How Does an Individual Obtain a Temporary Visa to Enter the U.S.?

Persons can enter the U.S. temporarily as visitors or tourists, business persons, students and employees and for a variety of other reasons. These temporary visas are known as non-immigrant visas and are issued at U.S. embassies and Consulates located in most countries. Visa officers at the issuing embassy or consulate need to be convinced that the visa applicant will not remain in the U.S. after expiration of the authorized stay. The onus is on the applicant to demonstrate through strong personal,
professional or other evidence that the applicant intends to depart the U.S. within the prescribed time frame. Visas may be valid for one or more entries into the U.S. and are accordingly referred to as single entry or multiple entry, as the case may be.

A visa however does not automatically guarantee entry into the U.S. The immigration Officer at the U.S. port of entry makes the final determination.

What are the different categories for temporary work visas?

Specialty Occupations (H-1B):

Up to 65,000 H1Bs are issued every year, usually in three year increments, with a maximum duration of six years. The six year clock can start ticking again if the person departs the U.S. for one year. Among positions considered specialty occupations in this category are: accountants, computer programmers, dieticians, graphic designers, industrial designers, journalists, researchers and scientists.

Requirements include a job offer from a U.S. employer, with the prospective employee possessing a minimum requirement of a university degree and the employer paying a salary commensurate with the prevailing wage rate for persons in that occupation and geographic location.

Exchange visitors (J-1):

The United States Information Agency (USIA) permits a wide variety of organizations and educational institutions to sponsor persons as exchange visitors on the J-1 visa. Government funded programs, persons with skills listed on the USIA s Exchange Visitors Skills list, or graduate medical training requires that the J-1 candidate comply with a two year foreign residency requirement.

Treaty Traders (E-1) and Treaty Investors (E-2):

Owners and key employees of businesses which conduct a substantial volume of trade between the US and home country are treaty traders (E-1); and where a substantial amount of capital has been invested in the US and jobs have been created for US workers are referred to as treaty investors (E- 2). To qualify, the home country must have a treaty with the US.

Countries with Trade treaties include:

Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Brunei, Canada, China (Taiwan), Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Honduras, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Liberia, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Phillippines, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Togo, Turkey, U.K. and Yugoslavia.

Countries with Investor treaties include:

Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, China (Taiwan), Colombia, Congo, Czech Republic, Denmark, Equador, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Luxembourg, Mexico, Morocco, Moldavia, Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Phillippines, Poland, Romania, Senegal, Slovakia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, U.K. and Yugoslavia and Zaire.

Intracompany Transferees (L-1)

Executives, managers or persons with specialized knowledge employed in a company abroad, may transfer to the US branch, affiliate or subsidiary to assume a similar position. To qualify, the individual must have been employed in a similar position for the foreign based company during one of the past three years before entering the US. Maximum duration of status is seven years for executives and managers and five years for persons with specialized knowledge.

Other temporary visas are also available for Persons of Extraordinary Ability in the arts, sciences, education or business or sports(O-1/2); Athletes and Entertainers (P); Religious Workers (R-1); and family members of the aforementioned categories.

*Edited and Contributed BY SHEELA MURTHY

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