Within the general category of non-immigrant status in the United States, there are many subcategories of visas. It is advisable that you read up on all of them so that you can decide which one best suits you and your current situation. The common factor among these different subcategories of non-immigrant visas is their temporality, and the majority are granted to applicants who plan to come to the U.S. for specific purposes.

The visa is limited to the activity for which it was issued. The following are some at the activities:

• To start a new business venture
• Expand upon an existing business
• Make an Investment
• Work in a specialized field with qualifications or skills of recognized prestige
• Study in an academic institution
• Enroll in a language training program etc.

Below you will find a brief definition of some of the non-immigrant visa subcategories:


This visa is for business visitors who plan to travel to the United States to open an office, to start a new business, sign or negotiate a contract, participate in a short-term training program, or attend meetings, conferences, conventions or commercial meetings. The visa holder is permitted to stay on U.S. territory for up to six months however, it is possible to renew the visa up to sixth months more. The trip may only have a maximum duration of 1 year.


This is known as the Treaty Trader visa for businessmen or executives, with highly qualified specialized skills in charge of operating business transactions (as long as he is not the main investor). Applicants must be citizens of countries that have a commercial treaty or agreement with the United States, who have the intention of carrying out commercial exchanges between both countries. These exchanges may regard products, services, technology transfer, international banking, social insurance, transport, tourism etc. This visa is valid for two years and it is renewable for two year periods without a renewal limit. Once the immigrant visa status has expired, the holder must leave U.S. territory.


This is known as the Treaty Investor and Essential Employee visa for investors from countries that have signed a commercial treaty or agreement with the United States and who want to make a substantial capital investment in the United Sates at their own commercial risk. Highly qualified executives hired to manage business transactions are also included in this subcategory (as long as he is not the main investor). The initial visa is granted for two years and is renewable for periods of up to two years. There is no renewal limit. Once the visa expires, the visa holder must leave U.S. territory.


This visa is also referred to as the Specialty Occupations in Fields Requiring Highly Specialized Knowledge Visa. This applies to applicants who are looking to provide services in a specialized field. Two examples are researchers of recognized prestige working on research projects and development with the U.S. Department of Defense or USDOD, or fashion models. In both instances, the potential employer must carry out the procedure on behalf of the client. In order to request the non-immigrant worker visa before the USCIS, the employer must obtain the labor certification issued by the U.S. Department of Labor or USDOL authorizing the requested work position. This initial visa is valid for a period of up to three years, renewable for a period of up to three more years with a maximum of 6 years (although in some cases this can be extended).

H-1C; H-2A; H-2B

The H-1C visa is also known as the Registered Nurse Working in a Health Professional Shortage Area as determined by the Department of Labor visa. The H-2A visa is the Temporary Agricultural Workers visa. The H-2B is the Temporary Workers Performing other Services or Labor of Temporary or Seasonal Nature visa. All three fall under the category of workers in deficit areas where there are not enough American workers working in that field who are either capable, willing, available or qualified of doing the job. Jobs that fall under this category include the following: registered nurses, temporary workers in the agricultural sector and temporary workers in the nonagricultural sector.  The potential employer is required to submit proof that there are no qualified, capable, willing or available workers for this position in the United States to the Department of Labor. The company must also obtain the corresponding labor certification in order to proceed to request the non-immigrant workers visa from the USCIS. The validity of the visa varies depending on each subcategory. In the first case, the visa is valid up to a maximum of 3 years. In the second and third case, the visa is valid depending on the amount of time specified in the corresponding labor certification that can be up to a maximum of 3 years and renewable for periods of up to 1 year. You must submit the renewal application with this certification.


This visa is known as the Non-Immigrant Trainee visa. This temporary visa allows individuals to come for training in the following sectors: commercial-business, communications, finances, government, transportation, agriculture, etc. It is understood that these candidates will then go apply what they have learned in the country of origin. This subcategory will not allow the foreigners to work in the United States.

Those interested in enrolling in special education programs are also permitted to come to the U.S. with this visa to train and/ or intern with children with physical, mental or emotional disabilities. Postgraduates do not apply to this subcategory. In the first case the visa is valid for 2 years and in the second case, up to 18 months.


This is also known as the Representatives of Foreign Media or journalist visa which includes press, radio, cinema, television etc. Reporters, film crews, writers and other similar occupations are included under this subcategory. Applicants must be able to prove that the activities they will be carrying out are essential for the functioning of the project and that they will dedicate their work to only that activity. It is up to the consular officer to determine if the activity qualifies or not to obtain the non-immigrant status visa. Then it is up to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials at ports of entry to determine if the visa holder should be permitted entry into the USA or not.


The Intra-company Transferee Executive or Manger Level visa permits American employees to transfer executives or managers from foreign branches to one of their offices in the U.S. This visa also permits foreign companies that no longer have branches in the U.S. to send an executive or manager to our company to open an office. In the first case the initial stay period is 3 years and in the second case it is 1 year. In both cases the visa may be renewed for up to 2 years each time but not exceeding 7 years total.


