Visa Types Serve Different Purposes

Stars and stripesWhen foreign-born nationals decide to come to the United States, paperwork is an inevitable part of the process. Because the paperwork can be time consuming, the process is expedited when the correct forms are used. At the front end of this is to understand the difference between immigrant visas and nonimmigrant visas and knowing which type is appropriate for the purpose of the travel.

The immigrant visa category applies to those foreign-born persons who want to live in the United States permanently.

The nonimmigrant visa category applies to those foreign-born persons who have no intention of permanently living in the United States, but who would like to be in the United States on a temporary basis. For example, nonimmigrant visas can be issued for things like tourism, medical treatment, business, temporary work, or study. In all, more than 20 nonimmigrant visa classifications exist.

Visas are issued by the consular office at the Department of State abroad. It’s the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), however, that determines who’s allowed entry into the country and who’s admission into the country is denied at the port of entry.

For nonimmigrants who are allowed into the United States, Custom and Border Protection (CPB) officers issue an I-94 card. The date the CPB officer stamps on the card is the date by which a nonimmigrant must be out of the country.  This is the case even if the date in the visa is still valid. In the case of “multiple entry” visas, however, means visitors reenter the United States as soon as is desirable.

For those who wish to extend their stay in the United States beyond their I-94 departure date, USCIS offers Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. It’s important the extension request is submitted far enough in advance of the I-94 departure date that USCIS has time to review the application. USCIS is solely responsible for granting or denying applicant requests.