Gudeon and McFadden
Nonimmigrant Visas

for Visitors, Professionals, Investors, Students & Others

 
 HOME PAGE
 FIRM PROFILE
 LONDON VISA PROCESSING
 WEEKLY UPDATE
 NONIMMIGRANT VISAS
 IMMIGRANT VISAS
 ARTICLES
 PRESS
 OUR LOCATION
 USEFUL LINKS
 CONTACT US
 SITE MAP
  GUDEON & McFADDEN
  SIXTH FLOOR
  26/28 GREAT PORTLAND ST
  LONDON W1W 8QT
  TEL: +44 20 7323 9454
  FAX: +44 20 7580 2171
 
Updated: October 28, 2014

Nonimmigrant visas come in a wide variety of types, from ‘A’ (diplomats) through ‘V’ (certain family members of lawful permanent residents). Holders of nonimmigrant visas are allowed to travel to and remain in the US for a temporary stay and for a particular purpose—for example, to work for a limited period, to study, to make business visits or to travel as a tourist.

All persons seeking admission to the United States must have a visa, unless they qualify to enter the US under the Visa Waiver Program or are otherwise exempt (e.g., certain Canadian citizens). Derivative family member visas are available to the qualified spouses and unmarried children (under the age of 21) of principal applicants in many visa classifications.

As part of the nonimmigrant visa application process most applicants, with certain important exceptions, must prove that they intend to remain in the US for only a temporary period. Many visa classifications require that applicants demonstrate that they will at all times during their US stay maintain a residence outside the US that they do not intend to abandon.

Below you will find a brief description of the Visa Waiver Program, followed by information regarding some of the most common nonimmigrant visas.

Visa Waiver Program
Visitor for Business (B-1/WB)
Visitor For Pleasure (B-2)
Transit/Crew Members (C-1/D)
Treaty Traders/Treaty Investors (E-1/E-2)
Treaty Aliens in Specialty Occupations (E-3)
Students (F-1/M-1)
Temporary Workers and Trainees (H Visas)
Information Media (I)
Exchange Visitor (J-1)
Fiancé/Fiancée (K-1)
Spouses of US Citizens (K-3)
Intracompany Transferees (L-1)
Alien of Extraordinary Ability/Extraordinary Achievement (O-1)
Athletes, Entertainers and Artists (P-1, P-2 and P-3)
Religious Workers (R)
Spouses and Children of Permanent Residents (V)

Visa Waiver Program

Visa-free travel is available to qualified citizens of 38 countries. The countries included in the Visa Waiver Program are Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan and the United Kingdom. Qualified Visa Waiver Program travellers must travel on a participating carrier or authorized private aircraft and must either hold an individual, unexpired, machine-readable, tamper-resistant passport, or obtain a visa. Citizens of some of the Visa Waiver countries must hold so-called ‘e passports.’ For further information, please see our website article Travelling to the US Without a Visa.

Visa Waiver admission is available to both tourists (WT) and business travellers (WB). If otherwise eligible the person will be admitted for a period of 90 days. Neither WT nor WB entry generally permits productive employment (including self-employment) while in the US.  For a discussion of the exceptions, please see our website article Working (Legally) on a Visitor’s Visa or Visa Waiver Entry.   In addition, Visa Waiver entrants may not apply to extend their stay or to change status while in the United States, with the exception of an application to adjust status to lawful permanent residence based upon marriage to a US citizen. For additional information regarding the requirements of the Visa Waiver Program, go to Travelling to the US Without a Visa

 

Visitor for Business (B-1/WB):

Persons holding B-1 visas or who are admitted for business purposes under the Visa Waiver Program may travel to the US on business, which includes but is not limited to activities such as the negotiation of contracts and attendance at business meetings and conferences. With few exceptions business visitors are not authorized to engage in ordinary local employment or labor for hire, and may not receive a salary or other remuneration (other than expenses incidental to their business visit) from a US source.

Our website article Working (Legally) on a Visitor’s Visa or Visa Waiver Entry. contains additional information regarding these exceptions to the general rule.

