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Exploring the Differences Between Immigrant and Non-immigrant Visas

If you want to come and live in the United States, you are probably considering the different visas available for immigrants. Immigrant and non-immigrant visas are available, but they have different requirements and will have specific limitations regarding how they are used. In this article, we will be discussing U.S. immigrant and non-immigrant visas, who they are for, and the key differences between these options.

Immigrant Visas

Are you wondering what an immigrant and non-immigrant visa is and why they are different? These two options are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same type of visa. An immigrant visa allows an individual to work and live permanently in the United States.

Most people obtain an immigrant visa through a relative or employer who acts as their sponsor and fills out their application with the USCIS. However, there are some circumstances where immigrants can apply for this visa on their own if they have extraordinary abilities, are an investor, or are a special kind of immigrant such as a diplomat.
Here are the different immigrant visa types that you may qualify for:

Immigrant Visa Requirements

Because there are so many immigrant visa categories, the requirements will depend on the specific visa you are applying for. However, you will almost always need to provide your birth certificate and passport photos as well as complete a background check and a medical exam. You will also have to provide proof that you are related to the family member who is sponsoring your application if applicable.

For options like a fiancé visa‘s, you need to provide evidence of the relationship and for employment based green cards, you will need to show evidence of your skill to do that specific work.

Non-immigrant Visas

The difference between immigrant and non-immigrant visas comes down to the intent of the person who is getting the visa. For a non-immigrant visa, individuals usually intend to stay in the U.S. for a temporary amount of time. For instance, you may need a non-immigrant visa if you are a student, tourist, traveling worker, etc.

Non-immigrant visas can be a bit confusing since they are categorized according to the purpose you are using it for. Depending on why you are coming to the U.S., you may need to get a B-1 non-immigrant visa or a B-2 visa as a B-1 is for business and B-2 is for tourists.

Non-Immigrant Visa Requirements

To qualify for a non-immigrant visa, you have to show the USCIS what your purpose is for wanting to travel to the United States. Some people may try to get a non-immigrant visa solely for the purpose of staying in the U.S. and trying to get an immigrant visa, so the USCIS requires specific information, including:

  • Evidence that you have a residence and social or economic ties outside of the United States that you will return to after your temporary stay.
  • Evidence of financial funds you will use to cover your expenses while in the U.S.
  • Evidence that the purpose of your trip is for a temporary stay for pleasure, business, education, or medical treatment.
  • Evidence that you plan to stay for a specific amount of time before leaving the U.S.

Key Differences Between Immigrant Visa and Non-immigrant Visa

Before you start the process of obtaining a visa to come to the United States, you need to be completely clear on the differences between immigrant and non-immigrant visas and which one is the right fit for you. The best way to do this is to hire an immigration attorney who can help you navigate the complex immigration laws and the requirements for each type of visa.

An immigration attorney will ensure you choose the right type of visa for your situation and fill out the application correctly. This can make all of the difference when it comes to getting approved for a visa in a timely manner. If you do run into unforeseen issues with your application, your attorney can also help you navigate this process so you have a better chance of getting approved.

Here is a breakdown of the key differences between an immigrant and a non-immigrant visa:

  • Length of stay: The primary difference between immigrant visas and non-immigrant visas is how long they allow you to stay in the U.S. Immigrant visas are usually valid for five years before you need to renew them, while non-immigrant visas are valid for six months or less.
  • Ability to work: Immigrant visas allow you to live and work in the United States just like a U.S. citizen. On the other hand, most non-immigrant visas will not allow this unless you are explicitly traveling for business or work, and if so, there will be some limitations to this.
  • Cost differences: Getting your immigrant visa is usually going to be more expensive as it costs $235 to apply unless you fall into one of the immigrant categories that do not have to pay the fee. On the other hand, the application fee for a non-immigrant visa is $185. Keep in mind that there are additional fees you will have to pay throughout the application process.
  • Approval timeline: Because an immigrant visa allows you to work and live permanently in the U.S., the USCIS is very thorough when looking at applicants. The average timeframe before you are approved is between 10 and 14 months, but this is dependent on the category you fall into and the details of your application. On the other hand, it typically takes between three and five weeks for a non-immigrant visa to be approved.

Hire an Immigration Attorney Today

Are you ready to apply for an immigrant or non-immigrant visa so that you can legally come to the United States? Contact us today at U.S. Immigration Law Counsel by filling out our online form or contacting us directly at 800-666-4996 to speak with one of our immigrant attorneys. Our immigration lawyers will deal with the government, so you don’t have to!

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