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Visas

Overview:

A citizen of a foreign country who wishes to enter the United States generally must first obtain a visa, either a nonimmigrant visa for temporary stay, or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. The type of visa you must have is defined by immigration law, and relates to the purpose of your travel.

A visa allows a foreign citizen to travel to the United States port-of-entry, and request permission of the U.S. immigration inspector to enter the U.S. Major types of Visas are listed below:

Major Types of Visas:

  • A-Visas: Diplomats
  • B-Visas: Temporary visitors
  • E-Visas: Treaty traders or treaty investors
  • F-visas: Academic students
  • G-Visas: Employees of international organizations
  • H-Visas: Temporary workers
  • I-Visas: Foreign media, press, and radio
  • J-Visas: Exchange visitors
  • K-visas: Spouses or fiancé(e)s of U.S citizens
  • L-Visas: Intra-company transferees
  • M-Visas: Vocational students
  • NATO-Visas: Employees of NATO
  • O-Visas: Individuals of extraordinary ability or achievement
  • P-Visas: Artists, entertainers, and athletes
  • Q-Visas: Cultural exchange visitors
  • R-Visas: Religious workers
  • S-Visas: Individuals who can aid law enforcement / counter-terrorism
  • T-Visas: Victims of human trafficking
  • TN-Visas: NAFTA professionals
  • U-Visas: Victims of qualifying crimes who will aid law enforcement
  • V-Visas: Spouses and children of permanent residents

A-Visas: Visas for diplomats, foreign government officials, and attendees, servants, etc. thereof

A-visas, or diplomatic visas, are issued to diplomats and other government officials for travel to the United States. The type of visa required by a diplomat or other government official depends upon his/her purpose of travel to the United States, with the exception of a Head of State or Government who qualifies for an A visa regardless of the purpose of his or her visit to the United States.

Diplomatic applicants must meet specific requirements to qualify for a diplomatic (A) visa under immigration law. Additionally, applicants for A-1 and A-2 Visas must be traveling to the United States on behalf of their national governments to engage solely in official activities for that government. Attendees, servants, etc. of diplomatic applicants must also meet specific requirement for an A-3 Visa.

As part of the visa application process, when applying abroad, an interview at the embassy consular section is required for most visa applicants. Embassies and consulates generally do not require an interview for those applying for A-1 and A-2 visas; however, a consular officer can request an interview.

Personal employees, attendants and servants of A-visa holders, that is, applicants for A-3 visas, are required to be interviewed. Additionally, as part of the visa interview, an ink-free, digital fingerprint scan will be quickly completed.

Required Documentation:

  • Online Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application, Form DS-160.
  • An application for A-Visa Form DS-1648 (ONLY for A-1 and A-2 visa applicants applying in the U.S)).
  • A diplomatic note. The diplomatic note is written confirmation by the sending government of the applicant's status. A-3 applicants must also have a diplomatic note included with their applications to confirm the official status of employers.
  • A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant's intended period of stay in the United States (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions).
  • One photograph
  • Copy of both the visa and I-94 (both front and back) for the principal visa holder Required for an immediate family member applying separate from the principal visa applicant.

B-Visas: Visas for temporary visitors (for business or for pleasure)

The "visitor" visa is a nonimmigrant visa for persons desiring to enter the United States temporarily for business (B-1), for pleasure or medical treatment (B-2), or combination of both (B-1/B-2) purposes.

If the purpose for your planned travel is to consult with business associates, travel for a scientific, educational, professional and/or business convention, or to conference on specific dates, settle an estate, or negotiate a contract, then a business visitor visa (B-1) may be the appropriate type of visa for your travel.

There are specific requirements which must be met by applicants to qualify for a visitor visa under provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The presumption in the law is that every visitor visa applicant is an intending immigrant. Therefore, applicants for visitor visas must overcome this presumption by demonstrating that:

  • The purpose of their trip is to enter the U.S. for business, pleasure, or medical treatment;
  • That they plan to remain for a specific, limited period;
  • Evidence of funds to cover expenses in the United States;
  • Evidence of compelling social and economic ties abroad; and
  • That they have a residence outside the U.S. as well as other binding ties that will insure their return abroad at the end of the visit

E-Visas: Visas for treaty traders or treaty investors

The Treaty Trader (E-1) or Treaty Investor (E-2) visa is for a national of a country with which the United States maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation who is coming to the U.S. to carry on substantial trade, including trade in services or technology, principally between the U.S. and the treaty country, or to develop and direct the operations of an enterprise in which the national has invested, or is in the process of investing a substantial amount of capital, under the provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Australian nationals may qualify for an E-3 Visa.

