There are two broad groups of visas that allow someone to enter the United States, including:

  • Non-immigrant visa
  • Immigrant visa

What is a Non-Immigrant Visa?

A non-immigrant visa is for an individual who will stay in the country temporarily. If you’re visiting the United States for a vacation, for example, then you would apply for a non-immigrant visa. If you’re attending a business conference in the United States, then you may require a non-immigrant visa.

If you wish to permanently move to the United States and obtain your permanent residency (green card) or US citizenship, then you would apply for an immigrant visa. If you’re only planning to temporarily visit the United States, then you would apply for a non-immigrant visa – assuming you’re not from a visa waiver exempt country.

Types of Non-Immigrant Visas

There are a number of different types of non-immigrant visas. The visa you choose depends on the purpose of your visit. Below, you’ll find a brief description of all types of non-immigrant visas to the United States.

Non immigrant Visa Types

The category of non immigrant US visa has several types. Which type of visa you need to apply for is based on the purpose of your visit, so whether you are going to the U.S for business, as a student, for tourism, or others.

Below is the list of visa types as well as the purpose of visit for each one, which determines the one you should apply for:

A-1 Visa: Diplomats and Foreign Government Officials

The A-1 Visa is for diplomats or foreign government officials traveling to the United States for official government purposes or representing their government. Those who qualify for an A-1 visa can include:

  • Head of state or government (i.e. Prime Minister or President), regardless of the purpose of travel
  • An official coming to serve at a foreign embassy or consulate in the United States, including ambassadors and consuls
  • Government ministers or cabinet members visiting the United States for official activities
  • Representatives of the European Union (EU) or African Union (AU)
  • Immediate family members of an A-1 visa holder

Application Fee: No fee

A-2 Visa: Other Government Officials and Employees

The A-2 visa is for other government officials and employees coming to the United States. Those who require an A-2 visa can include:

  • Full-time employees assigned by a foreign government coming to the United States exclusively to work at a foreign embassy or consulate
  • Government officials coming to the United States as a representative of their government
  • Foreign military members stationed at a U.S. military base or assigned to a foreign embassy or consulate in the United States
  • Staff of EU or AU delegation representatives
  • Immediate family members of an A-2 visa holder

B-1 Visa: Temporary Business Visa

If you’re temporarily visiting the United States to conduct business, attend a conference, or perform other similar functions, then you may wish to apply for a B-1 visa. A B-1 visa can include those traveling to the United States for:

  • Consulting with business associates
  • Traveling for a convention or conference
  • Settling an estate
  • Negotiating a contract
  • Participating in short-term training
  • Transiting through the United States
  • Deadheading aircrew

Application Fee: $160

B-2 Visa: Temporary Visitor Visa

A B-2 visa is given to an individual visiting the United States for one of the following purposes:

  • Tourism, vacation, holiday, etc.
  • Medical treatment
  • Visits with relatives or friends
  • Enrolment in short, non-credit bearing courses (i.e. courses that aren’t going to a specific degree)
  • Participation in non-professional music, sports, or social events (you cannot receive payment for these events)

Application Fee: $160

BCC Visa: Border Crossing Card

A Border Crossing Card is a special visa exclusively for citizens of Mexico. The laminated card allows Mexican citizens to enter the United States. You must apply for a BCC. If granted, your BCC will typically stay valid for 10 years. You will need a valid Mexican passport to receive your BCC.

Application Fee: $160

C Visa: Transit Visa

Anyone passing through the United States will require at least a C visa or a transit visa. If you are passing through the United States on the way to a final destination, then you may require a C visa or transit visa. If you have a C visa, then you’re not permitted to enter the United States to visit places or see friends or family. You must simply be passing through the United States.

Application Fee: $160

CW-1 Visa: Visa for the Northern Mariana Islands

The CW-1 visa is a unique visa exclusively for employers in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). The employer can apply for a CW-1 visa to employ foreign workers who do not fit into other employment categories. As a CW-1 visa holder, you’re permitted to work for your employer in the CNMI. Prior to requesting a CW-1 visa, the employer must first consider any available US citizens for the position.

Application Fee: $150

D Visa: For Sea and Air Crew Members

If you’re a crew member of a sea vessel or international airline visiting the United States, then you may require a D visa to operate within the country. The D visa is also known as a crewmember visa. Under this visa, you’re permitted to stay within the United States as a crewmember for a maximum of 29 days.

