What is the Difference Between an Immigrant Visa and a Non-immigrant Visa?

Immigrant vs Non Immigrant Visa

There are two categories of U.S. visas: immigrant and nonimmigrant. The purpose of your intended travel and other facts will determine what type of visa is required under U.S. immigration law. As a visa applicant, you will need to establish that you meet all requirements to receive the category of visa for which you are applying.

Immigrant visas are issued to foreign nationals who intend to live permanently in the United States. 

Nonimmigrant visas are for foreign nationals wishing to enter the United States on a temporary basis – for tourism, medical treatment, business, temporary work, study, or other similar reasons.

close up photo of Immigration papers for non immigrant visas applications

Immigrant Visa

An immigrant visa is issued to a foreign national who intends to live and work permanently in the United States. In most cases, a relative or employer sponsors the individual by filing an application with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Certain applicants, such as workers with extraordinary ability, investors, and certain special immigrants, can petition on their own behalf. 

For those living outside the U.S. –  In the last stage of the green card process, the application is forwarded to the appropriate U.S. Consulate or Embassy overseas for continued processing and issuance of the immigrant visa to the intending immigrant, if eligible. An intending immigrant must present the immigrant visa at a U.S. port of entry prior to the expiration of the immigrant visa. An intending immigrant becomes a lawful permanent resident once the immigrant visa and accompanying paperwork are reviewed and endorsed by a CBP Officer.

For those living inside the U.S. – In the last stage of the green card process, you can file an I-485 Application for Adjustment of Status.  Along with this application, you can also file applications for work (I-765) and travel authorization (I-131). If the I-485 adjustment of status application is approved, you become a U.S. permanent resident.

Non-Immigrant Visa

Nonimmigrant visas are issued to foreign nationals seeking to enter the United States on a temporary basis for tourism, business, study, medical treatment, and certain types of temporary work. The type of nonimmigrant visa needed is defined by immigration law and related to the purpose of the travel. For an alphabetical listing of all of the nonimmigrant visa classifications and specific requirements, refer to the U.S. Department of State website.

Dual Intent

Dual Intent is a provision under U.S. Immigration Law that allows certain visa holders to seek permanent residence in the United States, even though they initially entered the country with a temporary, nonimmigrant visa. This concept primarily applies to visas such as the H-1B, L-1, and K-1, where the holder is allowed to have the intent to immigrate permanently despite their nonimmigrant status. 

The doctrine of Dual Intent recognizes the reality that many individuals who initially traveled to the United States for temporary purposes such as work or study may later wish to change their status to become a permanent resident. It’s important to remember that not all nonimmigrant visa categories are eligible for Dual Intent and attempting to adjust status while on strictly nonimmigrant visas that don’t carry dual intent can lead to complications or even visa revocations. Therefore, understanding your visa type and its associated rules is critical. For detailed information about the dual intent doctrine and whether it applies to your specific visa category, consult us and we can advise you and what you can and cannot do.

small American flags raised by immigrants, close up of hands and flags, immigration concept

Admission to the US

Issuance of a visa does not guarantee entry to the United States. A visa simply indicates that a U.S. consular officer at an American embassy or consulate has reviewed the application and that the officer has determined that the individual is eligible to enter the country for a specific purpose. The CBP Officer at the port of entry will conduct an inspection to determine if the individual is eligible for admission under U.S. immigration law.

Need Help With US Immigration? We Are Here For You.

At Bashyam Global Immigration Law Group, we understand that navigating the world of U.S. immigration can be complex and challenging. Our team of experienced immigration attorneys is here to guide you through every step of the process, ensuring that you understand your rights and options. Whether you’re seeking to travel, work, study, or permanently reside in the U.S., we can provide the assistance you need. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us for professional advice tailored to your unique situation. Contact us today, and let us help you achieve your American dream.

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