Visitor For Pleasure (B-2):

The B-2 is the standard tourist visa and admission as a B-2 is generally for a period of six months. In B-2 status the visa holder may take a holiday in the United States, travel, visit family and friends, or seek medical treatment. Employment is never authorized.

Transit/Crew Members (C-1/D):

Holders of ‘C’ visas are authorized to remain in the US for no more than 29 days, while they are in immediate and continuous transit through the United States. The ‘D’ visa is primarily for crew members of either a vessel or an aircraft.

Treaty Traders/Treaty Investors (E-1/E-2):

The ‘E’ visas are available to otherwise eligible citizens of countries with which the United States has a qualifying treaty of friendship, commerce and navigation or a bilateral investment treaty. As set forth below they are available both to the business owner/investor, and to certain qualifying employees.

The E-1 ‘treaty trader’ visa is available to qualified persons who seek to enter the US solely to carry on an already existing, substantial trade in goods, services or technology principally between their home country and the United States.

The E-2 ‘treaty investor’ visa is available to qualified persons who seek to develop and direct a business in which they have invested (or are actively in the process of investing) a substantial amount of capital.

Further information regarding E visas for business owners can be found in our article Immigration Options for Investors, Entrepreneurs and Business Owners.

E-1 and E-2 visas may also be available to prospective employees of a treaty trader or treaty investor if the employees are the same nationality as the trader or investor and either (a) an executive or supervisor, or (b) a skilled worker with special qualifications that are essential to the efficient operation of the US enterprise. The spouse of an E-1 or E-2 visa holder, and unmarried children under the age of 21, regardless of their nationality, are also eligible for E-1 or E-2 visas. After entry to the US on an E-1 or E-2 visa the spouse may apply for an unrestricted work permit (employment authorization document (‘EAD’)) and may commence employment as soon as the authorization has been granted.

Treaty Aliens in Specialty Occupations (E-3):

E-3 visas are available to otherwise eligible citizens of countries designated by statute. At the present time the only such country is Australia. The E-3 is available for persons offered US employment in a ‘specialty occupation,’ defined as one which for entry requires a US baccalaureate degree or equivalent in a field related to the occupation. The person being offered the job must have either a US baccalaureate degree in a relevant field or the foreign equivalent of that degree or the equivalent in a combination of formal education and work experience. The spouse of an E-3 visa holder, and unmarried children under the age of 21, regardless of their nationality, are also eligible for E-3 visas. E-3 spouses may apply after entry to the US for unrestricted work permits and may commence employment as soon as the authorization has been granted. No petition need be filed in the US for the E-3 visa but an approved Labor Condition Application must be submitted at the time of the visa application.

For additional information regarding the E-3 please see our website article Frequently-Asked Questions About the ‘Australians Only’ E-3 Visa.

Students (F-1/M-1):

Student visas are available to persons who wish to attend a full course of study at an approved institution, either academic (F-1) or vocational or other recognized non-academic (M-1).

Before applying for either an F-1 or M-1 the prospective student must obtain from the school a Form I-20 A-B certificate of eligibility for the requested status. The prospective student must also pay to the Department of Homeland Security a fee of $200.00 to defray the cost of enrolment in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Proof of payment must be brought to the applicant’s visa interview. For instructions on how to pay the SEVIS fee, click here.

Temporary Workers and Trainees (H Visas), of which there are 4 types:
Professionals (H-1B):

This visa is available for persons offered US employment in a ‘specialty occupation,’ defined as one which for entry requires a US baccalaureate degree or equivalent in a field related to the occupation. The person being offered the job must have either a US baccalaureate degree in a relevant field or the foreign equivalent of that degree or the equivalent in a combination of formal education and work experience. H-1B visas are also available to fashion models of ‘distinguished merit and ability,’ and to individuals who seek to perform services of exceptional nature in connection with certain government-sponsored projects.