Application Fee: $160

E Visa: E-1 Treaty Traders and E-2 Treaty Investors

E visas include E-1 and E-2 visas. These treaties are specifically for individuals who have treaties of commerce and navigation in the United States. These visas are granted for two primary reasons:

  • You are engaged in the trade of technology or other activities between the United States and the treaty country
  • You direct operations of a company in which you have invested capital

Application Fee: $205

E-3 Visa: Work Visa for Australians

The E-3 visa is a special work visa exclusively for residents of Australia working in specialty occupations in the United States. If you qualify for the E-3 visa, then your spouse and children will also qualify for the same visa.

Application Fee: $205

F and M Visas for Students

F and M visas are for academic and vocational purposes. You may receive an F-1 or M-1 visa depending on your school and field of study. These are non-immigrant visas that allow short-term study or training in the United States. You typically require a SEVIS ID number to complete the F and M visa application process.

Application Fee: $160

G-1 Visa: Representatives of Foreign Governments and International Organizations

If you are employed by an international organization or acting as a representative of a foreign government, then you may qualify for a G-1 visa. Your staff and any immediate family members will also qualify for the G-1 visa. Your staff may also receive a G-5 visa, which covers similar organizations for non-immigrant visits to the United States.

Application Fee: No fee

H-1B Visa: For Employees in Specialized Fields

The H-1B visa is for anyone employed in a highly specialized field. A highly specialized field is any profession that requires advanced education or experience that cannot be performed without extensive training.

Application Fee: $190

H-1B1: For Citizens of Chile and Singapore

The United States signed a free trade agreement (FTA) with Singapore and Chile. The H-1B1 program is part of that agreement. Under an H-1B1 visa, a resident of Chile or Singapore can live and work temporarily in the United States. Your spouse and dependent children may also qualify.

Application Fee: $190

H-2A Visa: For Agricultural Workers

The H-2A visa is given to temporary agricultural workers from certain countries. This visa is typically used by:

  • Foreign agricultural workers with a job offer from an American company
  • A US company hiring foreign workers to perform agricultural labor or services of a temporary or seasonal nature

Application Fee: $190

H-2B Visa: For Temporary Non-Agricultural Workers

While the H-2A visa specifically covers agricultural workers, the H-2B visa is for all other types of seasonal workers performing non-agricultural work. This visa is granted to employers in the United States who anticipate a labor shortage in the domestic market.

Application Fee: $190

H-3 Visa: For Unique Training and Education

If you’ve applied for a unique training or education program in the United States, then you may qualify for an H-3 visa. The H-3 visa is designed specifically for training and education programs that do not apply towards an academic degree.

Application Fee: $190

I Visa: For Journalists

Journalists visiting the United States for work or educational opportunities may apply for the I visa. This visa is exclusively for representatives of foreign media, including journalists working in the press, film, media, or print industries.

Application Fee: $160

J-1 Visa: For Cultural Exchange Visitors

The J-1 visa is designed for visitors participating in a cultural exchange in the United States. This category includes:

  • Au pairs
  • Temporary scholars
  • Teachers and professors
  • Secondary school students
  • Interns and seasonal workers
  • International or government visitors
  • Trainees

The J-1 visa category is broad compared to other visas. It can include members of private sector programs, government programs, and academic programs.

Application Fee: $160

L-1 Visa: For Employees of American Companies

If you’re an employee of an American company, then you may qualify for an L-1 visa. L-1 visas are available to employees of international companies that have offices in both the United States and a foreign country. Under the L-1 visa, a foreign worker can relocate to the corporation’s US office after having worked abroad for the company for at least one of the last three years. The employer must be a brand, headquarters, parent, or subsidiary of a US company.

Application Fee: $190

O Visa: For Persons with Extraordinary Abilities

The O visa is for individuals with extraordinary or unique ability in arts, science, business, education, or athletics who wish to temporarily work in their field of expertise in the United States. To qualify for this visa, you need to prove that you offer essential services in your area of expertise, including services that cannot be provided by an American worker.

Application Fee: $190

P Visa: For Athletes, Entertainers, and Artists

The P visa includes three different types of visas. These visas allow athletes, entertainers, and artists to visit the United States temporarily. The three visas include:

P-1: For individual athletes or team athletes or members of entertainment groups.

P-2: For artists or entertainers performing in the United States as individuals or as a group.

P-3: For artists and entertainers who will perform, teach, or coach in the U.S. as individuals or in a group.

There’s also a fourth visa under this category, the P-4 visa, which applies to the spouse or child (under the age of 21) of a P-1, P-2, or P-3 visa holder traveling to the United States to accompany the individual.

