than an academic degree.

Exchange Visitors (J1, J2)
The J-1 visa is for participants in exchange or trainee programs. Typical J applicants include university professors, researchers, post-doctoral fellows and trainees.

Business and Tourism

B1/B2 visas are for visiting family, taking a holiday, seeking medical treatment or participating in short-term business activities like meetings and conferences.

The U. S.A. usually offers a ten-year, multiple entry visa for adult applicants. Most applicants applying for a nonimmigrant visas are visitors for business (B1) or tourism (B2). The two categories of visa are usually issued together as a B1/B2 visa.

Note that “Business” does not mean gainful employment, but it does include a wide range of business-related activities (meetings, trainings, negotiations) for which one is not being paid in the United States. You may also seek medical treatment or travel as a domestic/personal employee.

Working in the United States

Specialized Workers (H1-B, H-4)
H visas are designed for skilled temporary workers in a specialty occupation to fill vacancies in the United States.  Applicants must possess a relevant four-year college degree or equivalent work experience to qualify. Spouses, including same-sex spouses, and children on H-4 visas may not work in the U.S.

Intra-Company Transfers (L-1, L-2)
L visas are for intra-company transferees who, within the three preceding years, have been employed abroad continuously for one year, and who will be employed by a branch, parent, affiliate, or subsidiary of that same employer in the U.S.

Workers can be petitioned individually or under a blanket petition, and must qualify as either a specialized knowledge professional or an executive/manager.

L-2 visa holders may work in the U.S. but must have employment authorization from the Department of Homeland Security.

H and L visas require approved petitions from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security before a visa interview can be scheduled.

1 2