Types of Nonimmigrant Visas: Other Nonimmigrant Visas
We welcome visitors to the United States (U.S.), with secure borders and open doors. Most Canadian citizens and many citizens from Visa Waiver Program countries can come to the U.S. without a visa if they meet certain requirements.
There are various types of nonimmigrant visas for temporary visitors to travel to the U.S., if you are not a U.S. citizen or U.S. lawful permanent resident. The purpose of your intended travel and other facts will determine what type of visa is required under U.S. immigration law. It's important to have information about the type of nonimmigrant visa you will need for travel, and the steps required to apply for the visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad.
In addition to the more popular nonimmigrant visa categories previously outlined, visa categories also exist for foreign government, organization, and media employees; aliens in transit and crewmembers; and witnesses and victims. Within all the nonimmigrant visa categories, there are numerous classifications, including those for religious workers, artists and performers, and people with exceptional talents and abilities. For a comprehensive list of all nonimmigrant visa categories and classifications, details about who is eligible to apply, and application instructions, see the link to “Nonimmigrant Visa Classifications” on the USCIS Web site at www.uscis.gov.
What U .S. Visitors with Nonimmigrant Vis as Need to Know
If you are visiting the United States on a nonimmigrant visa, you need to be careful to follow your visa’s terms and restrictions. This is especially important if you are hoping to stay in the United States through an extension of your current nonimmigrant visa, another nonimmigrant visa, an adjustment to lawful permanent resident status, or an application for citizenship. The following are a few points to consider regarding your visa.
Observe All Laws
Be very careful not to let your current nonimmigrant visa expire. If your visa has certain restrictions or conditions, be sure not to violate these policies. Any future visa applications or status adjustment requests will be looked at more favorably if you have followed the immigration laws governing your current visa.
Be Mindful of Important Dates
When a foreign national enters the United States on a visa, he or she is admitted for a specific time period. The visa holder’s I-94 Arrival-Departure record shows how long he or she may remain in the United States. If you are visiting on a nonimmigrant visa, take note of this departure date and make plans to either leave the United States or apply to extend your stay before your visa expires. If you stay in the Unites States past the departure date on your I-94 Arrival-Departure record, you will lose your legal status and jeopardize any plans you might have to remain in the country.
It is also a good idea to watch the dates of your passport to make sure this document remains current. Although you are visiting the United States on a visa, you must maintain citizenship in your native country and keep your passport valid. Updating your passport in the United States might prove to be a slow process, so be sure to start the renewal process early.
Do Not Disobey the Terms of Your Visa
Each nonimmigrant visa has specific terms and conditions. It is important to note these restrictions and follow them carefully. For example, many visitor and student visas do not allow recipients to work. If you are visiting the United States on one of these visas and accept employment, you risk losing your legal status. Similarly, if you are visiting the United States on a temporary employment visa, you may not continue to work past your visa’s expiration date. Be sure that you completely understand the conditions of your visa. If you violate these terms, you may limit your chances to adjust your status or gain citizenship in the future.
Avoid Changes during the First Three Months
After entering the United States on a nonimmigrant visa, try to avoid making any changes to your visa or your status during the first three months. If you attempt to extend your stay or adjust your status in the United States before three months have passed, immigration officials may doubt your original intentions and question other information you’ve submitted as part of your visa application. Therefore, it is better to let a few months go by before you decide to extend your visa or change your status. After several months, it is more plausible that your plans, situation, or reasoning has legitimately changed.
Emilia’s Story: Part 1
To make the process more understandable, we’ve created a “real-life” example to show what might actually be involved in taking the steps toward citizenship.
When she was 16 years old, Emilia Alvarez was a citizen of Chile with a Chilean passport. Her mother had come to the United States as an exchange student as part of a program that would help her to be a more effective English teacher in Chile. As an exchange visitor, Emilia’s mother, Rene, was issued a J-1 visa that would be valid for the two years she would be in the United States for her studies. (J visas are issued for a specific period of time. This is referred to as the duration of status and is noted as “D/S” on a person’s Form I-94.) The terms of Rene’s grant included tuition and living expenses. Emilia came with her mother as a dependent child and was issued a J-2 visa. While her mother was attending her classes, Emilia attended the local high school and earned her high school diploma.
At the end of the two years, Rene had completed her studies and prepared to return to Chile. However, Emilia wanted to stay in the United States. Emilia applied to a local university that offered courses in preschool education, the field she was interested in studying. Her mother agreed to pay for Emilia’s tuition, but she couldn’t afford to also pay for her room and board. Fortunately, Emilia was invited to stay with a family that she and her mother had come to know during the previous two years. Michael Williams, his wife, Virginia, and their two children, Susan and Richard, were delighted to invite Emilia to stay with them in their home.
To prepare for this transition, Emilia went to the USCIS Web site at www.uscis.gov and downloaded the following forms:
• I-539: Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status
• I-134: Affidavit of Support
Because she decided to stay in the United States, Emilia needed to change her visa status from a J-2 to an F-1. To begin this process, Emilia made copies of her completed I-539 and I-134 forms, as well as of the I-94 form she received at the airport when she arrived in the United States. The Form I-94 would be proof that she had remained in the United States legally because it was stamped with her date of entry, date of intended departure, and nonimmigrant status. In addition, Emilia made copies of her passport, her birth certificate, her high school diploma, her university admissions letter, and her Form I-20. She sent all of these documents along with the required filing fee by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the appropriate USCIS office as directed on Form I-539.
It is important to note that the USCIS always wants originals of forms that must be signed; however, you will want to make copies to keep for yourself. Photocopies of other documents are acceptable. Also keep in mind that mail sometimes gets lost. Although it is an added expense, it can be worth it to pay a little extra so you have receipts that prove when documents were mailed in the event a deadline is involved and your documents don’t arrive on time.
Emilia requested that the university file a copy of Form I-20 with the USCIS on her behalf. Her copy of Form I-20 looked like that shown on the next page.