Thank you for visiting the Immigration Law Center on the Internet. You are welcome to use this information about United States immigration and nationality law for educational purposes only. This information has been placed in the public domain by a law firm. The information below is NOT LEGAL ADVICE. You are not entitled to take any legal action based upon what you read below. You should consult a licensed U.S. attorney with knowledge and experience in the practice of U.S. immigration and nationality law before taking any legal action.
General information about U.S. visas
Attorney at Law and Civil Law Notary
'A' visa: As a government representative, you may only be employed by the government that sent you to the United States. Your servants or attendants may work only for you. Your spouse and dependents may request permission to work. You should contact the Department of State, Office of Protocol, for further information.
B-1 -- The B-1 visa designates a visitor for business. It may not be granted for a period of more than one year or in increments of more than six months. It is normally granted for a period of no more than 90 days. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) now limits a stay in this visa status to the time the foreign visitor shows is necessary to accomplish the purpose of the business visit. As a business visitor, you must be in the employ of a foreign employer. You will be allowed to work only in support of international trade and commerce having to do with the business of your foreign employer. You will not be allowed to do work that can be done by a legal resident of this country.
B-2 -- As a visitor for pleasure, you may not work in the United States. B-2 visitors will be admitted for a maximum of six months, but normally for no more than 90 days, unless there is specific approval from the U.S. consulate or Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) for good cause. The authorized stays of B-2 visitors are now being limited by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to the time necessary for the visitor to accomplish the purpose of his or her visit. Alien entrants under the Visa Waiver Program may stay in the United States for no more than 90 days, and the stay may not be extended. For more information about the Visa Waiver Program, please click on the following link: CLICK HERE
'C' visa: As an alien in direct transit, you can remain in the United States for up to 29 days and will not be allowed to work.
'D' visa: As a crewman, you may only work on board the aircraft or vessel of the foreign company that employs you. Generally, crewmen are prohibited from changing their visa status to that of immigrant.
'E' visa: A treaty trader (E-1) or treaty investor (E-2) may only work for the company that is doing the international trade or the company that you or your employer have invested in. The spouses of principal "E" visaholders can now obtain employment authorization. For more information about "E" visas, click on the following link: CLICK HERE
'F' visa: Once a foreign student has attended his/her school full-time for one academic year, he/she may work for 12 months if he/she elects to participate in curricular practical training. The student may elect to participate in 12 months of post-completion (after graduation) practical training, but he/she may not do both. In addition to practical training, and once a foreign student has attended his/her school full-time for one academic year, he/she may participate in the off-campus employment program for 20 hours per week, but there are certain requirements of employers that many find onerous and difficult to comply with. For more information about student visas, click on the following link: CLICK HERE
'G' visa: These visas are for foreign government employees.
'H' visa: These visas are for temporary workers. The H-1B category is for specialty workers, including health care workers, who hold a baccalaureate degree or its U.S. equivalent. H-2A is for agricultural workers. H-2B is for temporary nonagricultural workers. H-3 is for trainees. The H-1B category may include dependents. Workers in the H-1B category are usually allowed to remain in the United States for three years and may apply to renew their visa for an additional three years. Trainees may be approved for two years, and this visa may be renewed for two years. For more information about H-1B visas, click on the following link: CLICK HERE.
'J' visa: Exchange students, academic researchers, and "au pairs"use this visa for education and cultural exchange. Exchange student program sponsors are now allowed to grant employment authorization without INS involvement. While "au pair" programs sometimes receive INS scrutiny, most are on the up and up and provide education for young women who wish to live in Americans' homes and handle child care or household duties while going to school. This visa program is handled by the United States Information Agency. For more information about "J" visas, click on the following link: CLICK HERE
'K' visa: These visas are for fiances who wish to come to the United States to get married to a U.S. citizen. The visa is for 90 days. The fiance and U.S. citizen must marry within that time or the fiance must depart the United States. Following the marriage, the new spouse may file an application for adjustment of status and obtain a "green card." For more information about "K" fiance visas, click on the following link: CLICK HERE
'L' visa: These visas are for intracompany transferees. They are provided to managers, executives, and employees who possess "specialized knowledge" of the company's products, services, or processes. For more information about "L" visas, click on the following link: CLICK HERE or HERE
'M' visa: Technical and trade school students use these visas to attend trade school in the United States.
