Methods of Obtaining Temporary Legal Status in the U.S.
The following is an overview of the current law applying to applications for temporary and permanent visas in the U.S. based upon employment or business purposes.
There are many different kinds of nonimmigrant visa types. The following are the most commonly used visas to obtain status here:
- B-1 Business visa. Available to persons doing business in the U.S. It is usually valid for six months or less, but may be extended in the U.S. by simple application to the USCIS. The business visa is often easier to obtain from consulates in Russia and Eastern Europe than a tourist visa. The chances of obtaining a business visa are improved if documentation of the business purpose for the visit is provided, such as letters from prospective business partners here.
- B-2 Tourist visa. It is usually valid for six months or less, but may be extended in the U.S. by application to the USCIS. It is very important to extend one's status legally before the B-2 visa expires. Because filing the extension application automatically extends one's legal stay in the U.S. until a decision is reached and because often an extension application takes six months or more for the USCIS to adjudicate meaning that the person can stay the additional six months in the U.S. whatever the outcome of the application. often easier to obtain from consulates in Russia and Eastern Europe than a tourist visa. The chances of obtaining a business visa are improved if documentation of the business purpose for the visit is provided.
- H-1 Professional visa. Provides the right to work for sponsoring company, valid for 3 years, but may be extended up to 7 years. Usually requires a bachelor's degree or its equivalent for the person to qualify. Now immigration law allows an H-1 visa holder to switch companies more easily and in most cases begin working for the second company immediately upon filing a second petition for an H-1.
- L-1 Intra-company transferee. A visa for an executive or person with specialized knowledge, sponsored by a company abroad with a related company here. The visa is valid for 1 year , but may be extended up to 7 years. It provides the right to work for the sponsoring company. L-1 visas still offer a reasonable method of obtaining visas for persons doing business in both the U.S. and overseas. Does not require that the applicant have a degree.
- R-1 Religious worker. A visa for persons sponsored by a religious institution, valid for 2 years but may be extended. A very good alternative for persons offered work by a church, synagogue, school or other religious institution.
- O/P Artist or entertainer. A visa allowing artists or entertainers to stay in the U.S. for the purpose of specific performances for a specific limited period.
- E Treaty trader or investor visa. Requires a treaty with the country of origin of the applicant and substantial investment in the U.S.
- F-1 Student visa. Visa for an unspecified period of time while the student is enrolled full-time in an approved program of study.
Persons obtaining these visas are permitted to enter the United States for temporary, specifically defined periods of time and in most cases must show intent to return to their home country at the end of their temporary stay.
Those applying overseas have their eligibility reviewed twice before coming to the United States. The State Department Consular Officer decides whether the individual's purpose in coming fits one of the approved categories, and whether the person meets all other eligibility criteria for admission before issuing a visa to allow the individual to come to the United States. Upon arrival, all nonimmigrants are inspected by the USCIS to reconfirm their qualification for admission, and to authorize a specific length of stay. This process at the border has become more difficult in the past several years, as border officials aggressively scrutinize a person's reasons for coming here before admitting them. Simply the fact that a person has a visa in his or her passport does not guarantee entry into the U.S. The person has to expect questioning at the border, especially if they have previously been in the U.S. for extended periods of time.
Every person's unique case must be evaluated specifically to determine which non-immigrant visa (or rather direct application for permanent residence) offers the best chances for legalizing their status or extending their legal status here.