What is the difference between an immigrant and non-Immigrant visa?

An immigrant visa is the visa issued to persons wishing to live permanently in the U.S.

A non-immigrant visa is the visa issued to persons with a permanent residence outside the U.S. but who wishes to be in the U.S. on a temporary basis (i.e. Tourism, medical treatment, business, temporary work, or study.

The chart below contains many different purposes of temporary travel and the related non-immigrant visa categories available on this website. Select a visa category below to learn more:

Purpose of Travel Visa Category Required: Before applying for visa*
Athlete, amateur or professional (competing for prize money only) B-1 (NA)
Au pair (exchange visitor) J SEVIS
Australian professional specialty E-3 DOL
Border Crossing Card: Mexico BCC (NA)
Business visitor B-1 (NA)
CNMI-only transitional worker CW-1 (USCIS)
Crewmember D (NA)
Diplomat or foreign government official A (NA)
Domestic employee or nanny – must be accompanying a foreign national employer B-1 (NA)
Employee of a designated international organization or NATO   G1-G5, NATO (NA)
Exchange visitor J SEVIS
Foreign military personnel stationed in the United States A-2
NATO1-6
(NA)
Foreign national with extraordinary ability in Sciences, Arts, Education, Business or Athletics O USCIS
Free Trade Agreement (FTA) Professional: Chile, Singapore H-1B1 – Chile
H-1B1 – Singapore
DOL
International cultural exchange visitor Q USCIS
Intra-company transferee L USCIS
Medical treatment, visitor for B-2 (NA)
Media, journalist I (NA)
NAFTA professional worker: Mexico, Canada TN/TD (NA)
Performing athlete, artist, entertainer P USCIS
Physician J , H-1B SEVIS
Professor, scholar, teacher (exchange visitor) J SEVIS
Religious worker R USCIS
Specialty occupations in fields requiring highly specialized knowledge H-1B DOL then USCIS
Student: academic, vocational F, M SEVIS
Temporary agricultural worker
Temporary worker performing other services or labor of a temporary or seasonal nature. H-2B DOL then USCIS
Tourism, vacation, pleasure visitor B-2 (NA)
Training in a program not primarily for employment H-3 USCIS
Treaty trader/treaty investor E (NA)
Transiting the United States C (NA)
Victim of Criminal Activity U USCIS
Victim of Human Trafficking T USCIS
Non-immigrant (V) Visa for Spouse and Children of a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) V (NA)
Renewals in the U.S. – A, G, and NATO Visas (NA)

* What the abbreviations above mean – Before applying for a visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate, the following is required:

DOL = The U.S. employer must obtain foreign labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor, prior to filing a petition with USCIS.
USCIS = U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approval of a petition or application (The required petition or application depends on the visa category you plan to apply for).
SEVIS = Program approval entered in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).
(NA) = Not Applicable – Additional approval by another U.S. government agency is not required prior to applying for a visa.

 

Important Notes:

About this chart – It is not a complete list of all travel purposes for the visa category. Select a visa category webpage for more information. The chart lists almost all non-immigrant visa categories, with the exception of several not listed above. Refer to the Foreign Affairs Manual, 9 FAM 41.12 for all non-immigrant visa categories.

Canadian NAFTA Professional workers – A visa not required; apply to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at border port of entry.

K non-immigrant visas – For U.S. citizen fiancé(e) and spouse for immigration related purposes.

 
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