The Intra-company Transferee Specialized Knowledge visa is used for the inter-company transfer of experts or professional specialists. It allows U.S. employers to transfer specialized professionals within the company from a branch abroad to one in the United States. This classification equally allows a foreign company that does not yet have a branch in the U.S. to transfer an employee with special knowledge to the U.S. with the purpose of opening an office. In the first case the visa ill authorize the employee an initial period of stay of up 3 years maximum. In the second case, it is one year. In both cases the visa can be renewed up to 2 years each renewal period with a maximum of 5 years.


This visa is known as the Individuals with an Extraordinary Ability in the Sciences, Education, Business, or Athletics visa. It allows them to start or undertake a business related to their field in the United States. This visa will be granted for an initial residency period of up to 3 years and it can be extended or renewed for periods of 1 year.

P-1A; P-1B; P-2; P-3

These subcategories apply to individuals who plan to come to the U.S. temporarily to participate in a specific sporting event or competition, either individually or as part of a team with an internationally recognized level of performance. Coaches, trainers or physical therapists are also included. Those individuals who take part in an artistic group or musical band with a high level of international recognition are also allowed on this visa, as well as artists or entertainers who work individually or as part of a group from a recognized exchange program reciprocated by the USA government. Individuals who come to act, teach, or counsel individually or as part of a group in a unique cultural program are also included in this subcategory.

In the P-1A subcategory, the initial period of stay during the event or competition when dealing with individual athletes may not exceed 5 years, even though it can be renewed up to 5 more years with the objective on continuing or concluding the sporting event. It cannot surpass 10 years. When dealing with teams, the initial period of stay cannot exceed 1 year even though it can be renewed for periods of up to 1 year to continue or complete the event or competition.

When dealing with support staff, their initial stay period to complete the event, competition or activity cannot exceed 1 year even though it can be renewed for periods of up to 5 years to complete all tasks. The limit in this case is 10 years. In subcategories P-1B, P-2 and P-3, the initial stay period for an event or performance may not exceed 1 year, however it may be extended for periods of up to 1 year to continue or complete all events.


This visa is granted to participants in international cultural exchange programs, different from the J subcategory which also pertains to the general non-immigrant visa category but qualified as a cultural and educational exchange program determined by the Department of State (DOS). The cultural exchange includes practical training and employment as well as sharing the history, culture and traditions of the foreigner´s country of origin in the United States. The maximum period of authorized stay is 15 months. Once the cultural exchange program is completed, the person has 30 days to leave the U.S. and is required to remain out of the country for 1 year if he wants to apply again for visa to participate in another cultural exchange program.


This visa is granted to students. The difference between the categories depends on the type of program that the student is enrolled in and the educational establishment that he or she will attend. The subcategory F-1 is an academic visa that allows the student to enter the United States as a student full-time in a government authorized learning establishment (secondary, institution, conservatory or university) or in a language learning program.

The program or course of study in which the applicant is registered should award the student with an academic degree, diploma or certificate. During the first academic year the student is not authorized to work off-campus (it may be allowed only under special circumstances). After the first year the student has several options for off- campus work such as the following: curricular practical training (CPT), optional practical training (OPT before or after the study program is finished), or STEM practical training extension in the fields of science, technology, engineering or mathematics.

The subcategory M-1 applies to students in non-academic programs (professional training) apart from language training programs. Students may only register in internship programs once they have completed their studies. Off-campus employment in subcategories must be related to the student´s area of studies and before starting the student must request an authorization issued by the USCIS and from the designated academic official in the Student and Exchange Visitor Program or SEVIS.


This visa is for Temporary Religious Workers who are employed part time in the U.S. (an average of 20 hours a week) for a nonprofit religious organization (an organization affiliated with a religious denomination in the U.S.). The worker must have been a member of this organization for at least two years just before applying for this visa, as either a minister or in a another religious occupation. The USCIS in this case will authorize the worker an initial period of stay of up to 30 months which can be renewed for periods of up to 30 months up to a maximum of 5 years (60 months).

In some cases the applicant may request the visa on his own behalf at the US Embassy or consulate in the applicant´s country of origin or before the USCIS if the applicant is already in the United States and is changing his immigration status or renewing his visa. In the last two cases the applicant must submit the Form I-129 also known as the ¨Petition for Non-Immigrant Worker¨ form.

In other cases the visa may be requested by the potential employer before the same authorities once they have fulfilled a series of requirements for the Department of Labor (DOL) of the federal government and received a work certificate so that the employee can work in the United States.

On the other hand, you must indicate if there has been a change in terms and conditions of the employment contract such as basic information regarding the employer (company mergers, acquisitions or sales), because this could change the applicant´s migratory status and circumstances of the initial visa. It is important to notify the USCIS by submitting a new application filled out with the new information or by filling out a new application for a new job. Once the employment contract is finished and the new migratory status assigned, the applicant may be asked to either leave the country and proceed with the new visa application at the United States Embassy or consulate in his country origin, renew the initial immigration status, or adjust it to one of the other subcategories under the category of non-immigrant visas.

The spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may also request a visa under these subcategories. It is important to maintain a legal migrant status while you are within the country because if not, it may negatively influence the conditions of your eligibility for future legal residence permit applications or for future immigrant status requests.



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