Latest News 2017 January The Different Types of Nonimmigrant Visas (& How to Get Them)

The Different Types of Nonimmigrant Visas (& How to Get Them)

Not every U.S. visitor is looking for permanent resident-status or citizenship. In many cases, visitors are looking for nonimmigrant visas, or visas that are designated for visitors with a specific itinerary or purpose for their time in the country. That purpose ranges in importance, scope, and time (from several days for a tourist to several years for an academic student).

Below, we outline the initial steps for receiving a nonimmigrant visa.

#1: Gather the Necessary Documents

Before you fill out your application for a nonimmigrant visa, you'll need the following forms:

  • Passports
  • Itinerary (where you're arriving/departing and when)
  • The dates of your last five U.S. visits if you've visited before
  • The most current information regarding your employment or academic history
  • Any information pertinent to the purpose of your visit

For students or exchange visitors (F, J, or M-Series Visas), you will also need:

  • Your SEVIS ID (Student & Exchange Visitor Information System)

For any petition-based temporary workers, you will need:

  • A copy of your I-129 on hand
  • Employer information, including their address

#2: Visit This Site

The link above leads to the website for the U.S. State Department (specifically the Nonimmigrant Visa Application page). This is the main site you'll need to visit for your application process—to start an application, upload an application, or retrieve an application in progress.

Once you're on the page, you'll select the country from which you're visiting. This is the country who's U.S. embassy you'll need to contact for a consular interview (more on that later).

#3: Fill Out the DS-160

To simplify the immigration process, the U.S. State Department processes all initial applications for a nonimmigrant visa with the same form. If you've previously applied using the DS-156, DS-157, DS-158, or DS-3032, all of those forms have been replaced by the DS-160.

(The only exception is if you're an E visa applicant, or a treater trader or investor—additional forms may be found on the State Department website).

Important note: every mandatory answer on the online application must be filled out. The system does not allow incomplete or blank answers. It's a good thing too—a form that isn't filled out correctly may require you to start the process all over again.

#4: Print Out Your DS-160 Barcode Page

You'll need this later. You don't need to print out the entire application—just this page.

#5: Find Your Embassy

Use this link to find the embassy you'll need to contact for the rest of the process. Simply find the country and click on the name—it will give you the address and contact information for the U.S. embassy in that country.

#6: Pay the Visa Application Processing Fee

The fee (and how to pay it) will depend on how your local embassy operates. Visit their website using the instructions from Step 5 and click on the embassy's name after you land on their information page. This will take you to that embassy's website.You may have to call to get the information you need, but the website should provide you with basic payment instructions for nonimmigrant visas.

#7: Call & Schedule an Interview

The next stage in your application process is setting up an interview with a consular official at your local U.S. embassy. It's important to know that your embassy will not set up an interview for you. You'll have to call and set one up yourself. Call as soon as your application is completed. That way you'll have less of a wait time between your application getting processed and your interview date.

Note: you'll have to reschedule your interview if your application is wrongly filled out or rejected due to an error.

Once you've scheduled your interview, all you have to do is wait for the State Department to update you on your application's status! Visit the State Department site to check on the application after a few days. If you have any more questions, you may need to contact your embassy or an immigration attorney.

The (Many) Types of Nonimmigrant Visas

For every kind of visitor to the United States, there is a type of visa. Whether you're a scientist who has been brought in to contribute to a research project or you're a foreign-born university student, the U.S. will want to regulate the scope of visitors—which means you'll need to apply for the right kind of visa.

Below, we have a nearly exhaustive list that encompasses most of the 180+ visas available in the United States. Note that each "series" of visas includes visa types for each type of person (i.e. F-1 visas are for foreign students, F-2 visas are for their spouses or children).

Find out which visa applies to you, and begin the steps listed above!

A-Series Visas

Foreign government officials

B-Series Visas

Temporary visas for business travelers and domestic servants (B-1) or tourists and people seeking medical treatment (B-2).

C-Series Visas

For aliens in transit, including crewmen, UN visitors, foreign gov't officials plus immediate family, attendants, and personal employees, and transit without visas.

D-Series Visas

Crewmember of a vessel, either departing on the same (D-1) or a different vessel (D-2).

E-Series Visas

Visas for treaty traders, investors, and their spouses and children under 21 years old. Also includes a visa for Australian nationals who work in a specialized profession (the Australian H-1 visa) and a green card for investors of $1M or $500k in a "pilot program."

F-Series Visas

Visas for academic students and their spouses or children under 21.

G-Series Visas

Visas granted to international organizations or representatives of foreign governments, plus immediate family members and staff (excluding NATO employment, which has its own visa category).

H-Series Visas

Visas specifically intended for foreigners who are part of a specialized profession, participating in research and development projects, foreign nurses during health professional shortages, fashion models, laborers doing agricultural or seasonal work, temporary workers of non-agricultural industries, participants in training programs, and spouses and children under 21 years of age.

I Visa

Visa for representatives of foreign information media, including their spouses and children. (foreign reporters)

J-Series Visas

For foreign exchange visitors.

K-Series Visas

Visas for fiancé or spouse of a U.S. citizen, as well as their under-18 children.

L-Series Visas

Visas for employees of international companies who are transferring from one country's operations to another, either as executives/managers or as "specialized knowledge personnel." Also includes a visa for spouses and children under 21 years of age.

M-Series Visas

Visas for non-academic students and their spouses/children (designed for students receiving vocational training).

N-Series Visas

Visas for the parents of a SK-3 Special Immigrant, as well as visas for children of N-series immigrants or SK-Series immigrants under the age of 21.

NATO Visas

Visas for primary representatives, technical advisors, senior staff, NATO officials, immediate family members, attendants and personal employees, experts employed on NATO missions, civilian members of a component accompanying a NATO force, and other related members of NATO work.

O-Series Visas

Visas for foreigners with "extraordinary abilities" in science, arts, education, business, athletics, film or television, or extraordinary achievement in the same.

P-Series Visas

Visas for athletes and artists, entertainment groups, and their support personnel, spouses, and children under 21. Also for members of artistic exchange program.

Q-Series Visas

Visas for participants in International Cultural Exchange Programs and their spouses and under-21 children.

R-Series Visas

Visas for foreigners employed in a religious occupation, as well as their spouses and children under 21.

S-Series Visas

Visas for foreign nationals who are informants on criminal organizations or terrorist activities, as well as qualified family members.

T-Series Visas

Visas for the victims of human trafficking, as well as their children or parents, if the victim is under 21 years old.

TN Visas

Visas for professional workers visiting under the North American Free Trade Agreement, as well as their spouses or children under 21 years old.

U-Series Visas

Visas for the victims of criminal activity, as well as their spouses, children, or parents if the victim is under 21 years of age.

One Final Piece of Advice

If you're looking for the best way to gain entry into the United States lawfully, consult with an immigration attorney! Immigration lawyers are well-versed in every part of immigration law, from navigating the complex application process to defending your rights if you are prosecuted during your visit. Their guidance ensures that your application process avoids the costly mistakes many first-time applicants make—and can help you avoid paying the price for your lack of experience.