U.S. Visa Categories
This website provides a brief overview of the topic of U.S. immigration law, an extremely detailed and complex area of law and regulations which by its nature allows only the most cursory treatment here. Specialized legal advice is essential. Nationals of certain countries may take advantage of the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, which allows visitors to travel to the U.S. for up to 90 days for business or pleasure without a visa. Visit the the U.S. Department of State website for details of countries and requirements for participating in the visa waiver programme. U.S. Customs and Border Protection will deny admission to those who would appear to be using the visa waiver program as a means to create residency in the U.S. by leaving and returning frequently, the so-called “revolving door” problem. If a traveler has spent more than 180 days cumulatively in the U.S. in the last 365, he/she is extremely likely to be denied entry on visa waiver program at the next attempt. It is worth remembering that one refusal of entry to the U.S. on visa waiver programme results in a lifetime ban on ever using the program again. In these circumstances, application must be made to a U.S. embassy abroad for a B-1/2 visitor’s visa. Visa waiver travellers must apply for Electronic System Travel Authorization (ESTA) online in advance of travel. Visitors to the U.S. for business or pleasure are not permitted to work. Visitors for business may engage in certain business activities but not gainful employment – see the section on B-1 visas below for what’s permissible for visa waiver visitors for business. Download our free eGuide for more details.
Temporary or Permanent Residency
People who wish to travel to the United States for reasons of employment are divided into two main categories: immigrant and non-immigrant or permanent and temporary. Those applying for immigrant visas, commonly referred to as ‘green cards’, wish to remain in the U.S. permanently. The correct term for ‘green card’ is lawful permanent residency. There are many different routes to an employment based ‘green card’, none simple or speedy. Expert representation is essential. Those persons not wishing to remain permanently in the United States may, where eligible, obtain non-immigrant or temporary visas, upon expiration of which they must leave the U.S. unless they have become lawful permanent residents in the meantime. Read our free eGuide for more details.
B Visa for Visitors for Business (B-1) or Pleasure (B-2)
The B visa allows a person to enter the US temporarily for business or for pleasure or medical consultation/treatment.
E Visas for Traders (E-1) and Investors (E-2)
Treaty Trader and Treaty Investor visas are available to individuals and companies from countries that maintain treaties of friendship and commerce with the U.S., including Ireland and the UK.
H-1B Professional Visa
The H1-B visa is for qualified professionals and is limited to 65,000 visas worldwide per year.
J-1 Trainee/Internship Visa
The J-1 visa is a temporary training or internship visa for foreign nationals who wish train in their chosen career or profession in the U.S.
L-1 Intra-Company Transfer Visa
The L-1 intra-company transfer visa allows executives and employees with specialized knowledge to transfer from a foreign company to a U.S. branch.
O-1 Visas for Persons of Extraordinary Ability in Business, Science, Athletics or the Arts, Motion Picture/TV
The O-1 category is for highly talented or acclaimed foreign nationals who have risen to the very top of their field and who can demonstrate extraordinary ability or achievement.
Permanent Residency | Green Card
Lawful Permanent Residence, commonly referred to as ‘Green Card’, gives the holder the right to live and work permanently in the US.