Qualification Requirements:

Treaty trader applicants must meet specific requirements to qualify for a treaty trader (E-1) visa under immigration law:

  • The applicant must be a national of a treaty country.
  • The trading firm for which the applicant is coming to the U. S. must have the nationality of the treaty country.
  • The international trade must be "substantial" in the sense that there is a sizable and continuing volume of trade.
  • The trade must be principally between the U.S. and the treaty country, which is defined to mean that more than 50 percent of the international trade involved must be between the U.S. and the country of the applicant's nationality.
  • Trade means the international exchange of goods, services, and technology. Title of the trade items must pass from one party to the other.
  • The applicant must be employed in a supervisory or executive capacity, or possess highly specialized skills essential to the efficient operation of the firm. Ordinary skilled or unskilled workers do not qualify.

Treaty investor applicants must meet specific requirements to qualify for a treaty investor (E-2) visa under immigration law:

  • The investor, either a real or corporate person, must be a national of a treaty country.
  • The investment must be substantial. It must be sufficient to ensure the successful operation of the enterprise. The percentage of investment for a low-cost business enterprise must be higher than the percentage of investment in a high-cost enterprise.
  • The investment must be a real operating enterprise. Speculative or idle investment does not qualify. Uncommitted funds in a bank account or similar security are not considered an investment.
  • The investment may not be marginal. It must generate significantly more income than just to provide a living to the investor and family, or it must have a significant economic impact in the U.S.
  • The investor must have control of the funds, and the investment must be at risk in the commercial sense. Loans secured with the assets of the investment enterprise are not allowed.
  • The investor must be coming to the U.S. to develop and direct the enterprise. If the applicant is not the principal investor, he or she must be employed in a supervisory, executive, or highly specialized skill capacity. Ordinary skilled and unskilled workers do not qualify.

The E-3 visa classification applies only to nationals of Australia as well as their spouses and children. E-3 principal applicants must be going to the United States solely to work in a specialty occupation. The spouse and children need not be Australian citizens. However the U.S. does not recognize De Facto relationships or same-sex Civil Partnerships for the purposes of immigration, and to qualify as a spouse you will need a marriage certificate from the Department of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

F-Visas: Visas for academic students

The first step for a prospective nonimmigrant student is being accepted for enrollment in an established school which is SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program) certified. In general, for academic students attending a university, college, high school, private elementary school, seminary, conservatory or other academic institutions, including a language training program, an F visa is the appropriate category. For students attending vocational or other recognized nonacademic institutions, other than a language training program, an M visa is generally the appropriate category.

If you are going to the U.S. primarily for tourism, but want to take a short course of study that is recreational, and the course is less than 18 hours per week, you may be able to do so with a visitor (B) visa. If your course of study is 18 hours or more a week, you will need a student visa. When traveling to the U.S. to attend seminars, conferences or a program of study for academic credit then you will need a student visa.

Students are encouraged to apply for their visa early to provide ample time for visa processing. Students may apply for their visa as soon as they are prepared to do so.

Qualifying for a student visa:

The Immigration and National Act is very specific with regard to the requirements which must be met by applicants to qualify for the student visa. Additionally, applicants must demonstrate that they properly meet student visa requirements including:

  • Have a residence abroad, with no immediate intention of abandoning that residence;
  • Intend to depart from the United States upon completion of the course of study; and
  • Possess sufficient funds to pursue the proposed course of study

Required Documentation:

Each applicant for a student visa must submit these forms and documentation as explained below:

· Form I-20A-B, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status-For Academic and Language Students

  • Online Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application, Form DS-160
  • A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant's intended period of stay in the United States (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions). If more than one person is included in the passport, each person desiring a visa must complete an application.
  • One (1) 2x2 photograph
  • A MRV fee receipt to show payment of the visa application fee.
  • The SEVIS I-901 fee receipt

All applicants should also be prepared to provide:

  • Transcripts and diplomas from previous institutions attended;
  • Scores from standardized tests required by the educational institution such as the TOEFL, SAT, GRE, GMAT, etc.;
  • Financial evidence that shows sufficient funds to cover tuition and living expenses during the period of intended study. For example, income tax documents and original bank books and/or statements. If you or your sponsor owns a business, please bring business registration, licenses, etc., and tax documents, as well as original bank books and/or statements.

