Non-Immigration Visas

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Non-immigration visas give people from other countries the chance to attend school or work in the United States. While some do not allow you to work toward permanent residency, many permit you to gain work experience in the U.S. while working through the permanent residency process. There are many types of non-immigration visas, and regulations vary significantly. It’s essential to figure out which category fits your credentials, work goals, and schedule.


The goal of the H-1B visa is to bring highly skilled professional workers into the United States. Those who apply for this visa work in fields like programming, architecture, science, and other specialty industries. H-1B visa holders typically work in roles that require at least a bachelor’s degree. The visa lasts three years and can be extended to six years.


Those transferring to a U.S. branch of their company from a foreign branch often apply for the L-1 visa, which is reserved for executives, management professionals, and employees who play an essential role in the company’s operations. The amount of time that a L-1 visa holder is permitted to stay in the U.S. depends on which country they come from. Options range from three months to five years. Spouses of L-1 visa holders are permitted to work in the U.S.


Visas in the “E” category are used for traders and investors. This visa allows them to manage their business or work in certain employee roles. The E-1 visa serves treaty traders who trade goods, services, and technology between the United States and their country of origin. The E-2 visa is for professionals who direct business operations at a company in which they have invested a large amount of money.


The TN visa is very similar to the H-1B visa, but it is only available to Mexican or Canadian nationals. Canadian nationals can present necessary documentation when they enter the United States, but Mexican nationals must first apply for a TN visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate in Mexico. This visa allows the holder to stay for a period of three years.


The F-1 visa helps foreign students come to the United States to earn a degree at an accredited college or university. After completing their degree, students can get OPT authorization to train for one year. Those with STEM degrees can apply for an extension and get up to 36 months of OPT. OPT, which is short for “optional practical training,” requires that students work within their field of study.


The exchange visitor visa is designed for those accepted to a study-based foreign exchange program. Through the J-1 program, the United States supports intercultural exchange, English study, and the development of new work skills. Those who fit into this category include au pairs, government visitors, teachers, interns, research scholars, and alien physicians. Applicants must be sponsored by a private sector employer, university, or government program.


The H-1B1 visa is an offshoot of the H-1B visa program that is open to Singapore and Chile nationals as part of the Singapore—United States Free Trade Agreement and the Chile—United States Free Trade Agreement. Applicants are generally approved to live in the U.S. for one year, and their visas may be extended. Unlike the H-1B visa, H-1B1 visa applicants may not need a bachelor’s degree. This is not a dual intent visa, so it is not a viable option for those who plan on pursuing permanent residence in the U.S.

Regardless of which class of non-immigration visa you are applying for, it’s important to work closely with an experienced immigration attorney. The process of coming to the United States involves a substantial amount of paperwork and long periods of waiting—having everything properly filled out and filed can save you a significant amount of time. For help with your non-immigration visa, reach out to the team at Sandoval & James, PLLC. Call us at 512-831-4402 to talk about your visa plan and legal options.