A nonimmigrant visa, also known as a visitor visa or a temporary visa, is a type of visa that is issued to a foreign-born national who intends to stay in the United States for a finite period of time. 

A foreign-born national who wishes to apply for a nonimmigrant visa must be able to provide a valid reason as to why they require a nonimmigrant visa. They must also be able to show that they have no intention of permanently staying, working, or living in the United States.

If you intend to apply for a nonimmigrant visa, it is important that you keep in mind that not everyone who applies will receive one. For instance, an applicant may not be eligible to receive one for a certain reason or there simply may not be enough available for the year. Also, the number of nonimmigrant visas that are granted each year may be subject to change on a regular or yearly basis. 

Additionally, the amount of nonimmigrant visas issued may also depend on an applicant’s country of origin. For example, the number of nonimmigrant visas that are issued in a given year to citizens or residents from a specific country will determine how many nonimmigrant visas may be granted the following year. In other words, the amount of nonimmigrant visas issued to persons from a certain country can fluctuate from year to year. 

Thus, if you wish to apply for a nonimmigrant visa or are experiencing problems with your application, then it may be in your best interest to contact a local immigration lawyer for further legal guidance. A lawyer can help you with the general application process and may be able to recommend a different option that is better suited to your particular circumstances.

What Are the Main Non-Immigrant Visa Categories?

The main two categories that everyone typically associates with nonimmigrant visas are those for individuals who are applying for nonimmigrant visas as a nonimmigrant worker and/or a nonimmigrant exchange student. These two nonimmigrant visa categories account for the majority of applications filed to secure a nonimmigrant visa each year. They also happen to be the two categories for which the greatest number of nonimmigrant visas are actually issued.

Whether a foreign-born national will be eligible to receive a nonimmigrant visa, will depend on the circumstances of each individual application. Additionally, the requirements and eligibility factors will vary based on the type of application that a foreign-born national is filing. For instance, the application for an exchange student will provide different instructions than those applying as a nonimmigrant worker. 

Generally speaking, however, nonimmigrant workers and/or nonimmigrant exchange students must be sponsored by an employer or educational institution. This sponsor will then need to file a petition on behalf of the applicant before they will be considered as eligible to receive a temporary nonimmigrant visa. 

Lastly, it should be noted that the petition process will include a filing fee. The basic filing fee for solely submitting Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, is $460 USD. All other instructions and important information can be found by visiting the website for the USCIS, including the requirements to apply for a nonimmigrant visa as a nonimmigrant exchange student.

Alternatively, for those who wish to file an application for a nonimmigrant visa online, they should visit the website for the U.S. Department of State (“DOS”) and search for Form DS-160, which is the form for an Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application. 

Other Non-Immigrant Visa Categories I Should Know About

In general, the majority of foreign-born nationals are aware of the two main categories for nonimmigrant visas, namely, those issued to nonimmigrant students and/or employees. However, many foreign-born nationals may not realize that there are also several other nonimmigrant categories under which they may be made eligible to apply for a nonimmigrant visa.

Some examples of lesser-known nonimmigrant visa categories may include the following:

  • Individuals who represent foreign governments (e.g., diplomats, employees of foreign governments, staff members who work for diplomats or foreign governments, etc.);
  • Individuals who represent foreign press or other media channels, such as international journalists or reporters; 
  • Certain categories of temporary religious workers like spiritual leaders;
  • Professional who are covered by the provisions of the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (“USMCA”), which replaced the former agreement known as the North American Free Trade Agreement (“NAFTA”) (it should be noted that despite these changes, many government websites still have this category listed as “NAFTA”);
  • Investors or traders who fall under the provisions of the USCMA/NAFTA agreement;
  • Foreign-born nationals who visit the United States to receive special training that they may not be able to get in their country of origin;
  • Individuals who provide information to a state or the U.S. federal government or law enforcement for the purposes of criminal investigations or incidents of terrorism;
  • Persons who are recognized across the globe as athletes, entertainers, and so forth, along with any persons who are hired as part of their support staff; and/or
  • Individuals who visit for tourism purposes, such as for an extended holiday, to visit friends or relatives, to receive medical treatment, or to participate in social events or amateur contests.

As is evident from the above examples, the common thread among each of these nonimmigrant visa categories is that it shows that an individual is visiting or staying in the United States for a specific reason. 

Additionally, each of these nonimmigrant visa categories will have different application requirements. Thus, it is extremely important that an applicant review the instructions for their specific category or else they may be denied a nonimmigrant visa.

Lastly, if a foreign-born national has already been issued a nonimmigrant visa and would like to extend their stay in the United States, then they will need to submit an application for a visa extension within 45 days before their current nonimmigrant visa expires. For more information, prospective applicants should speak to a local immigration lawyer and review the instructions for this process which are located on the website for the USCIS. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with a Non-Immigrant Visa?

The process for filing an application to obtain a nonimmigrant visa can sometimes be extremely difficult. There are many confusing exceptions and requirements that applicants must be able to understand in order to submit a valid application, as well as a number of strict filing deadlines that must be met. Thus, you may want to consult with a local immigration lawyer for further legal advice if you wish to apply for a nonimmigrant visa.  

An experienced immigration lawyer will be able to walk you through the process of filing an application for a nonimmigrant visa and can explain what types of rights or protections you may be afforded as a holder of a nonimmigrant visa. Your lawyer will also be able to assist you with filing an application to extend your nonimmigrant visa, so long as you do not wait until your current visa expires.

In addition, your lawyer can also provide legal representation if there is an issue with your nonimmigrant visa or if you are asked to appear before an immigration judge. Finally, if your application for a nonimmigrant visa is denied, your lawyer will be able to help you with the appeals process as well.