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On a very high level, US Visas are of two types Non-immigrant visas and Immigrant visas.  Each of these types are used for specific purpose of travel to US. You need to apply for a certain US visa type based on your intended purpose of travel to America.

What are US Non-immigrant Visas ?

US issues non-immigrant visas to foreigners for temporary travel to United States for work, business, tourism and many other purposes.  The non-immigrant visas are further divided into over 30+ categories based on their purpose. The primary purpose of Nonimmigrant visas are for short term temporary travel like going for vacation, business meetings, other purposes. Having said that there are few categories like H1B Visa, which allows someone to work for 3 years with possibility to extend more.  But, if your goal is to permanently move or settle down in America to work and live there, then you should apply for Immigrant Visa.

Non-Immigrant US Visa Types

Nonimmigrant visas are divided into many categories, about 30+,  as based on their purpose. Each of them have a letter and sometimes a number tied to them like H-1B, B-1, CW-1, etc. When you plan to travel to US, you need to choose one of the below US visa types depending on your purpose and apply for the same. Sometimes, one type of non-immigrant visa can be used for other purpose as well, so it is best to check

Visa Type

Purpose of the US Visa, Additional Info

A-1 Visit US as Diplomat or foreign government
A-2 It is for foreign military personnel who would be stationed in US
B-1 Business visitor for meetings, conferences, contract negotiations, etc.

Athletes competing for prize money, domestic employee or nanny.

B-2 Tourism, vacation, medical treatment, meet friends, relatives, events, etc.
BCC Border crossing Card for Mexican citizens. Similar to B1/B2 visa.
C Transit Visa to travel to another destination via US for layover, stop over.
CW-1 Visa for foreign workers hired by Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) Employers.
D Crewmember visa for people working in international airlines,  sea vessels in US
E-1 Treaty Trader Visa from participating  Treaty Countries with US
E-2 Treaty Investor Visa from participating Treaty Countries with US
E-3 Australian Professional Speciality Visa to work in US for Australians
F Student visa for high school, college, University
G1-G5 Visa for International organizations employees to visit, meetings, work in US
H-1B To work in US in a Speciality occupation in specialized fields, includes fashion models, govt to govt research and development by Dept of Defense.
H1-1B1 To work in US in a speciality occupation under Free Trade Agreement between  Chile and Singapore.
H-2A Visa for temporary agricultural work in US for citizens from specific countries
H-2B Visa for temporary  non-agricultural work in US for specific countries citizens
H-3 To get training in US, or special education not counted towards degree
H-4 Dependent Visa for spouse and children ( under 21 years of age) of all H visa holders such as H-1, H-2, and H-3 Visas
I Visa for foreign media, journalists, film production or distribution
J Visa for individuals in Exchange visitors programs in US – Scholars, Teacher, Students, Specialist, Trainee, Summer internships work and travel
L Visa to Intracompany Transferees to work in US in specialized knowledge or managerial, executive capacity.
M Student visa for vocational or non-academic institution
NATO 1-6 Visa for officials and employees of  North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), who will work for NATO in USA
O Visas to individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement to work in US
P Visa for athlete or entertainment group (P-1) to perform/compete. P-2, P-3  is for artist or entertainer to perform, teach or coach as group or individual.
Q Visa for sharing, practical training, employment under international cultural exchange program in US
R Visa for temporary religious workers to work temporarily in religious capacities in US
T Visas for victims of human trafficking to remain in US, assist in investigation of human trafficking violators
TN / TD Visas for Citizens of  Canada, Mexico as NAFTA Professionals (TN) to work in US for pre-arranged business activities for US under North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
U Visa for victims of criminal activities to help in investigation of criminal activities
V Visa for spouse and children of Lawful permanent resident(LPR) waiting for completing of immigration process

How to apply for US Non-immigrant Visa ?

In short, below are the steps to apply for nonimmigrant US visa.

  • Identify the US Visa Type that you need to travel based on purpose
  • Fill out DS-160 Form Online
  • Pay for the Visa Application Fee
  • Schedule Appointment for Visa Interview
  • Prepare and collect all the required documents for visa stamping interview
  • Visit visa application center and give Biometrics
  • Attend Visa Interview at US Consulate or Embassy
  • Collect Passport with Visa after Stamping done on passport.

Documents Required for US Non-Immigrant Visa Application

You will need below documents for completing the visa application online.

  • Passport
  • If you travelled to US in past, history of your previous travel to US with dates
  • Your Travel plans and details of where you will stay
  • Visa Type Specific Documents:

    • If you are applying for work visa like H-1B, you will need information regarding approval notice, employer, info etc.
    • If you are applying as F1 student, you need SEVIS ID, I20 and other info
    • Depending on the type of visa you plan to apply, you will need supporting documents when you fill out the application

Very High Level Process to apply for Non-Immigrant Visa :

Using the above documents, below is the typical visa application process to get non-immigrant visa.

  • Fill DS-160 form : Complete  US visa application form ( DS-160 ) online.
  • Pay fee and get Visa Interview Appointment : At the end of completion of the form, pay the required visa application fee and then schedule visa appointment for interview. You will get a confirmation page at the end, that you need to print out and carry it for the visa application center and visa interview. Depending on the load at US consulate, you may or may not get visa appointment immediately, you may need to wait. Plan ahead, so that you get visa appointment accordingly and does not delay your plans to travel to US
  • Attend Biometrics , Visa Interview :   You will attend offsite visa center to give your biometrics and then attend visa interview.
  • US Visa issued in Passport : If everything goes well, you either can pick up passport with your US Visa in it or your passport would be delivered to your given address.


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