Whether seeking to move permanently to the U.S. or to visit temporarily, foreign citizens may require immigrant and nonimmigrant visas. Any number of factors or reasons may bring foreign citizens to the U.S., including work, family, travel or asylum. Whether seeking to visit California or elsewhere temporarily or permanently, people may require visas. In order to help set them on their path, it may be helpful for those wishing to come to America to understand the difference between immigrant and nonimmigrant visas.
What are immigrant visas?
Immigrant visas are those that are issued to people who desire to permanently reside in the U.S. With few exceptions, foreign citizens seeking such visas must be sponsored by an immediate relative who is a lawful permanent resident, a U.S. citizen or a potential U.S. employer. To obtain an immigrant visa, people must have their applications approved and meet the other necessary requirements, which include a medical examination and an interview. Visas issued to those seeking permanent residence in the U.S. can be categorized based on people’s circumstances and reasons for immigrating to the country. Immediate relative and family sponsored visas, for example, may be issued to people who are married to U.S. citizens, spouses of Americans who are awaiting the approval of an immigrant petition, those who plan to marry a U.S. citizen and live in the country, and certain family members of American citizens or lawful permanent residents. Religious workers, priority workers, certain professionals, some investors, and Iraqis and Afghans who worked with or for the U.S. government, among some other workers, may be eligible for employment immigration visas.
What are nonimmigrant visas?
Sometimes people with permanent residences outside of the U.S. may wish to visit the country temporarily for tourism, business, medical treatment, study or temporary work purposes. Their purpose in coming to American determines whether they need a visa to gain entrance, and if so, what category of visa they require. The associated requirements for obtaining nonimmigrant visas may vary depending on the type of visa people are seeking. Nonimmigrant visas are divided into different categories, each of which is assigned a letter designation. The main categories of nonimmigrant visas include the following: career diplomats, temporary visitors for pleasure and business, investors and treaty traders, students, temporary workers, foreign media representatives, entertainers, participants in cultural exchange programs, North American Free Trade Agreement professionals, children and parents of special immigrants, crewmembers and international organization representatives. There is also a special purpose category that is reserved for North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, personnel.
Seeking legal assistance.
Alone, navigating the U.S. immigration and citizenship system may be overwhelming for people born in foreign countries who wish to visit or move permanently to the United States. Therefore, those considering traveling or relocating to the U.S. may benefit from consulting with a legal representative. An attorney may explain their options, as well as guide them through the application, interview, and other related processes.
At Wilner & O’Reilly, we practice immigration law exclusively. We offer free in-person consultation at our offices in Orange, Fresno, Riverside, Sacramento, and San Bruno, California, as well as Orem and Salt Lake City, Utah, and Boise, Idaho. Please contact us today to start navigating the complex immigration system.