'N' visa: Certain parents and children of special immigrants.
'O' visa: Aliens of extraordinary ability or achievement (primarily artists, musicians, and athletes). For more information about "O" visas, click on the following link: CLICK HERE
'P' visa: Artists, athletes, and entertainers, and their dependents or those accompanying the principal. For more information about "P" visas, click on the following link: CLICK HERE
'Q' visa: International cultural exchange visitors.
'R' visa: These visas are for religious ministers and workers. Normally granted for one year at a time, the visa may be renewed as often as necessary. For information about religious immigrant visas, click on the following link: CLICK HERE
'S' visa: A category that protects certain individuals whosepresence in the United States is required by the Attorney General.
'TN' visa: Trade Nafta visas allow Canadians and Mexicans easier access to the United States. The visa is good for one year and is renewable merely by crossing the border and re-crossing it later with appropriate documentation. For more information about "TN" visas, click on the following link: CLICK HERE
Visa waiver: If you are from any one of a number of authorized Visa Waiver Program countries, you may visit the United States on a "visa waiver," which is valid for 90 days. The visa waiver may not be extended.
is the immigrant visa, entitling the holder to permanent residence in the
United States, commonly called the "green card." Immigrant visas are obtained
either via a close family relationship (father-mother, son-daughter, brother-sister)
or via an offer of permanent employment. It usually takes less time to
immigrate to the United States through a close family relationship than
it does to do so via an offer of permanent employment.
Aliens who become the spouses of U.S. citizens and obtain their"green cards" this way may apply for U.S. citizenship following three years of continuous residence in the United States in marital union with their U.S. citizen spouse.
Employment-based immigrant visas are often more difficult to obtain because of the requirement for alien employment certification by the U.S. Department of Labor. Immigrant visas in this category for aliens of extraordinary ability (EB-1preference category) or aliens who are members of the professions holding advanced degrees or of exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business (EB-2 category) have less difficulty, in many respects, than do skilled workers and professionals (EB-3 category).
Resident aliens who have obtained lawful permanent resident status via employment may apply for U.S. citizenship within 60 days of their fifth year of continuous permanent residence in the United States.
A "green card" entitles the holder to live and work legally in the United States. Only if the "green card" holder leaves the United States and remains outside the United States for more than one calendar year does the "green card" holder incur likelihood of abandoning his or her permanent residence in the United States. An absence from the United States of more than six months in any calendar year within the statutory period of time prior to applying for naturalization and a certificate of U.S. citizenship creates a rebuttable presumption of abandonment of continuous residence.
U.S. companies that wish to employ skilled foreign nationals may do so by applying for the TN visa (in the case of Canadians and Mexicans), or the H or J visas, in the case of temporary specialty workers, and foreign medical graduates and researchers, respectively.
To protect the U.S. labor market, civil and criminal sanctions are available to the U.S. Department of Labor and to the Immigration and Naturalization Service as tools to prevent the hiring of illegal aliens. Anyone from major U.S. corporations (and foreign corporations located in the United States) to the smallest of small businesses can be cited for this federally prohibited practice. Substantial fines and more severe penalties are prescribed by federal law.
While the federal agencies concerned are the enforcers of U.S. immigration and nationality law and labor law, U.S. immigration lawyers are the guardians of the law. For the name of a qualified U.S. immigration lawyer near you, please contact the American Immigration Lawyers Association in Washington, D.C., at 1-800-954-0254, or visit AILA's web site by clicking on the following link: AILA
Boyd F. Campbell is a member of the American Bar Association (ABA) and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). He served as Chair of the Immigration Law Committee of the ABA's General Practice / Solo and Small Firm Lawyers Section and was a member of the ABA's Coordinating Committee on Immigration Law from 1994 to 1998. He is also a member of the ABA's International Law Section. Mr. Campbell served as Chair of the International Law Section of the Alabama State Bar from 2000 to 2002. In August, 2001, he was appointed Alabama's first practicing civil law notary by the Alabama Secretary of State.
The Immigration Law Center works with individuals and corporate clients, including multinational corporations and small businesses in the United States and around the world, in making business arrangements, investments, and dealing with foreign labor matters. The Immigration Law Center also represents its clients in contacts with U.S. consulates around the world. If you have questions or comments about this article, please send an e-mail message to Mr. Campbell: SEND MAIL
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