H-1B availability is limited to 65,000 per year. Of that number, 6,800 are reserved for applicants under the Singapore and Chilean free trade agreements, leaving 58,200 available for applicants from the rest of the world. Petitions for current H-1B workers do not count toward the quota; neither do petitions for aliens who will be employed at an institution of higher education (or a related or affiliated nonprofit entity), or at a nonprofit research organization or a governmental research organization. Moreover, the first 20,000 H-1B petitions filed within a fiscal year for persons who have earned master’s degrees or higher from a US institution of higher education are treated as exempt from the annual maximum of 58,200. In order to apply for an H-1B visa at the Embassy the applicant must be the beneficiary of a petition filed by the prospective US employer and approved by a US-based office of US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Nurses in Shortage Areas (H-1C):

Five hundred visas per year are available for nurses who seek to work in geographical areas designated by the US Department of Health and Human Services as ‘Health Professional Shortage Areas.’

Temporary Workers (H-2):

Skilled and unskilled workers who seek to fill positions in the US that are temporary or seasonal in nature may apply for H-2 visas. The sponsoring employer must prove not only the temporary or seasonal nature of the job but also that there is a shortage of US workers to fill the position.

Trainees (H-3):

In order to qualify for an H-3 visa an individual must be seeking to receive in the US training that is not generally available in his or her home country. The sponsoring employer must describe the type of training to be offered, certify that the trainee will not engage in productive employment except incidentally and as is necessary to accomplish the training, and demonstrate that the training will benefit the applicant in pursuing a career outside the United States.

Information Media (I):

US immigration law authorizes the granting of ‘I’ nonimmigrant classification to representatives of foreign press, radio, film or other information media who seek to enter the US solely to engage in that vocation. ‘I’ visas are available not only to primary employees of foreign information media engaged in filming a news event or documentary, but also to the employees of independent production companies.

Exchange Visitor (J-1):

The purpose of the Exchange Visitor Program is to facilitate educational and cultural exchanges between people of the United States and other countries, in order to increase mutual understanding. A wide variety of educational, cultural and employment possibilities are available under programs administered by the public and private entities that act as exchange sponsors under supervision of the US Department of State. J-1 visas are available to qualified applicants who seek to undertake temporary employment (including work as an au pair), training or research under the aegis of a sponsoring organization.

Some exchange visitors and their families may be subject to a two-year foreign residency requirement after the completion of their US stay. If the visa holders are subject to this requirement they may not be granted ‘H,’ ‘L,’ ‘K’ visas, or lawful permanent resident status, until they have either returned to their home country for a period of two years, or obtained a waiver of that requirement. J-1 visa applicants must pay a fee to the Department of Homeland Security (for most applicants $180.00) to defray the cost of enrolment in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Proof of payment must be brought to the applicant’s visa interview. For instructions on how to pay the SEVIS fee, click here.

Fiancé/Fiancée (K-1):

The K-1 visa allows the fiancé or fiancée of a US citizen to travel to the United States for the purpose of marrying the US citizen within 90 days after entry. The process is begun by the US citizen, who must file a petition for the fiancé/fiancée with the USCIS office with jurisdiction over the US citizen’s residence.   In-depth information regarding the K-1 visa is contained in our website article Before You Say ‘I Do’: Options for British-American Couples.

Because the fiancé/fiancée visa allows the person to travel to the United States, marry a US citizen shortly after arrival, and begin the process of application for permanent resident status, the K-1 applicant must meet most of the requirements to qualify for an immigrant visa, including a medical examination and the provision of police certificates and public charge documentation. The unmarried children of the K-1 applicant, if under the age of 21, may apply for K-2 visas to accompany or follow to join their parent.

Spouses of US Citizens (K-3):

The spouse of a US citizen, and the spouse’s children, can travel to the United States on K-3 and K-4 visas, respectively, and wait in the US to complete the immigration process. The US citizen must first file an immigrant petition for alien relative, to sponsor the spouse and any qualifying child. Once the immigrant petition has been filed the US citizen may then file a second petition, for the K-3 and K-4 visas. When that second petition has been approved, the spouse and any qualifying children must apply for their visas at the US Embassy or Consulate in the foreign country where the marriage took place or, if there is no consular post in that country, at a post designated by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Visa Services. If the marriage took place in the United States, the visa applications must be filed in the applicants’ country of nationality or last foreign residence.  Information about the K-3/K-4 option can be found at Before You Say ‘I Do’: Options for British-American Couples.

