Applying for a U.S. Visa

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visa is a passport endorsement that permits foreigners to enter the U.S. The majority of visa-holders in California are sponsored by U.S.-based relatives or employers.

The U.S. offers about 185 different types of visas. Each has its own application requirements, costs, processing times, and expiration dates. The type of visa is determined by the purpose of your travel to the United States.

Type Of Visa Purpose
An immigrant visa (IV) To live permanently in the U.S.
A nonimmigrant visa (NIV) Temporary basis for tourism, medical treatment, business, temporary work or study, as examples.

Immigrant Visa

Also known as permanent resident, immigrant, green card holder, and resident alien.

The United States may issue immigrant visas to foreigners who wish to settle in the United States and make it their permanent home. Those with Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) or immigrant status may work and live legally within the United States with most of the privileges and rights as a U.S. citizen. To become a permanent resident you would need to acquire an immigrant visa through sponsorship by a U.S. based individual. Typically, these are family members who are either U.S. citizens, permanent residents or U.S. based employers.

Immediate Relative & Family Sponsored Visa Category
Spouse of a U.S. Citizen IR1, CR1
Spouse of a U.S. Citizen awaiting approval of an I-130 immigrant petition K-3
Fiancé(e) to marry U.S. Citizen & live in U.S. K-1
Intercountry Adoption of Orphan Children by U.S. Citizens IR3, IH3, IR4, IH4
Certain Family Members of U.S. Citizens IR2, CR2, IR5, F1, F3, F4
Certain Family Members of Lawful Permanent Residents F2A, F2B

Other Immigrants Visa Category
Diversity Immigrant Visa DV
Returning Resident SB


The U.S. government grants other foreign-born individuals a nonimmigrant visa for the purposes of a temporary visit to the United States. Generally, the terms of a nonimmigrant visa require that the visa holder depart the U.S. within a certain time frame. The purpose for the visit may be tourism, business, temporary work, or school. Once a person has entered the U.S. in nonimmigrant status, they are restricted to the activity or reason for which they were allowed entry. For example, someone with a student visa must continue to be enrolled in school to keep within the terms of the visa. Most nonimmigrant visas are issued only to applicants who can demonstrate their intentions to return to their home country.

Purpose of Travel Visa Category Required: Before applying for visa
Athlete, amateur or professional (competing for prize money only) B-1 (NA)
Au pair (exchange visitor) J SEVIS
Australian professional specialty E-3 DOL
Border Crossing Card: Mexico BCC (NA)
Business visitor B-1 (NA)
CNMI-only transitional worker CW-1 (USCIS)
Crewmember D (NA)
Diplomat or foreign government official A (NA)
Domestic employee or nanny – must be accompanying a foreign national employer B-1 (NA)
Employee of a designated international organization or NATOr G1-G5, NATO (NA)
Exchange visitor J SEVIS
Foreign military personnel stationed in the United States A-2
Free Trade Agreement (FTA) Professional:
Chile, Singapore
H-1B1 – Chile
H-1B1 – Singapore
International cultural exchange visitor Q USCIS
Intra-company transferee L USCIS
Medical treatment, visitor for B-2 (NA)
Media, journalist I (NA)
NAFTA professional worker: Mexico, Canada TN/TD (NA)
Performing athlete, artist, entertainer P USCIS
Physician P USCIS
Professor, scholar, teacher (exchange visitor) J SEVIS
Religious worker R USCIS
Specialty occupations in fields requiring highly specialized knowledge H-1B DOL then USCIS
Specialty occupations in fields requiring highly specialized knowledge H-1B DOL then USCIS
Student: academic, vocational F, M SEVIS
Temporary agricultural worker H-2A DOL then USCIS
Temporary worker performing other services or labor of a temporary or seasonal nature. H-2B DOL then USCIS
Training in a program not primarily for employment H-3 USCIS
Treaty trader/treaty investor H-3 USCIS
Transiting the United States C (NA)
Victim of Criminal Activity U USCIS
Victim of Human Trafficking T USCIS
Nonimmigrant (V) Visa for Spouse and Children of a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) V (NA)

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