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What’s the Difference Between Nonimmigrant and Immigrant Visas?

The immigration laws in the United States are changing rapidly every day under the Trump Administration. As such, may confuse immigrants entering the country and may also affect their immigration status. How the new rules affect you and your ability to live and work in the United States depends largely on the type of immigration visa you are applying for. 


There are two categories of U.S. visas: immigrant visas and nonimmigrant visas. Understanding the differences is an essential step in the immigration process. 

Understanding the Immigrant Visa

Foreign nationals who wish to live and work permanently in the United States must have an immigrant visa. In order to obtain an immigrant visa, you must typically obtain sponsorship from either a U.S. citizen or an employer. Your sponsor must fill out the immigrant visa with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. In some cases, an immigrant can petition on their own behalf. However, these individuals must have some extraordinary ability or invention to make them eligible. 


Once your sponsor has filled out the application for your immigrant visa, the appropriate U.S. Consulate or Embassy must process the application. If approved for an immigrant visa, you must present this visa at the U.S. port-of-entry before the expiration date. Once you enter the U.S., and a Customs and Border Protection officer endorses your immigrant visa, you are officially a permanent U.S. resident. 


Understanding the Nonimmigrant Visa

If you wish to enter the United States temporarily, you need a nonimmigrant visa. This may be for vacation, business, medical treatment, or temporary work. In order to obtain this type of visa, you do not need to obtain sponsorship. Instead, you must apply directly to the U.S. Consulate or Embassy for your specific type of visa. 


There are more than 25 different types of nonimmigrant visas. For a list of all nonimmigrant visa classifications and requirements, you can visit the USCIS website or the U.S. Department of State website


Do You Need a Visa to Travel to the United States?

The U.S. permits citizens of some countries to enter and travel to the United States without a visa. This exemption is for the purposes of business or pleasure and lasts for 90 days or less. To qualify for this type of travel, you must have a round-trip ticket, a valid passport that does not expire for at least six months beyond the period of your intended stay, and a completed Form 1-94W. The Visa Waiver Program visitors may not apply to change their immigration status or extend their stay.   


Concerned About Your Immigration Status? Call Us Today

Do you have concerns about your immigration status or fear deportation? We can help. Our California immigration attorneys can help protect your immigration status, so you can continue to live and work here in the United States. At the Law Offices of Sweta Khandelwal, we do everything possible to help you through these scary times. Contact our California office today by calling (408) 542-0499 or filling out our confidential contact form to schedule an initial consultation and review of your immigration case. 

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Sweta Khandelwal

Sweta completed her Masters in Law from the University of California, Los Angeles and her JD from the Faculty of Law, Delhi University in India and has been practicing law for 15+ years getting visas, green cards, and citizenship for 1000+ clients, 100+ companies across 50+ nationalities.

Sweta has been recognized as a ” Super Lawyer, Rising Star,” and as amongst the ” Top 40 under 40″ immigration attorneys in California (American Society of Legal Advocates). She is also the recipient of the Advocacy Award by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Sweta is also a chartered accountant — the equivalent of a CPA. This makes her uniquely positioned to understand the immigration needs of her business clients in the broader context of their corporate objectives.

Sweta is actively involved with immigration issues and immigrant communities in various capacities. She has assumed key roles at the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), both at the local and national level. She has been a past chair at the Santa Clara Valley Chapter at AILA and has also been involved in various practice area committees at AILA National. Sweta has addressed multiple conferences/forums in the United States and worldwide on immigration and business issues.

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