Intracompany Transferees (L-1):

The L-1 visa requires that the applicant have been employed outside the United States for one continuous year in the previous three years, in a position that is managerial, executive, or requires the use of specialized knowledge, and that he or she be transferring to a position in the US for the same or a related company, which position is either managerial, executive, or requires the use of specialized knowledge.  In order to apply for an L-1 visa at the Embassy the applicant must be the beneficiary of a petition approved by a US-based office of US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).   L-1s can often serve as a route to lawful permanent resident (‘green card’) status for individuals and their families.  You may wish to consult our website articles on this subject, Intracompany Transfers and Multinational Executives and Managers – EB-1-3.

L-2 visas are available for the L-1 holder’s spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21. After entry to the US on an L-2 visa the spouse may apply for an unrestricted work permit (employment authorization document (‘EAD’)) and may commence employment as soon as the authorization has been granted.

Alien of Extraordinary Ability/Extraordinary Achievement (O-1):

The ‘O’ visa classification provides for the admission into the United States of persons with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics or extraordinary achievement in motion picture or television production, and their essential support personnel.   For additional information regarding the extraordinary ability visa, see our website article How to Prove You’re an Alien of Extraordinary Ability.  The extraordinary achievement visa for those in motion pictures and television is discussed in the article Lights! Camera! Visa! Aliens of Extraordinary Achievement in Film and Television.

The applicant for an O-1 must be sponsored by an employer or agent, and the visa is granted for a specific event, such as a tour, lecture series or project. The sponsor must file a petition with the USCIS and it must be approved before the applicant may apply for his or her O-1 visa.

Essential support personnel who are an integral part of the performance and have skills and experience not available in the United States location may apply for O-2 visas to accompany and assist the O-1 visa holder. Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 may accompany O-1 and O-2 visa holders by obtaining O-3 visas.

Athletes, Entertainers and Artists (P-1, P-2 and P-3):

The P-1 visa is available to athletes, artists, members of entertainment groups and their essential support personnel. Individual members of the entertainment industry are not eligible for the P-1 visa classification but individual athletes are. Individual athletes may be admitted for up to five years and members of an athletic team for a period of six months. For members of the entertainment industry the P-1 visa will be issued for a specific event only. The P-1 applicant must perform with, or as an integral and essential part of the performance of, an entertainment group that has been recognized internationally as being outstanding in the discipline for a sustained and substantial period of time. The individual must also have had a sustained and substantial relationship with the group (ordinarily for at least 1 year) and provide functions integral to the performance of the group.

The P-2 visa provides for the admission into the US of an artist or entertainer, either an individual or a group, involved in a reciprocal exchange program between an organization or organizations in the United States and one or more foreign countries, which program provides for the temporary exchange of artists and entertainers.

The P-3 visa is reserved for the admission into the United States of an artist or entertainer, either an individual or a group, who will perform, teach or coach under a program that is culturally unique.

Applications for P visas must be preceded by the filing of a petition with the USCIS, and the approval of that petition.

The spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 of the holders of P-1, P-2 or P-3 visas may apply for P-4 visas to accompany their spouse or parent to the United States.

Religious Workers (R):

Upon approval of a visa petition filed by a petitioning employer in the US, a minister of religion or a religious worker may apply for the religious worker ‘R’ visa if, for the two years immediately preceding the time of application, the applicant has been a member of a religious denomination which has a bona fide nonprofit religious organization in the United States. The applicant must plan to enter the US solely to either (1) carry on the vocation of a minister of the religious denomination, or (2) work in a qualifying religious vocation or occupation. R-2 visas are available to the spouses and unmarried children under 21 of the R-1 visa holder.

Spouses and Children of Permanent Residents (V):

In order to qualify for a ‘V’ visa an applicant must be the spouse or unmarried child under the age of 21 of a lawful permanent resident of the United States. The applicant must be the beneficiary of an immigrant visa petition filed by his or her spouse or parent on or before December 21, 2000. The ‘V’ visa allows the holders to live and work in the US whilst awaiting permanent residence processing.

© 2014 Gudeon & McFadden. All rights reserved. Disclaimer