Different Types of Visas: Which One Do You Need?

If you are a citizen of another country and are seeking to enter the United States, you will usually be required to obtain a United States visa. This visa will then be placed into your traveler’s passport, which is a travel document that is issued by your home country.

While most people will be required to have a valid visa, there are a few individuals who will not be required to obtain one. Some international travelers could qualify to travel into the U.S. without having a visa. For this, however, these travelers will need to meet the specific requirements that will be mandated.

Using a Visa to Enter Into the United States

After being issued a United States visa, you could be allowed entry into the nation through the following:

  • Any commercial airport in the nation, or
  • Any land border crossing

It is important to consider that while having a visa allows many people to enter the United States, it is not a right nor a guarantee. People who have visas could still be turned away from entering the country. A visa does, however, help a consular officer identify those who are deemed eligible to enter the nation, usually for a specific purpose. Both the United States Department of Homeland Security and the United States Customs and Border Protection are the agencies responsible for ensuring that individuals entering the nation have a legal right to do so.

Understanding the Different Types of Visas Available

In order to understand what type of visa you will be required to obtain, you will need an understanding of the United States immigration laws. Depending on the purpose behind your travel, a qualified immigration attorney can help you identify the best type of visa for you. Overall, there are two main types of United States visas. These are:

  • Nonimmigrant Visas
    • Used to travel into the nation temporarily or for specific periods of time
  • Immigrant Visas
    • Used to find residency in the United States.

If you are interested in obtaining a visa, speaking to a qualified immigration attorney can help you through the application process. Filing for a visa can be time consuming and complex matter. Speak to a legal professional in order to avoid mishaps.

Nonimmigrant Visas

If you are seeking to obtain a visa for tourism purposes, you will generally need to obtain a nonimmigrant visa. This type of visa will give you a short time frame for visitation purposes. Usually, people who intend to do the following will seek to obtain a nonimmigrant visa:

  • Attending a family wedding or other form of celebration
  • Visiting a theme park, city, or other tourist attraction
  • Attending a funeral
  • Tending to certain business-related matters

Those who seek a nonimmigrant visa will generally be able to apply between one of two different visas. These are:

  • A business visa, also known as a B-1 visa, often used for:
    • Making consultations with business partners or other associates
    • Attending a conference or convention concerning professional, scientific, or professional purposes
    • Making an estate settlement
    • Negotiating a contract
  • A tourist visa, also known as a B-2 visa, often used for:
    • Traveling or tourist purposes
    • Vacationing or other holiday purposes
    • Visiting friends or family members
    • Seeking medical treatment(s)
    • Participating in events that are hosted by social, fraternal, or service-type organizations

If the visa-seeker is not being paid, he or she could apply for this type of visa to participate in an amateur sports, musical, or similar form of event
Enrolling in a brief and recreational type of study. (It should be noted that this study cannot give credit for a petitioner’s degree)

With a nonimmigrant visa, there are certain activities that you cannot take part in. In order to participate in these types of activities, the visa seeker should consider applying for a different type of visa. The following is a brief list of some of the most common types of activities that cannot be done under a visitor visa:

  • Studying for a degree
  • Seeking or retaining employment
  • Receiving payment for any performance, whether it be for an audience or as a professional
  • Arriving as a crew member on an aircraft or ship
  • Being employed as a member of foreign press in any type of media
  • Seeking a permanent residency in the country

Immigrant Visas

Immigrant visas are generally used for individuals who seek to live in the United States. These petitioners will usually seek this type of visa if they are trying to:

  • Seek employment
  • Obtain a degree
  • Be paid for some type of performance

Obtain Legal Representation

It should be noted that there are well over 20 different types of nonimmigrant visa categories. If you are considering applying for a visa, it would be beneficial to seek the advice of a qualified attorney. An immigration attorney with the right experience can help you understand what type of visa is best for you as well as help you through the application process. An attorney can also help you figure out what to do if your visa is denied.