US Visa Types: All about Nonimmigrant Visas in detail

Foreign nationals must get a visa to enter the United States. There are various types of nonimmigrant visas issued to people traveling to the United States for a short period of time. The type of visa you require to go to the US will be determined based on the purpose of your intended travel and other facts under U.S. immigration law. In this article, we will describe various US visa types to help you understand the steps required to apply for the visa at a US Embassy or Consulate. 

US Visa Types for Foreign Citizens
US Visa Types for Foreign Citizens

US Visa Types

Basically there are two types of visas – nonimmigrant visa for a temporary stay and immigrant visa for permanent settlement in the US. Here are the most common US visas for Indians:

US Visa Types for Business or Tourism

US tourist visa fees: $160 USD

There are two types of visas under business/ tourist visa:

  • B-1 visa is issued to business associates who want to enter the United States temporarily for business.
  • B-2 visa is issued to individuals who want to travel to the United States for pleasure or medical treatment including meeting family/ friends or vacations, honeymoon and social occasions. 

You can also obtain a combined visa issued for both objectives. You need to prove to the consular officer that you have sufficient funds to cover your expenses while in the US. Visitor visa holders are not permitted to accept employment in the US. 

Work visa

US work visa fees: $190 USD

Individuals who travel to the US for employment on a temporary basis need a specific visa based on the type of work they will be doing. Prospective employers of H, L, O, P and Q visa applicants are required to file a petition on the applicants’ behalf and get it approved by USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) before the applicants can apply for a work visa. 

The petition, Form I-129, must be approved before the prospective workers can apply for a work visa at the US Embassy or Consulate in their home country. Visa applicants will have to bring I-129 and a copy of Form I-797 at the time of visa interview at the Consulate. 

Here are visas offered for work in the US:

  • H1-B visa (specialty occupation)

An H-1B visa is issued to foreign nationals to enter the United States to perform services in a pre-arranged professional job. You must have a bachelor’s or higher degree in the specific specialty occupation for which you have been selected. USCIS will determine whether you are qualified to perform the service. The prospective employer needs to file the Form ETA-9035, LCA (Labor Condition Application) with the Department of Labor regarding the terms and conditions of the contract of employment with you. 

  • H-2A (seasonal agricultural workers)

The H-2A visa allows US employers to offer agricultural jobs to foreign nationals in the United States on a temporary basis. A US employer must file Form I-129 petition for Nonimmigrant Worker on the visa applicant’s behalf. 

Note: Indians and Bhutanese passport holders are not eligible for H-2A visa 

  • H2-B visa (skilled and unskilled workers)

This visa allows foreign nationals to come to the United States for temporary or seasonal jobs for which US workers are not available. Employers must obtain a Department of Labor certification. 

Note: Indians and Bhutanese passport holders are not eligible for H-2A visa 

  • H-3 visa (trainee)

You will need to obtain an H-3 visa if you wish to come to the United States to receive training in any field from an employer for up to 2 years. The employer can pay you, but the training can’t be used to provide productive employment. 

  • H-4 (dependents)

Spouses and unmarried children (below the age of 21 years) of the principal H visa holders can obtain an H-4 visa to accompany him/her to the United States. However, dependents are not permitted to work in the US but can attend school in the US.     

  • L-1 (intra-company transferee)

You are required to have an L-1 visa to visit the United States if you are an employee of an international company that is temporarily transferring you to its parent branch, affiliate, or subsidiary in the United States. You should have a managerial or executive position, or have specialized knowledge and be ready to attain a position at either of these levels in the US company. You must have had employment outside the United States with the international company continuously for one year within the 3 years before your application for admission to the United States.

  • L-2 (Dependents)

Spouses and unmarried children (aged below 21 years) of L visa holders can obtain L-2 visas to enter the United States. If your spouse wishes to work in the US, he/she will have to submit a completed Form I-765 with the application fee. However, children will not be allowed to seek employment in the United States. 

  • Type O Visa

Type O visas are issued to experts in the field of science, education, business, arts, etc. or individuals with extraordinary achievement in motion picture and television production. Their essential support personnel.  

  • Type P Visa (artists, entertainers) 

Type P visas are granted to entertainment artists, athletes and their essential support personnel who wish to visit the United States for performance. 

  • Type Q visa

If you are traveling to the United States to participate in the international cultural exchange program for the purpose of providing practical training, and sharing the history, traditions and culture of your home country, you must obtain a Q visa. Your sponsor must file a petition on your behalf and the petition must be approved by USCIS.  

Also Read: Visa Status: Check Visa Status with Passport Number

US Visa Types for Students

Student visa fees: Fee: $160 USD

Foreign citizens can visit the United States to pursue their studies. Before applying for a visa, all student visa applicants must have got admission in an educational institution. Once the students have secured admission, the educational institution will provide the applicant with the required approval documentation to be submitted while applying for the student visa. Student visas can be issued before 120 days of commencement of the course of study. Students are allowed to travel to the US within 30 days from the start date on Form I-20. 

  • F-1 Visa

F-1 visa is issued to students who wish to pursue academic studies in an accredited US university, college, private secondary school or in an approved English language program. Also, if your course of study is more than 18 hours a week, F-1 visas are required. 

  • M-1 Visa

If you are planning to pursue non-academic or vocational study or training at a US institution, you need an M-1 visa.  