G-Visas: Visas for employees of international organizations

International Organization (G) and NATO visas are issued to diplomats and other government officials for travel to the United States (U.S.). With the exception of a Head of State or Government who qualifies for an A visa regardless of the purpose of his or her visit to the U.S., the type of visa required by a diplomat or other government official depends upon his/her purpose of travel to the U.S.

Applicants must meet specific requirements to qualify for an Employee of International Organization (G) visa under immigration law. Different classifications of G-Visas are listed below:

  • G-1: Permanent mission members of a recognized government to a designated international organization may be eligible for a G-1 visa.
  • G-2: Representatives of a recognized government traveling to the U.S. temporarily to attend meetings of a designated international organization may be eligible for G-2 visas.
  • G-3: Representatives of non-recognized or non-member governments may be eligible for G-3 visas.
  • G-4: Individuals who are proceeding to the U.S. to take up an appointment at a designated international organization, including the United Nations may be eligible for G-4 visas.
  • G-5: Personal employees, attendants, domestic workers, or servants of individuals who hold a valid G-1 through G-4 Visas may be eligible for G-5 visas

Required Documentation:

Each applicant for an employee of a G visa must submit these forms and documentation as explained below:

  • Online Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application, Form DS-160.
  • An application for G Visa, Form DS-1648
  • A diplomatic note. The diplomatic note is written confirmation by the sending government of the applicant's status. A-3 applicants must also have a diplomatic note included with their applications to confirm the official status of employers.
  • A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant's intended period of stay in the United States (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions).
  • One photograph
  • Copy of both the visa and I-94 (both front and back) for the principal visa holder (required for an immediate family member applying separate from the principal visa applicant).

H-Visas: Visas for temporary workers

There are various categories (called classifications) of nonimmigrant visas for a person who wishes to work temporarily in the United States, based on U.S immigration laws, specifically the Immigration and Nationality Act. If you want to work in the U.S. temporarily, under immigration law, you need a specific visa based on the purpose of your travel and type of work you will be doing.

  • H-1B Persons in Specialty Occupation which requires the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge requiring completion of a specific course of higher education. This category also includes fashion models and Government-to-Government research and development, or co-production projects administered by the Department of Defense;
  • H-2A Seasonal Agricultural Workers -NOTE: USCIS may approve a petition for this visa category on your behalf if you are a citizen or national of a designated country. If you are a citizen or national from a non-designated country, USCIS may approve a petition on your behalf if it is determined to be in the United States' interest.
  • H-2B Temporary or Seasonal Nonagricultural Workers -NOTE: USCIS may approve a petition for this visa category on your behalf if you are a citizen or national of a designated country. If you are a citizen or national from a non-designated country, USCIS may approve a petition on your behalf if it is determined to be in the United States' interest.
  • H-3 Trainees (other than medical or academic) This visa type also applies to practical training in the education of handicapped children

There are certain cases of temporary workers where an H-Visa is not appropriate. Please see list below for other Visa categories and descriptions:

  • L: 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. in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity;
  • O-1: Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or extraordinary achievements in the motion picture and television field;
  • O-2: Persons Accompanying an O-1 to assist in an artistic or athletic performance for a specific event or performance;
  • P-1: Individual or Team Athletes, or Members of an Entertainment group that are internationally recognized;
  • P-2: Artists or Entertainers who will perform under a reciprocal exchange program;
  • P-3: Artists or Entertainers who perform under a program that is culturally unique;
  • Q-1: Participants in an International Cultural Exchange Program for the purpose of providing practical training, employment, and the sharing of the history, culture, and traditions of the alien's home country.

As with all temporary worker Visas (except Q-Visas) the spouse and unmarried minor children of the Visa applicant may also apply for a visa of the same type. The applicant must be able to show that he/she can support his/her family in the US. Additionally, the spouse and minor children of the applicant may not engage in work in the US.

I-Visas: Visas for members of the foreign media, press, and radio

The media (I) visa is a nonimmigrant visa for representatives of the foreign media temporarily traveling to the United States to engage in their profession while having their home office in a foreign country. Some procedures and fees under immigration law relate to policies of the traveler's home country, and in turn, the U.S. follows a similar practice called "reciprocity." Procedures for providing media visas to foreign media representatives of a particular country consider whether the visa applicant's own government grants similar privileges, or is reciprocal, to representatives of the media or press from the United States. There are very specific requirements which must be met by applicants for qualify for the media visa, under U.S. immigration law.

