There are many kinds of non-immigrant visas through which one can come to the United States. Each is issued for a different purpose. One common factor for all non-immigrant visas is that they are issued for a temporary period. Non-immigrant visa holders have to leave the US when their status expires.
Citizens of certain countries do not need a visa to enter the US. If you are a citizen of Canada, you are exempt from the visa requirement, and citizens of “Visa Waiver” countries do not require a visa for visits to the US if their visit is for 90 days or less.
If you are not from Canada or a “Visa Waiver” country, then you should apply for permission to enter the US for an authorized purpose. This means applying for a non-immigrant visa.
To get a non-immigrant visa, you have to establish that you have “non-immigrant” intent. In simple terms, you have to demonstrate that you do not intend to remain in the US. permanently. If you do not have strong ties to your home country, your visa application will be denied for this reason.
Though it is generally not acceptable to intend to remain in the US permanently at the time of a non-immigrant visa application, you can extend your status, or even to change to an immigrant status, after entering the US. It is important that you cannot intend to remain permanently in the US at the time that you make your non-immigrant visa application.
The rules on non-immigrant intent are complicated, and there are exceptions to the general rule as mentioned earlier. If you want to remain in the US permanently after entering on a non-immigrant visa, you are well-advised to thoroughly research the rules that are specific to the visa category, and if necessary, seek the guidance of a qualified immigration attorney.
Visa Application Process
Applying for a non-immigrant visa is either a one or two-step process, depending on what classification/category you are applying in. All non-immigrants should make a visa application at the US Consulate with jurisdiction over their place of residence. Additionally, some categories of non-immigrant visa applicants have to file a petition with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) in the US.
If you are filing a petition, you have to take the petition approval to our visa appointment in order to demonstrate that you qualify for the visa category. If you qualify for the visa that you are applying for, you will normally get your visa within a few days of the visa interview. The visa will be valid for a limited amount of time, during which you must use it to apply for admission at a US Port of Entry.
When you enter the US pursuant to a non-immigrant visa, you will be issued a white I-94 arrival/departure card. This card will have your legal name, date of birth, and country of citizenship. While entering, a US Customs and Border Patrol agent will stamp the card with the date of entry, note the visa classification and indicate the status expiration date. The status expiration date controls how long you can remain in the US. Prior to this date, you have to leave the US, file for an extension of stay, or change to another visa status.