Exchange Visitor Visas

Fees: Fee: $160 USD

Foreign nationals can visit the United States to participate in various exchange programs. Visa applicants must be accepted and approved by an authorized program sponsor before applying for a visa. The exchange visitor program’s J visa is designed with the objective of promoting the interchange of persons, knowledge, and skills in the fields of education, arts, and sciences.

Participants include:

  • Teachers
  • Students at academic levels
  • Professors
  • Research scholars
  • Professional trainees
  • International visitors coming for tourism, observation, training, demonstrating specialized skills, participating in organized people-to-people programs, etc.

Transit/ship crew visas

Fee: $160 USD

Visas for transit or ship crew are issued in two categories:

  • Transit C Visa

Transit C visa is issued to foreign nationals traveling to another foreign destination via close and continuous transit through the United States enroute. If the foreign national is visiting for purposes other than transit through the US, they will need to qualify for and take B-2 visas.

  • Crew D Visa

Crew D visa is granted to a crew member serving onboard a vessel or aircraft in the United States. Generally crew members transiting through the United States or its waters use a combination of transit and crew visa (C-1/D). However, in some cases, foreign nationals may only need the D visa. 

Crew members serving onboard a vessel within the Outer Continental Shelf can get a modified B-1 visa rather than a crew visa. If the crew members enter the US during time-off between flights or cruises, they should get a B-1/B-2 visa.

Religious worker visa

Fee: $190 USD

Foreign nationals who wish to travel to the US for religious activities on a temporary basis. Individuals who are authorized by a recognized entity to conduct religious activities and workers engaging in a religious occupation are considered religious workers. 

Domestic employee visa

Fee: $160 USD

Personal or domestic servants who visit the United States with their employers can apply for a B-1 Visa. Here is the list of domestic employees considered for this type of visa:

  • Housemaids
  • Valets
  • Footmen
  • Cooks
  • Butlers
  • Chauffeurs
  • Nannies
  • Mother’ helpers
  • Gardeners
  • Paid companions

Domestic servants accompanying a foreign diplomat or a government official can get an A-3 or G-5 visa, in accordance with their employer’s visa status. 

Media and journalist visa

Fee: $160 USD

The media (i) visa is a nonimmigrant visa issued to representatives of foreign media traveling to the United States on a temporary basis to pursue their profession. The applicants must meet specific requirements to qualify for the media (I) visa. Media visas are issued to members of the press, radio, film industries, such as reporters, editors, film crews and persons in similar occupations traveling to the United States to practice their profession.

A visitor visa is granted if a foreign citizen wants to travel to the US for the following purposes:

  • Attending a conference or meeting
  • Guest lecture or academic activity
  • Purchase of media equipment
  • Vacation

A temporary work visa is granted to foreign nationals to enter the US for the following activities:

  • Filming material for advertisement and commercial entertainment
  • Roles such as proofreaders, librarians, set designers
  • Artistic media content production
  • Stories that are staged events, television and quiz shows

Dependents of the principal holder like spouses and children under the age of 21 can accompany in the United States are eligible for visitor visas (B-2). 

Nonimmigrant US Visa TypesPurpose
AForeign government servants and diplomats
A1, G-1, NATO 1-6Visa renewal in the US for A, G and NATO categories
A-2, NATO 1-6Foreign military officers posted in the US
B-1Amateur and professional athletes Business visitorsNannies or domestic servants
B-2Visitors for medical treatmentVisitors for pleasure, vacation
BCCMexican Border Crossing Card
CTransit in the US
DCrew members serving on aircrafts/ sea vessels
E-1Treaty traders
E-2Treaty investors
E-3Australian workers- professionals and specialty workers 
F-1Language and academic students
F-2Dependents of F-1 visa holders
G-1-G-5, NATOEmployees of designated international organization and NATO
H-1BPeople working in specialty occupations that require highly specialized knowledge
H-1B, J1Physicians
H-1B1Free Trade Agreement (FTA) professionals of Chile and Singapore
H-1CFor nurses to visit the areas where there is a shortage of healthcare staff
H-2ATemporary agricultural workers
H-2BTemporary non-agricultural workers
H-3Non-employment training programs
H-4Dependents of H visa holders
IMedia, journalists or their representative
JExchange visitors
J-1Exchange visitors – Au-pairs Exchange visitors – Professors, scholars and teachers
J-2Spouse and children under the age of 21 of J-1 visa holder
K-1Finance
LIntra company transferees 
M-1Students – vocational
M-2Dependents of M-1 visa holders
O-1Foreign citizens with extraordinary abilities in the field of art, science, athletics and business
PAthletes, entertainers and artists 
RReligious workers
T-1Human trafficking victims 
TN/TDNAFTA professional workers- Canada, Mexico
U-1Criminal activity victims
US visa types for nonimmigrants

Also Read: Indian Passport for NRI: Renewal vs Reissue

Indian Passport for NRI: Renewal vs Reissue

You can contact US Embassy in India to ask any questions regarding a US visa. If you’re looking for any assitance for NRI services such as NRI account opening, NRI Demat account, NRI investment or taxation, experts at SBNRI can help you out with everything. Download SBNRI App from the Google Play Store or App Store to ask any questions related to NRI services. Also visit our blog and Youtube Channel for more details.

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