Media (I) visas are for "representatives of the foreign media," including members of the press, radio, film or print industries, whose activities are essential to the foreign media function, such as reporters, film crews, editors and persons in similar occupations, under U.S. immigration laws, traveling to the U.S. to engage in their profession. The applicant must be engaging in qualifying activities for a media organization having its home office in a foreign country. The activity must be essentially informational, and generally associated with the news gathering process, reporting on actual current events, to be eligible for the media visa.

Required Documentation

Each applicant for a media visa must submit these forms and documentation as explained below:

  • Online Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application, Form DS-160.
  • A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant's intended period of stay in the U.S. (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions). If more than one person is included in the passport, each person desiring a visa must make an application;
  • One (1) 2x2 photograph
  • Proof of employment - Provide the following:
  • Staff Journalist: A letter from the employer that gives the employee's name, position held within the company, and purpose and length of stay in the U.S.
  • Freelance Journalist under contract to a media organization: A copy of the contract with the organization, which shows the employee's name, position held within the company; purpose and length of stay in the U.S. and duration of contract.
  • Media Film Crew: a letter from the employer which gives the following information: name; position held within company; title and brief description of the program being filmed and period of time required for filming in the U.S.
  • Independent Production Company under contract to media organization: a letter from the organization commissioning the work which gives the following information: name; title and brief description of the program being filmed; period of time required for filming in the U.S. and duration of contract.

J-Visas: Visas for exchange visitors

The exchange visitor (J) nonimmigrant visa category is provided for persons who are approved to participate in exchange visitor programs in the U.S., under provisions of U.S. immigration law.

Before you can apply at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate for a J visa, you must first apply, meet the requirements, and be accepted for one of the Exchange Visitor Program categories through a designated sponsoring organization. If you are accepted as a participant in an exchange program, the sponsor will provide you with information and documents.

Exchange visitor applicants must meet specific requirements to qualify for an exchange visitor (J) visa under immigration law. Applicants must demonstrate that they properly meet requirements, including the following:

  • That they plan to remain in the U.S. for a temporary, specific, limited period;
  • Evidence of funds to cover expenses in the U.S.;
  • Evidence of compelling social and economic ties abroad
  • Evidence of other binding ties which will insure their return abroad at the end of the visit.

Required Documentation:

When applying, each visa applicant must submit to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate these forms and documentation, as explained below:

  • Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status.
  • A Training/Internship Placement Plan, Form DS-7002. All exchange visitor (J visa) trainee or intern visa applicants (based on Box 7 on form) must also present Training/Internship Placement Plan, Form DS-7002 when applying for a visa.
  • Online Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application, Form DS-160.
  • A passport valid for travel to the U.S. and with a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant's intended period of stay in the U.S. (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions). If more than one person is included in the passport, each person desiring a visa must complete an application;
  • One (1) 2x2 photograph

K-Visas: Visas for spouses or fiancé(e)s of U.S citizens

If you are an American citizen you have two ways to bring your foreign spouse (husband or wife) to the United States to live. They are:

  • Immigrant visa for a Spouse of a U.S. Citizen (IR1 or CR1) - An immigrant Petition for Alien Relative, Form I-130 is required.
  • Nonimmigrant visa for spouse (K-3) - It is important to note that application for the nonimmigrant visa for spouse (K-3) who married a U.S. citizen must be filed and the visa must be issued in the country where the marriage took place. After the visa process has been completed, and the visa is issued, the spouse can travel to the United States to wait for the processing of the immigrant visa case. Two petitions are required here:
  • Petition for Alien Relative, Form 1-130; and
  • Petition for Alien Fiancé(e), Form I-129F

If you are an American citizen, you may bring your fiancé(e) to the United States to marry and live here.

  • Nonimmigrant visa for fiancé(e) (K-1)- To travel to the United States for marriage. An I-129F fiancé(e) petition is required.

