What is Immigrant Visa?
An immigrant visa is one of the two major types of visas: immigrant and nonimmigrant. It is for those who intend to live and work permanently in the U.S.
There are four major categories within this visa classification, including immediate relatives, special immigrants, family-sponsored and employer-sponsored.
Most citizens of foreign countries require a visa in order to be able to travel to America. An American Visa indicates that the traveler’s application has been approved by an officer at an American embassy or consulate. It is important to note that an American Visa does not guarantee entry into the country; it just means that the traveler has been determined to be eligible to enter the country by a consulate officer. Essentially the American Visa allows the individual to travel to a port of entry of the United States, such as a sea or land border crossing. Once at a point of entry, an immigration officer determines if the American Visa holder is eligible to enter the country. Eligible citizens of Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries do not have to attain a visa prior to traveling to the United States, but must follow other regulations such as attaining a travel authorization before they initiate travel to America.
The U.S. Department of State oversees the issuance of American Visas, and immigration to America is managed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Individuals desiring to enter America may try to attain either a nonimmigrant or immigrant visa. Nonimmigrant American Visas are for travelers who live permanently in another country besides the United States, but desire to travel to the country for tourism, business, medial, work, or other purposes. Immigrant Visas are for individuals who desire to eventually make America their permanent residence. American Visas are attained at American consulates and embassies abroad, and allow the individual to travel to a US port of entry and ask the immigration officer for permission to enter the country. U.S. immigration officers then determine the length of stay the American Visa holder is permitted to remain in the country.
The D -1 Visa, also commonly referred to as the Crewmen Visa, is a nonimmigrant visa for employees and crew members serving on commercial ships and air carriers. In order to be issued a D-1 Visa, the employee’s services must be considered necessary for daily operation of the vessel. Crew employees traveling to the United States to join a commercial ship or airplane also commonly apply for the D-1 Visa. The D-1 Visa is suitable for entertainers, pilots, flight attendants, scientists, electricians, waiters, and lifeguards who are employed on commercial vessels or airplanes.
As with all visas, limitations exist for the D-1 Visa. The ship’s homeport must be in the United States and D-1 visa holders are not able to change their status or extend their stay in the United States. Instead, they must re-apply after six months. The D-1 Visa expires when the visa holder departs the United States. The processing time for D-1 Visa is estimated to only require 3 business days; however, in order to ensure timely delivery of the visa, applicants are urged to file as soon as possible, and before any employment duties begin. D-1 Visa holders are not authorized to bring dependents into the United States or study or work outside of the scope of the visa.
Individuals applying for the D-1 Visa will need to submit:
- D-1 visa application
- Photograph and fingerprints
- Proof that applicant is admissible under relevant immigration laws
- Copies of employer work records
B-2 Visa for Tourists: Foreign nationals who wish to visit the United States for leisure or tourism are normally eligible to receive a B-2 Tourist Visa. B-2 Tourist Visas are “visitor visas” and are required for citizens of countries that are not included in the Visa Waiver Program. However, even citizens of countries included in the Visa Waiver Program are required to obtain a B-2 visa if they plan to stay in the United States for longer than 90 days, change status to another nonimmigrant visa, or adjust status to permanent resident (Green Card) after entering the country.
B-2 Visa for Medical Treatment: B-2 Visas are also issued to individuals who are coming to the United States to undergo medical treatment. The application process is similar to that of a Tourist Visa, but there are additional documents that must be submitted to establish that the applicant qualifies for the visa. The list of required documents and the application process is described in the B-2 Tourist Visa Application Guide.
Tourist Visa Length of Stay: Persons admitted to the United States on a B-2 Tourist Visa are usually issued a 6-month stay. The maximum length of stay for visitor visa holders is 6 months. The immigration officer at the port of entry determines how long each visitor is allowed to stay in the country. Most visitors have their I-94 cards stamped with a 6-month stay; however the immigration officer has the right to issue a shorter stay on a case by case basis. Upon entry into the United States, the foreign visitor has the right to request an extension of stay.
US Visitor Visa Change of Status: Individuals who enter the United States on a B-2 Tourist Visa are normally eligible to change status to permanent resident (Green Card holder) if they qualify, or to another nonimmigrant status, such as temporary worker (H-1B, H-2B, E-1, E-2, E-3, etc.), student (under the F-1 Student Visa), or even to permanent United States resident (Green Card). Individuals who enter the United States under the the Visa Waiver Program are not eligible to change status. The option to change status is the major advantage of nonimmigrant visas, such as the B-2 Tourist Visa, over the Visa Waiver Program.
Important Warning for Tourist Visa Holders: Persons admitted to the United States on a B-2 Tourist Visa are not allowed to work or receive any kind of payment while staying in the United States. Foreign nationals who wish to work in the United States must apply for a work visa, such as the H-1B Visa or H-2B Visa.