Visas for Visiting the USA: An Overview

For non-USA citizens or residents, simply visiting the United States involves some planning ahead. For citizens of all non-USA countries, aside from Mexican and Canadian passport holders, it is necessary either to participate in the Visa Waiver Program (if you hold a passport from an eligible country) or you must apply for the visa that is most appropriate for your visit.

There are many categories of visas for people wishing to enter the United States as temporary visitors. Below is a brief overview of the most common types of visas offered for temporary entry into the USA:

VISA

Who Qualifies?

A-1 to A-3

Foreign government officials and families: ambassadors, public ministers, career diplomats, or consular officers or employees of A-1 and A-2 visa-holders

B-1

Temporary visitors arriving for business

B-2

Temporary visitors for pleasure

BCC

Mexico citizens border crossing card

C-1

Transit aliens: aliens in transit, in transit to the United Nations or foreign government officials and their families in transit

CP

Victims of crime who are cooperating in an investigation or in the prosecution of a federal crime

E-1 to E-3

Treaty traders and investors

F-1, F-2

Academic students and exchange visitors or spouses/children of academic students/exchange visitors

F-3

Canadian or Mexican national academic commuter students

G-1 to G-4

Various classes of representatives to international organizations and families

G-5

Attendants or personal employees of representatives to international organizations and families

GB

Visa waiver for temporary visitors for business from Guam

GT

Visa waiver for temporary visitors for pleasure from Guam

H-1B

Temporary workers and trainees in specialty occupations

H-1B1

Temporary workers and trainees from Chile and Singapore eligible under Free Trade Agreement

H-1C

Temporary workers and trainees working as registered nurses in the Nursing Relief for Disadvantaged Areas program

H-2A

Temporary seasonal agricultural workers and trainees

H-2B

Temporary seasonal nonagricultural workers and trainees

H-3

Temporary industrial trainees

H-4

Spouses and children of H-1, H-2, and H-3 workers

I-1

Representatives of foreign information media and families

J-1

Exchange visitors

J-2

Spouses and children of exchange visitors

K-1, K-2

LIFE Act: fiances(ees) of U.S. citizens and their children

K-3, K-4

LIFE Act: spouses and children U.S. citizens with pending visas

L-1

Intracompany transferees

L-2

Spouses and children of intracompany transferees

M-1

Vocational exchange students

M-2

Spouses and children of vocational exchange students

M-3

Canadian or Mexican national vocational commuter students

N-1 to N-6

NATO officials and families

N-8, N-9

Immediate relatives of certain SK-3 special immigrants

O-1

Temporary workers and trainees with extraordinary ability or achievement

O-2

Temporary workers and trainees who are accompanying and assisting in performance of O-1 workers

O-3

Spouses and children of O-1 and O-2 workers

P-1

Internationally recognized athletes or entertainers as temporary workers or trainees

P-2

Artists or entertainers in reciprocal exchange programs as temporary workers or trainees

P-3

Artists or entertainers in culturally unique programs as temporary workers or trainees

P-4

Spouses and children of P-1, P-2, and P-3 workers

Q-1

Workers in international cultural exchange programs as temporary workers or trainees

R-1

Workers in religious occupations as temporary workers or trainees

R-2

Spouses and children of R-1 workers as temporary workers or trainees

S-5, S-6

Aliens Assisting Law Enforcement

SIJS

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status for qualifying children in the U.S. who are declared dependents of a juvenile court and who would be harmed if returned to their home country

T-1 to T-4

Victims of human trafficking and their spouses, children and parents

TD

Spouses and children of temporary NAFTA workers

TN

Temporary NAFTA professional workers

U-1

Victims of certain criminal activities, including rape, murder, manslaughter, child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault, and/or human trafficking

U-2 to U-5

Spouses, children, parents (of child victims) and siblings (of minor age) of victims of U-1 criminal activity

V-1

Spouses of permanent residents with pending visas under the LIFE Act

V-2

Children of permanent residents with pending visas under the LIFE Act

V-3

Dependents of V-1 and V-2 visa holders with pending visas

WB

Visa waiver for temporary visitors arriving for business

WT

Visa waiver for temporary visitors arriving for pleasure

Depending on the visa you wish to apply for, you may need to seek professional legal advice or assistance. Cut down on legal fees by doing some of the research, and maybe even the paperwork, yourself. Visit the U.S. Department of State's website and take a look at our other articles on visiting the U.S. 

  • Written by: Michelle Spatz
  • Tuesday, 13 December 2011