Non-immigrant visas allow a foreign national to visit, study or work for a certain time in the United States.
The general rule is that foreigners who want to enter the U.S. temporarily need a visa, although there are exceptions.
Who does not need a visa to visit the United States for a short period of time?
For stays less than 90 days the citizens of any country covered under the Visa Waiver Program can enter the U.S. without a visa.
People applying for ESTA (electronic system for travel authorization) need to electronically file an application before they travel. If this is refused they will need to make an application to the consular office.
Canadian citizens do not need to apply for an ESTA , except under very limited conditions, such as having previously violated their immigration status.
The same applies to the citizens of the British territory of Bermuda , as long as their stay is less than 180 days.
Finally, Mexican citizens and legal permanent residents in the Aztec country living along the U.S. border and may cross into the United States using the Border Crossing Card, known as laser visa , which must be issued by a consular office in Mexico.
All persons not included in the above groups need a visa to visit, study, do business, receive medical treatment or work temporarily in the U.S.
Examples of non-immigrant visas
There are multiple types of VISA’s available, including:
• B1/B2 for tourist, leisure or business.
• F1/M1 for vocational student.
• G4 employees of international organizations based in the United States such as the IMF, the UN or the OAS.
• J-1 exchange program for professionals, academics, nurses, etc. or for people with special skills in the Arts, Sport, Education, Sciences or Business.
Some of these non-immigrant visas are considered “dual intent”. That is, allow the alien to enter the U.S. temporarily, however it is perfectly legal at the same time to seek to become legal permanent residents. Examples are the H-1B and L, V, P or E.
It is important to remember that in the case of non-immigrant visas, the official immigration port of entry may refuse entry to the holder of a valid non-immigrant visa, if they suspect that the alien is actually looking to stay permanently in the U.S.
Once in the U.S., is it possible to extend the term of these visas?
Yes, using Form I-539. Each visa has its own requirements for the extension request.
How is a non-immigrant visa requested?
This depends on the type of visa and in some cases the consular office should process the request.
Should I be present to apply for a visa?
While there are specific exceptions, such as applying for a G-4 to work in international organizations, and an ESTA application, all applicants aged between 14 and 79 must appear in person at the consulate on the day that they cite for an interview.
All children or older may, as a rule, use the services of a courier approved by the Embassy.
What if the visa application is denied?
Approximately 22 percent of all applications are rejected for various reasons. The applicant will be given the reason based on the section of law which applies. Visa applicants are also advised by the consular officer if they may apply for a waiver of their ineligibility.