Guide to Understanding the Different Types of the U.S. Visa

Are you ready to embark on the journey of a lifetime to the United States, but feeling overwhelmed by the U.S. visa process?

You’re not alone! With so many types of visas available, it can feel like navigating a maze. 

This guide will break down the most common types of U.S. visas and help you find your way to the right one for your situation.

Immigrant Visas

An immigrant visa is issued to a foreign citizen who intends to live and work permanently in the U.S.

Family-Based Visa – The Family Reuniter

The family-based visa is for individuals with a close relative who is a US citizen or permanent resident. This type of visa allows you to come to the United States and apply for a green card so that you can reunite with your loved ones.

There are two types of family-based immigrant visas:

Immediate Relative. These visas are based on a close family relationship with a US citizen, such as a spouse, child, or parent. The number of immigrants in these categories is not limited.

Family Preference. These visas are for specific, more distant, family relationships with a US citizen and some specified relationships with a lawful permanent resident. The number of immigrants in these categories is limited each fiscal year. 

Employment-Based U.S. Visa 

The employment-based visa is for individuals who have been offered a job in the United States. 

Some highly skilled professionals can get US visas without a job offer, so long as they are entering the US to continue work in the fields in which they have extraordinary abilities.

Immigrant investors are also classified under this type of visa.

Diversity U.S. Visa – The Lucky Winner

The diversity visa, also known as the green card lottery, is a program that allows individuals from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States to apply for a green card. 

It’s a game of luck, where a selected few will be able to call the United States their new permanent home.

Nonimmigrant Visas – The Temporary Passport

The most common type of visa for international travelers is the nonimmigrant visa. 

Think of it as a temporary passport, allowing you to enter the United States for a specific purpose such as tourism, business, or study.

B-1/B-2 U.S. Visa – The Tourist’s Delight

The B-1/B-2 visa is a nonimmigrant visa for individuals who plan to enter the United States for business or pleasure. 

This type of visa is perfect for a holiday getaway, allowing you to stay for up to six months, and can be extended for an additional six months.

This visa is also used by visitors who are seeking medical treatment in the US. 

Citizens of certain countries in the Visa Waiver Program are allowed to enter the US for 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. 

F-1 U.S. Visa – The Scholar’s Passport

The F-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa for students who plan to attend a college or university in the US. 

This type of visa is the scholar’s passport, allowing you to stay for the duration of your program, plus 60 days for practical training.

H2: J-1 U.S. Visa – The Explorer

The J-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa for individuals participating in exchange visitor programs, such as internships, traineeships, or research programs. 

This type of visa is perfect for the cultural explorer, allowing you to stay for the duration of your program, plus 30 days for travel.

Other types of nonimmigrant visas fit persons in specific situations that don’t fit into the categories listed above such as foreign diplomats, cross-border transit, business visits, and many more in the table below.

Read More: How Fintech is Changing the Landscape & Banking in the U.S.

Categories of non-immigrant U.S. visas

Athletes, amateur, and professional (competing for prize money only)B-1
Athletes, artists, entertainersP
Australian worker – professional specialtyE-3
Border Crossing Card: MexicoBCC
Business visitorsB-1
Crewmembers (serving aboard a sea vessel or aircraft in the United StatesD
Diplomats and foreign government officialsA
Domestic employees or nannies (must be accompanying a foreign national employer)B-1
Employees of a designated international organization, and NATOG1-G5, NATO
Exchange visitorsJ
Exchange visitors – au pairsJ-1
Exchange visitors – children (under age 21) or spouse of a J-1 holderJ-2
Exchange visitors – professors, scholars, teachersJ-1
Exchange visitors – international culturalJ, Q
Foreign military personnel stationed in the United StatesA-2, NATO1-6
Foreign nationals with extraordinary ability in sciences, arts, education, business, or athleticsO-1
Free Trade Agreement (FTA) professionals: ChileH-1B1
Free Trade Agreement (FTA) professionals: SingaporeH-1B1
Information media representatives (media, journalists)I
Intra-company transfereesL
Medical treatment, visitors forB-2
NAFTA professional workers: Mexico, CanadaTN/TD
Nurses traveling to areas short of healthcare professionalsH-1C
PhysiciansJ-1, H-1B
Religious workersR
Specialty occupations in fields requiring highly specialized knowledgeH-1B
Students – academic and language studentsF-1
Student dependents – dependent of an F-1 holderF-2
Students – vocationalM-1
Student dependents – dependent of an M-1 holderM-2
Temporary workers – seasonal agriculturalH-2A
Temporary workers – nonagriculturalH-2B
Tourism, vacation, pleasure visitorsB-2
Training in a program not primarily for employmentH-3
Treaty investorsE-2
Treaty tradersE-1
Transiting the United StatesC
Victims of human traffickingT-1
Visa renewals in the United States – A, G, and NATONATO1-6

Table of Categories of non-immigrant U.S. visas


The type of visa you need depends on the purpose of your trip and your plans for the future. 

Each type of visa has its own set of requirements, so be sure to research the specific requirements for the visa you are applying for. 

The visa application process can take several months, so be sure to start early.

Be sure to read our Waya blog today and get more Information ℹ️



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