L-Visas: Visas for intra-company transferees

The L-Visa is designed 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. in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity

Required Documentation:

When applying, each visa applicant must submit to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate these forms and documentation, as explained below:

  • Online Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application, Form DS-160
  • A passport valid for travel to the U.S. with a validity date of at least six months beyond the applicant's intended period of stay in the U.S. (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions). If more than one person is included in the passport, each person desiring a visa must make an application.
  • One (1) 2x2 photograph

As with all temporary worker Visas (except Q-Visas) the spouse and unmarried minor children of the Visa applicant may also apply for a visa of the same type. The applicant must be able to show however that he/she can support his/her family in the US. Additionally, the spouse and minor children of the applicant may not engage in work in the US unless authorized to do so.

M-Visas: Visas for vocational students

For students attending vocational or other recognized nonacademic institutions, other than a language training program, an M visa is generally the appropriate category. The first step for a prospective nonimmigrant student is being accepted for enrollment in an established school which is SEVP certified.

If you are going to the U.S. primarily for tourism, but want to take a short course of study that is recreational, and the course is less than 18 hours per week, you may be able to do so with a visitor (B) visa. If your course of study is 18 hours or more a week, you will need a student visa.

Students are encouraged to apply for their visa early to provide ample time for visa processing. Students may apply for their visa as soon as they are prepared to do so. It is important to note however that, regardless of the visa application date, a student visa cannot be issued more than 120 days before the student's study registration date. Additionally, department of homeland security regulation requires that student visa holders enter the US no earlier than 30 days prior to their course start dates.

Required Documentation:

  • Form I-20A-B I-2, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student Status for Vocational Students. You will need to submit a SEVIS generated Form, I-20, which was provided to you by your school. You and your school official must sign the I-20 form.
  • Online Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application, Form DS-160
  • A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity-date at least six months beyond the applicant's intended period of stay in the United States (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions). If more than one person is included in the passport, each person desiring a visa must complete an application.
  • One (1) 2x2 photograph.
  • An MRV fee receipt to show payment of the visa application fee.
  • The SEVIS I-901 fee receipt.

All applicants should be prepared to provide:

  • Transcripts and diplomas from previous institutions attended;
  • Scores from standardized tests required by the educational institution such as the TOEFL, SAT, GRE, GMAT, etc.;
  • Financial evidence that shows you or your parents who are sponsoring you has sufficient funds to cover your tuition and living expenses during the period of your intended study. For example, if you or your sponsor is a salaried employee, please bring income tax documents and original bank books and/or statements. If you or your sponsor owns a business, please bring business registration, licenses, etc., and tax documents, as well as original bank books and/or statements.

NATO Visas: Visas for employees of NATO

Applicants must meet specific requirements to qualify for an Employee of NATO (NATO) visa under immigration law. An applicant is classified under the symbol NATO-1 through NATO-6 if he/she is seeking admission to the U.S. under the applicable provision of the Agreement on the Status of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or the Protocol on the Status of International Military Headquarters set up pursuant to the North Atlantic Treaty. This includes national representatives, international staff and immediate family members of an individual classified NATO-1 through NATO-6.

Please note that U.S. visa law indicates that if a visa applicant is entitled to a NATO visa as a principal or dependent, he or she must receive a NATO visa. The exceptions to this rule are very limited. However, many armed forces personnel are exempt from passport and visa requirements if they are either attached to NATO Allied Headquarters in the U.S. and are traveling on official business, or are entering the U.S. under the NATO Status of Forces Agreement.

Required Documentation:

Each applicant for an employee of a NATO-Visa must submit these forms and documentation as explained below:

  • Online Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application, Form DS-160.
  • An application for NATO Visa, Form DS-1648
  • A diplomatic note. The diplomatic note is written confirmation by the sending government of the applicant's status. A-3 applicants must also have a diplomatic note included with their applications to confirm the official status of employers.
  • A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant's intended period of stay in the United States (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions).
  • One photograph
  • Copy of both the visa and I-94 (both front and back) for the principal visa holder required for an immediate family member applying separate from the principal visa applicant.

Immediate family members and personal employees may also be eligible for visas.

O-Visas: Visas for temporary workers with extraordinary ability or achievement

Individuals who have extraordinary ability or achievement in the sciences, arts, business, athletics, or motion picture/television may be eligible for an O-Visa. Additionally, persons accompanying the O-Visa applicant may be eligible for O-2 Visas if those persons are traveling to assist the applicant in a specific event or performance.

As with all temporary worker Visas (except Q-Visas) the spouse and unmarried minor children of the Visa applicant may also apply for a visa of the same type. The applicant must be able to show that he/she can support his/her family in the US. Additionally, the spouse and minor children of the applicant may not engage in work in the US.