Application Fee: $190

Q-1 Visa: For Cultural Exchange Programs

The Q-1 visa covers individuals visiting the United States as part of an international cultural exchange program. Under this visa, the visa holder will share their history, culture, and tradition with the United States. Typically, this visa is granted to individuals undergoing practical training or employment within the United States. The visa is similar to the J-1 visa. The main difference is that J-1 cultural exchange programs must be designated by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The Q-1 visa does not have the same requirement.

Application Fee: $190

R-1 Visa: For Temporary Religious Workers

The R-1 visa is for foreign nationals coming to the United States temporarily to be employed as a minister or in another religious occupation for a minimum of 20 hours per week (on average). To qualify for the R-1 visa, you must be employed by:

  • A non-profit religious organization in the United States
  • A religious organization authorized by a group tax exemption holder to use its group tax exemption
  • A non-profit religious organization affiliated with a religious denomination in the United States

Application Fee: $190

T Visa: For Victims of Human Trafficking

The T visa is designed for victims of human trafficking who have experienced severe trauma, although the visa can also be used to investigate crimes related to human trafficking. There are multiple categories under the T visa, including:

T-1: For victims of human trafficking.

T-2: For the spouse of a T-1 visa holder.

T-3: For the children of a T-1 visa holder.

T-4: For the parents of a T-1 visa holder.

T-5: For unmarried siblings (under 18 years of age) of T-1 visa holders who are under 21 years of age.

Application Fee: No fee

TN and TD Visas: For Canadians and Mexicans Working in the United States

TN visas were established under NAFTA and will continue under the reorganized USMCA deal. This visa is specifically for citizens of Canada or Mexico who will be working in the United States. To qualify for the TN visa, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You must be a citizen of Canada or Mexico (not a permanent resident)
  • The profession must be specifically listed under NAFTA/USMCA
  • The employer must meet qualifications outlined under NAFTA/USMCA
  • The employee must have received a formal offer of full-time or part-time employment in the United States
  • The employee must have the qualifications to practice the profession in question
  • The spouse and dependent children of a TN visa holder may qualify for a TD visa, which allows them to also reside in the United States throughout the term of the TN visa.

Application Fee: $160

U Visa: For Victims of Crime

If you have been a victim of a criminal activity and can aid in the investigation or prosecution of those criminals, then you may be eligible to apply for a U visa. This visa is specifically for those who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse and are wiling to assist law enforcement in prosecuting those responsible. If you have been a victim of a crime and have significant information concerning criminal activity, then you might qualify for a U visa.

Application Fee: $160

V Visa: For Family Unity

The V visa is a temporary visa available to spouses and minor children of US lawful permanent residents (green card holders). With the V visa, a permanent resident living in the United States can unite with his or her family while the immigration process is completed.

Application Fee: No fee

U.S. Non-Immigrant Visa Application

Applications who wish to apply for any type of a U.S. non-immigrant visa will first need to fill out a DS-160 form. The DS-160 form, also known as the Online Non-Immigrant Visa Application form, is for all types of non-immigrant visas and K visas.

You can find this form online at the Consular Electronic Application Center website (CEAC.gov), where the form is available in multiple languages (although all information must be submitted in English). Upon completion, the form will be submitted to the Department of State.

You will need several documents and pieces of information to complete the DS-160 form, including:

  • Your passport
  • Travel plans
  • Last five trips to the United States or details of your international travel within the last five years
  • A resume or CV

In addition, certain visa applications will require additional information and forms per the requirements of their visa:

  • Anyone applying for an F, J, or M visa will need to complete a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVIS) application; you will need to enter your SEVIS ID (on form I-20 or DS-2019) into the DS-160 form. Students may also need to enter the name and address of the university you’ll be attending.
  • Anyone applying for an H-1B, H-2, H-3, CW1, L, O, P, or R visa will need to provide information regarding their employer, employment, and purpose of the visit in order to complete the DS-160 form. You may find this information on your I-129 form.
  • Anyone applying for an E-1 or E-2 visa will need to submit the DS-156E form, which must be completed by your employer.

Once you’ve collected all of this information and completed the DS-160 application form, you’ll receive a barcode. You will need to print this barcode and keep it for your upcoming United States embassy appointment. Once you have the barcode, you can schedule your view interview at the closest U.S. embassy in your country. During the interview, the consular officer will scan your barcode and ask about information in your application. By the end of the interview, the officer will determine whether or not you’re eligible for a valid visa.

After the interview, you’ll need to wait for the embassy to process your request. Sometimes, you’ll know your visa application status immediately after the interview. In other cases, you might have to wait for the application to be completed.