Non-Immigrant Visa Types

Non-Immigrant Visa Types

An overview of non-immigration visa types


Non-Immigrant Visa Types

Main Article: Immigration

Visa Type Description Work Authorized? Length of Stay in the U.S. Type of Income Allowed
B Visa Temporary visitor - Business No  6 months renewable for a total of 12 months. Reimbursement for travel, honoraria only under restrictive IRS guidelines.
E-2 Treaty Investor, their spouse and children Yes  Up to 5 years, may extend indefinitely  
H-1B Temporary worker of distinguished merit and ability performing services other than as a registered nurse Yes  Maximum stay of 6 years Specific job authorized by the INS.  
H-3 Temp worker, trainee: industrial trainees Yes  
J-1 Exchange visitor Yes  For the duration of their program (up to 3 years) with a 30 day grace period afterwards. Additional time only with USIA approval.  Work described on IAP-66.
L-1 Intracompany transferee of company with offices in both the US and abroad (executive, managerial, and specialized personnel continuing employment with international firm or corporation) No  3 months - 5 years, depending on the individual’s country. Maximum stay of 7 years with extensions.  
O-1A and O-1B Temporary worker, exceptionary services, Person with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics Yes  Up to 3 years, may extend.  Specific job authorized by the INS.
TN North American Free Trade Professional Yes  Up to 1 year, may extend indefinitely  Any position specifically authorized by the INS. May not be an independent contractor.

B Visa overview

Main Article: B Visa

A B visa is granted to foreign citizens seeking entry for a temporary period. B-1 visas are granted for business purposes and B-2 visas are granted for tourism or other non-business purposes. In practice, the visas are typically combined to a B1/B2 visa.

B visas are typically granted for a 3-6 month stay and allows for either one or multiple entries into the United States. They can be extended for another 6 months.


E-2 overview

Main Article: E-2 Visa

The E-2 visa is referred to as an “investor visa.” This is because it allows an individual to enter and work in the United States based on a substantial investment they are controlling. Substantial means that the investment is large enough to finance the venture. For new startups, the investment must be large enough to launch and operate the business. This visa must be renewed every 5 years, however there is no limit to how many times the visa can be renewed.

E-2 holders must return to their country of origin upon the conclusion of business, or change their status. They may leave the United States at any time.

Spouses and unwed children under the age of 21 may receive derivative E-2 visas in order to accompany the primarily E-2 visa holder.


H-1B overview

Main Article: H-1B Visa

The H-1B visa allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in speciality occupations. H-1B work authorization is strictly limited to employment by the sponsoring employer. The visa allows the visa holder to stay for 3 years, which can be extended to 6 years. However, the H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa and does not put the visa holder on a path for permanent residency in the United States. H-1B holders who want to continue working in the United States after 6 years but have not obtained permanent residency must leave the U.S. for a full year before re-applying for another H-1B visa.

“Specialty occupation” is defined as an occupation requiring theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge in fields including, but not limited to biotechnology, chemistry, architecture, engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, social sciences, medicine, education, law, accounting, business specialities, theology, and the arts.


H-3 overview

Main Article: H-3 Visa

The H-3 is a non-immigrant visa granted to trainees or special education exchange visitors who ultimately intend to perform their job outside of the United States. The trainee must be receiving training not available in their home country (other than graduate or medical training) in fields including, but not limited to, agriculture, commerce, communications, finance, government, and transportation.

The trainee’s spouse and children under the age of 21 may accompany them, but are not eligible to work in the United States.


J-1 overview

Main Article: J-1 Visa

The J-1 is a non-immigrant visa issued to persons participating in programs that promote cultural exchange, especially programs that help participants obtain medical or business training within the U.S. All applications must be sponsored by a private sector program or a government program.

J-1 visitors may remain in the United States for the duration of their program and for an additional 30 days afterwards.

Individuals interested in pursuing a J-1 visa are encouraged to visit the U.S. Department of State J-1 Visa Website.


L-1 overview

Main Article: L-1 Visa

The L-1 is a temporary work visa that allows the holder to work in the United States for a relatively short amount of time, depending on a country reciprocity schedule (Iran nationals can stay for 3 months while German nationals can stay for 5 years). L-1 holders may extend their stay, however the maximum stay is 7 years.

L-1 visas are available to employees of international companies that have offices in the United States and abroad. This visa allows employees to relocate to the corporation’s U.S. office after having worked for the corporation for at least one continuous year.

Spouses and dependents of L-1 visa holders may work in the U.S. without restriction (under the L-2 visa) and the L-1 visa can legally be used as a stepping stone to a green card.


O Visa overview

Main Article: O Visa

The O visa is a temporary worker visa granted to an individual who possesses extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics (O-1A visa) or extraordinary ability in the arts and/or extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry (O-1B visa). The O visa is not a direct path to a green card, however O-1 visa holders can pursue permanent U.S. residency.

O-1 Visa

The O-1 visa category is granted for three years and can be extended for 1 year at a time, with no limit to the number of times it can be extended. There are several advantages to the O-1 visa category. First, there is no annual limit on the number of O-1 visas that can be granted. Second, O-1 visa holders can pursue permanent U.S. residency (i.e. Green Card status).

O-2 Visa

O-2 visas can be granted to individuals that accompany the O-1 artist or athletes to assist in a specific event or performance. For example, a personal trainer.

O-3 Visa

O-3 visas can be granted to the spouse or children of O-1 or O-2 visa holders.


TN overview

Main Article: TN Visa

Treaty NAFTA (TN) status is a non-immigrant status that is unique to the citizens of Canada and Mexico. Only individuals practicing a profession identified in the Canada - US Free Trade Agreement are eligible for TN status.

TN status must be renewed every 3 years. TN status may be renewed an indefinite number of times, however it is not a permanent visa.

Spouses and dependent children of a TN status professional can be admitted to the United Status under TD status.