P-Visas: Visas for artists, entertainers, and athletes

P-1: Athletes and Members of an Entertainment group that are internationally recognized

P-2: Artists or Entertainers who will perform under a reciprocal exchange program

P-3: Artists or Entertainers who perform under a program that is culturally unique

As with all temporary worker visas (except Q-Visas) the spouse and unmarried minor children of the Visa applicant may also apply for a visa of the same type. The applicant must be able to show that he/she can support his/her family in the US. Additionally, the spouse and minor children of the applicant may not engage in work in the US.

Please see H-Visa section for required P-Visa documentation.

Q-Visas: Visas for participants in an international cultural exchange program

After meeting the requirements of, and being accepted into, an international cultural exchange program, applicants are eligible for a Q-Visa pursuant to the exchange program's guidelines.

Each applicant for a Q-Visa must submit these forms and documentation as explained below.

  • Online Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application, Form DS-160.
  • A diplomatic note. The diplomatic note is written confirmation by the sending government of the applicant's status.
  • A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant's intended period of stay in the United States (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions).
  • One photograph
  • Copy of both the visa and I-94 (both front and back) for the principal visa holder required for an immediate family member applying separate from the principal visa applicant.

R-Visas: Visas for religious workers

The Religious Worker (R) visa is for persons seeking to enter the United States (U.S.) to work in a religious capacity on a temporary basis, under provisions of U.S. law, specifically the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Eligibility requirements

Religious workers include persons authorized, by a recognized employing entity, to conduct religious worship and perform other duties usually performed by authorized members of the clergy of that religion, and workers engaging in a religious vocation or occupation. Applicants must meet the following requirements:

  • The applicant must be a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide nonprofit religious organization in the U.S.;
  • The religious denomination and its affiliate, if applicable, are either exempt from taxation or qualifies for tax-exempt status; and
  • The applicant has been a member of the denomination for two years immediately preceding applying for religious worker status. The applicant is planning to work as a minister of that denomination, or in a religious occupation or vocation for a bona fide, non-profit religious organization (or a tax-exempt affiliate of such an organization).There is no requirement that individuals applying for "R" visas have a residence abroad that they have no intention of abandoning. However, they must intend to depart the U.S. at the end of their lawful status.

Additional documentation requirements for R-Visa applicants:

  1. Proof of tax-exempt status or eligibility for tax-exempt status and;
  2. A letter from an authorized official of the specific unit of the employing organization certifying:
    • That if the applicant's religious membership was maintained, in whole or in part, outside the U.S., the foreign and U.S. religious organizations belong to the same religious denomination;
    • That, immediately prior to the application for the R-Visa, the alien has been a member of the religious denomination for the required two- year period;
    • If the applicant is a minister, he or she is authorized to conduct religious worship for that denomination. The duties should be described in detail; or
    • If the applicant is a religious professional, he or she has at least a baccalaureate degree or its equivalent, and that such a degree is required for entry into the religious profession; or
    • If the applicant is to work in a nonprofessional vocation or occupation, he or she is qualified if the type of work to be done relates to a traditional religious function;
    • The arrangements for remuneration, including the amount and source of salary, other types of compensation such as food and housing, and any other benefits to which a monetary value may be affixed, and a statement whether such remuneration shall be in exchange for services rendered;
    • The name and location of the specific organizational unit of the religious denomination or affiliate for which the applicant will be providing services;
    • If the alien is to work for an organization that is affiliated with a religious denomination, a description of the nature of the relationship between the two organizations;
    • Evidence of the religious organization's assets and methods of operation; and
    • The organization's papers of incorporation under applicable state law.

S-Visas: Visas for persons able to aid law enforcement

Persons with highly valuable information in solving a crime, and who are willing to share that information with law enforcement, may be eligible for S-5 Visas. The attorney general will decide the eligibility of applicants. Generally, a visa will not be issued unless it can be shown that the applicant's presence in the US is crucial for the success of law enforcement officials.

Additionally, persons with information to aid counter-terrorism may be eligible for S-6 Visas.

Spouses and unmarried minor children of S-Visa applicants may apply for an S-7 Visa to accompany the applicant.

T-Visas: Visas for victims of human trafficking

Human trafficking, also known as trafficking in persons, is a form of modern-day slavery. Victims of severe forms of human trafficking are provided relief under United States (U.S.) immigration law by the Victims of Trafficking in Persons (T) nonimmigrant visa. This visa category allows victims of human trafficking to remain in the U.S. to assist in investigations or prosecutions of human trafficking violators.

