A Guide To US Visa Types

This short and helpful article explains the different types of US visas available and the criteria needed to apply for each of them.
Visa stamp on US passport

Foreign citizens typically need some form of Visa if they wish to stay and work in the US on a temporary or permanent basis.

This is one of the many considerations you have to make when you are expanding a business into America – and it can also be tricky to get right.

When it comes to Visas, it always pays to take advice from someone with experience in this field before entering into an application process. However, you’ll want to be aware of the options available to you.

With this in mind, we’ve looked at a guide to the different US Visa types and the sorts of people who might be able to apply for them.

Some of these are useful for business owners and employees looking to move to the US and others might only be relevant to the spouses, partners, and families of people moving to the US for business.

US Visas Categories

A – Officials and diplomats working for foreign governments

B-1 – For business visitors; athletes ( amateur or professional) competing for prize money only; domestic employees ( who must be accompanying a foreign national employer)

B-2 – Temporary visitors in the country for tourism, medical treatment or a short course or study, for example

BCC – This is the Border Crossing Card for Mexican citizens

C – This is for travellers in transit through the United States

D – Crew members serving on aircraft and vessels

E-1 – For traders who sell a substantial amount of goods in the US

E-2 – The ‘investor Visa’ for people investing in a company in the US. We’ve covered this in much more detail in our business Visa post

E-3 – Specialist workers from Australia

F-1 – Academic students

F-2 – Dependents of academic students

G1/G5, NATO – Personal or domestic employees of people from international organisations, governments or bodies such as NATO

H-1B1 – Professionals within the Chilean and Singaporean Free Trade Agreements

H1-B – Workers with specialist skills travelling to a prearranged professional job. Requires a degree or equivalent in the specialism.

H2-A – Agricultural workers on seasonal contracts

H2-B – Skilled or unskilled workers engaged in temporary/seasonal work

H3 – Training in a program not primarily for employment

I – Members of the foreign media

J/J-1 – Visitors on an exchange

K-1 – The fiancé of a US citizen who intends to live in the US after marriage

L  – ‘Intercompany transferees’ – see our business Visa guide for more details

M-1 – Students on vocational courses

M-2 – The dependents of those with M-2 Visas

O-1 – For ‘individuals with extraordinary ability in arts, sciences, education, sport or business

P – Athletes, artists and entertainers attending for specific performances/events

Q – Those engaged in an international cultural exchange

R – Religious ministers or workers

TN/TD – Professional workers from Canada and Mexico under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

T-1 – Victims of human trafficking

U-1 – Victims of criminal activity

What is an ESTA?

Travellers to the US might also be familiar with the ESTA. The Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) is not a Visa – it is an easier travel authorisation system open to countries that are part of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

An ESTA costs $14 for two years and covers people travelling to the US for periods of 90 days or less. It does allow you to travel to the US for business – so can be useful for meetings, conferences or fact-finding missions as you begin the process of expanding your business to America.

The 40 countries that are part of the Visa Waiver Program are:

  • Andorra
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Brunei
  • Chile
  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Republic of Malta
  • Monaco
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • San Marino
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • United Kingdom

 

For advice on what to do about visas and other arrangements for workers making the move to the US, get in touch with us today.

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