Two passports, some papers that a person just stamped approved, some planes, and the words immigrant vs non-immigrant visas

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Most foreigners who plan to visit or move to the United States need a visa in order to enter the country. The U.S. issues over 10 million visas each year. While the vast majority of visas are non-immigrant visas, about 500,000 are immigrant visas. Under these two main categories of visas are dozens of subcategories of visas, which can make the visa application process very confusing. Here is more information on the differences between immigrant and non-immigrant visas:

Non-Immigrant Visas

Non-immigrant visas are issued to visitors who do not plan to live in the U.S. permanently. There are over 20 categories of non-immigrant visas. However, the most common types of non-immigrant visas granted include tourism visas, student visas, exchange visitor visas, transit visas, and specialty worker visas.

Tourism Visas

The U.S. issues a little over 6 million tourism visas each year. There are two main types of tourism visas: B-1 (business visas) and B-2 (vacation visas). For visitors who plan to vacation and tend to business, there is a combination B-1/B-2 visa.

Student Visas

You can attend grade school, college, seminary school, or another academic institution in the US if you have a student visa (F-1/M-1). The visa is only valid while you’re enrolled in school, and you must leave within 60 days of completing your studies. Over 400,000 student visas are granted annually.

Exchange Visitor Visas

Also known as J-1 visas, exchange visitor visas allow the private sector to exchange scholars, interns, teachers, seasonal workers, au pairs, and professional trainees. The program allows people to gain international experience, build new skills, and teach others. Approximately 340,000 exchange visitor visas are granted every year.

Transit Visas

If your job requires you to enter and move about in the U.S., you may be granted a transit visa (C-1). Most often granted to airline and cruise employees, this visa is required for anyone who works on a ship or aircraft based in the U.S. There are a little less than 300,000 of these visas issued each year.

Specialty Worker Visas

There are three main types of specialty worker visas. The H-1B1 allows specialty workers from Chile and Singapore to enter the country. The H-1B2 is for people who work on projects for the Department of Defense Cooperative Research and Development program. The H-1B3 is for those who have distinguished merit and ability. Fewer than 200,000 of specialty worker visas are issued annually.

Immigrant Visas

Immigrant visas are for those who are planning to live in the U.S. permanently. There are five main types of immigrant visas: immediate relative, family preference, diversity immigrant, employment preference, and special immigrant visas.

Immediate Relative

Issued to fiances, spouses, unmarried children, adopted children, and parents of U.S. citizens, these visas allow for the reunification of immediate family members.

Family Preference

Family preference visas are granted to family members who are not the immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and green card holders.

Diversity Immigrant

Granted to residents of countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S., diversity immigrant visas are offered through a visa lottery program.

Employment Preference

If you have a skill or special ability that an employer wants, you may be able to obtain an employment-preference visa. To obtain this visa, your potential employer must file a petition.

Special Immigrant

Special immigrant visas are issued to individuals in special subgroups who work for the U.S. overseas. There are a little over 9,000 of these visas issued annually.

With so many different types of visas available, the visa application process can get quite confusing. The visa you choose to apply for will depend primarily on your reasons for entering the country. If you’re not sure which visa is right for you, seek legal counsel. Filing the wrong paperwork will result in a denial; therefore, it’s vital that you get it right the first time.

An experienced immigration attorney can help you make sure that your visa paperwork is in order. Juan Hernandez – an immigration and board-certified personal injury attorney serving Dallas, Amarillo, and Abilene – can help. Call the offices of Juan Hernandez to learn more about visas and the process for obtaining a visa.