Foreign citizens seeking T-1 visa status must be physically present in the U.S. already. Therefore, U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad do not issue T-1 visas, but may issue T visas to family members.

Depending on certain factors, family of T-1 applicants may be eligible for T-nonimmigrant visas:

Required Documentation for Family Members:

Each applicant for a T-2, T-3, T-4, or T-5 nonimmigrant visa must submit these forms and documentation as explained below:

  • Online Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application, Form DS-160
  • Passport valid for travel to the U.S. and with a validity date of at least six months beyond your intended period of stay in the U.S. (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions). If more than one person is included in the passport, each person desiring a visa must apply.
  • One (1) 2x2 photograph

TN-Visas: Visas for Mexican and Canadian NAFTA professional workers

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) creates special economic and trade relationships for the United States (U.S.), Canada and Mexico. The nonimmigrant NAFTA Professional (TN) visa allows citizens of Canada and Mexico, as NAFTA professionals, to work in the U.S. in a prearranged business activity for a U.S. or foreign employer. Permanent residents, including Canadian permanent residents, are not able to apply to work as a NAFTA professional.

Professionals of Canada or Mexico may work in the U.S. under the following conditions:

  • Applicant is a citizen of Canada or Mexico;
  • Profession is on the NAFTA list;
  • Position in the U.S. requires a NAFTA professional;
  • Mexican or Canadian applicant is to work in a prearranged full-time or part-time job, for a U.S. employer (see documentation required). Self employment is not permitted;
  • Professional Canadian or Mexican citizen has the qualifications of the profession.

Required Documentation:

  • Online Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application, Form DS-160.
  • A passport valid for travel to the U.S. and with a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant's intended period of stay in the U.S. (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions).
  • One (1) 2x2 photograph.
  • Letter of Employment in the U.S. Additionally, the applicant's employer in the U.S. must provide an employment letter that includes the following:
    • The letter must indicate that the position in question in the U.S. requires the employment of a person in a professional capacity
    • The applicant must present evidence of professional employment to demonstrate plans to be employed in prearranged business activities for a U.S. employer(s) or entity(ies) at a professional level. Part-time employment is permitted. Self-employment is not permitted. An employment letter or contract providing a detailed description of the business activities should be provided from the U.S. or foreign employer, and should state the following:
    • Activity in which the applicant shall be engaged and purpose of entry;
    • Anticipated length of stay;
    • Educational qualifications or appropriate credentials demonstrating professional status;
    • Evidence of compliance with DHS regulations, and/or state laws; and
    • Arrangements for pay.
    • Although not required, proof of licensure to practice a given profession in the U.S. may be offered along with a job offer letter, or other documentation in support of a TN visa application.

U-Visas: Visas for alien victims of crimes in the United States

To petition for a U-Visa, an alien (either documented or undocumented) must have been the victim of a qualifying crime committed in the United States, have suffered substantial physical and mental harm as a result of that crime, possess useful information about the crime which will aid law enforcement, and must be likely to aid law enforcement.

The U-visa classification is available to qualified alien victims of designated criminal activities who assist with the investigation or prosecution of the qualifying criminal activities. Individuals self‐petition USCIS directly, and U nonimmigrant status is granted by USCIS through an approved petition. Both U visa principal and derivative petitioners, granted U status, may apply for U visas in consular sections overseas. An individual may be both the petitioner and the applicant, because individuals may self‐petition for U nonimmigrant status, as well as apply for a U nonimmigrant visa.

V-Visas: Visas for spouses and children of permanent residents

This visa was created to promote family unity for those applying for immigrant visas on or before December 21, 2000. This visa served as a way for the families of applicants to join applicants in the US.

Qualification Requirements:

To qualify for a V visa, a spouse or child (under age 21) of a U.S. lawful permanent resident (LPR) must meet all of the following criteria:

  • The U.S. LPR spouse and/or parent MUST have filed Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on behalf of his or her spouse/child(ren) on or before December 21, 2000;
  • The petition's priority date must be at least three years old;
  • The priority date must not be current;
  • The applicant must not have already had an immigrant visa interview or be scheduled for an interview;
  • The petition must not already be at a U.S. embassy or consulate for immigrant visa processing
  • The applicant must be otherwise eligible as an immigrant.