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Temporary Visas

Foreign citizens who want to enter the U.S. should first acquire visas, an essential component of the immigration system. The U.S. government issues either nonimmigrant or immigrant visas.

This article provides comprehensive guidelines for the various types of visas. It will help you choose which one aligns with your needs. Below is a fact sheet that lists the temporary visas you can apply for to travel to the United States.

Use the links below to skip to different temporary visa types:



Note: While we strive to provide the most up-to-date information about temporary visas, details like fees are subject to change. Be sure to consult with an immigration attorney or the U.S. Department of State before finalizing your visit to the United States.

Visa Categories for Foreign Government Officials and Diplomats

Foreign government officials and diplomats visiting the U.S. for official activities or duties on behalf of their government should obtain A-1 or A-2 visas. These visas will allow them to conduct official duties in the United States.

An exception applies to the Head of Government or State. They qualify for an A visa regardless of the purpose of their trip.

Visa Category Granted to Validity
A-1 Ambassador, public minister, career, diplomatic or consular officer, and members of immediate family For the duration of their assignment or date stamped on the visa.
A-2 Other foreign government officials or employees and members of an immediate family For the duration of their assignment or date stamped on the visa.
A-3 Attendant, servant, or personal employee of A-1 and A-2, and members of immediate family For the duration of their assignment or date stamped on the visa.

Note that the individuals' position in their government and the purpose of their travel to the U.S. will determine whether they need an A-1 or A-2 visa. The trip to the U.S. through A-1 or A-2 visas must also be solely for official activities for the government. If the trip is for non-government functions, the person may not qualify for an A visa.

Meanwhile, personal attendants, employees, or domestic workers for government officials or diplomats may receive A-3 visas.

Visas for Tourists and General Business Visitors

B visas are temporary nonimmigrant visas that allow travelers to enter the United States for business, tourism, or medical treatment. On the other hand, if you visit the U.S. for both tourism and business regularly, you may apply for a B1/B2 visa combination.

Visa Category Granted to Validity Application Fee
B-1 Temporary visitor for business 6 months to 10 years $185
B-2 Temporary visitor for tourism or medical treatment. 6 months to 10 years $185
B1/B2 Temporary visitor for both tourism and business 6 months to 10 years $185

B1/B2 visas may be valid for up to ten years. It allows the individual to visit the United States for up to 6 months per entry. Note that this visa category does not allow employment or studying in the United States.

Visa for Aliens in Transit

Transit visas are nonimmigrant visas given to people en route to another country while in transit to the United States. The government grants this visa to foreign citizens going to another country while passing through the United States, and the only reason for entering the U.S. is for transit.

Visa Category Granted to Validity Application Fee
C-1 Alien in transit directly through the U.S. Period necessary to transit(up to 29 days) $185
C-1D Combined transit and crewman visa Period necessary to transit(up to 29 days) $185
C-2 Alien in transit to UN headquarters district under Section 11. (3), (4), or (5) of the Headquarters Agreement Period necessary to transit(up to 29 days) $185
C-3 Foreign government officials, members of immediate family, attendants, servants, or personal employees in transit Period necessary to transit(up to 29 days) $185
C-4 Transit without Visa (see Transfer Without Visa section below) Period necessary to transit(up to 29 days) $185

The C visa or transit visa is only valid for layover privileges. If your plans go beyond traveling through the United States, such as sightseeing or visiting friends, you'll need a different visa.

Visa for Crewmembers

Crewmember visas are nonimmigrant visas meant for persons working onboard commercial international airlines or vessels in the United States. They arrive with the commercial vessel and intend to leave the U.S. on board the same or different vessel within 29 days from arrival.

Visa Category Granted to Validity Application Fee
D-1 Crewmembers departing on the same vessel of arrival 29 days $185
D-2 Crewmembers departing by means other than the vessel of arrival 29 days $185

Visa for Treaty Traders and Treaty Investors

E visas allow people from certain countries to come to the United States for business. These individuals are nationals of certain countries with special arrangements with the United States. Some of them engage in international trade or commerce.

Visa Category Granted to Validity Application Fee
E-1 Treaty trader, spouse, and children up to 2 years $315
E-2 Treaty investor, spouse, and children up to 2 years $315

Individuals granted E visas may only do the type of work approved by their visa. Spouses and children of E visa holders may also acquire E-1 nonimmigrant visas as dependents. If granted, their visas are valid for the same period as that of the treaty trader or employee.

Visa for Academic Students

Individuals who want to study in the United States as full-time students need a student visa. Two nonimmigrant visa categories are available, and authorities know them as F and M visas. F-1 student visas allow the individual to enter the U.S. as a full-time student at an accredited academic institution or in a language training program.

Visa Category Granted To Validity Application Fee
F-1 Academic Student D/S $185
F-2 Spouse or child of F-1 D/S $185

"D/S" or Duration of Status means that the individual granted an F visa can stay in the United States for the length of the academic program. The U.S. Secretary of State gives this recognition, and they do not need to apply for visa extensions.

During the first academic year, F-1 students cannot work off campus. However, they may apply for on-campus employment that meets certain requirements.

After completing the first year of their academic program, F-1 students may apply for off-campus employment. These employments include the following:

  1. Optional Practical Training (OPT)
  2. Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
  3. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training Extension (OPT)

The students may also work off campus for special situations. These cases include special student relief or severe economic hardship.

Visa for Employees of International Organizations

Employees of international organizations in the United States receive G visas. To acquire G visas, the employee must travel to the U.S. to attend meetings, visit, or work at an international organization in the United States.

Visa Category Granted To Validity Application Fee
G-1 Principal resident representative of a recognized foreign member government to an international organization and members of an immediate family D/S No Fee
G-2 Other representative of recognized foreign member governments to international organizations, and members of immediate family D/S No Fee
G-3 Representative of non-recognized or nonmember government to international organizations and members of immediate family D/S No Fee
G-4 International organization officer or employee, and members of immediate family D/S No Fee
G-5 Attendant, servant, or personal employee of G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, or members of immediate family 3 years No Fee

D/S means that if the United States grants an individual a G visa, they can stay as long as they are a recognized member of the diplomatic category. The U.S. Secretary of State gives this recognition, and they do not need to apply for visa extensions.

Visa for Temporary Workers or Employment-Based Visa

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) gives nonimmigrant workers a temporary workers' visa if they enter the U.S. for employment. This visa lasts for a fixed period and often requires a petition from an employer.

Temporary workers' visas like H-1B visas and H-2B visas are not permanent. The visas would require the prospective employer to petition the employee. The employer files the petition with USCIS. Upon approval of the petition, the application process for employment authorization starts.

Visa Category Granted To Validity Application Fee
H-1B Specialty Occupations, DOD workers, fashion models Up to 3 years $205
H-1C Nurses working for up to three years in health professional shortage areas. Up to 3 years $205
H-2A Temporary or seasonal agricultural worker Up to 3 years $205
H-2B Temporary or seasonal non-agriculture worker Up to 3 years $205
H-3 Trainees other than graduate medical or academic. Up to 3 years $205
H-4 Spouse or child of H-1, H-2, H-3 Up to 3 years $205

To assist foreign workers, the U.S. Department of Labor is crucial in issuing labor certification. This ensures that U.S. workers will not be adversely protected by the import of labor from other countries.

The U.S. government limits the number of temporary work visa petitions allowed yearly for many work categories. Thus, it is best to stay informed of the recent updates posted by the USCIS.

Visa for Foreign Media Representatives

Visas for media representatives of foreign countries may travel to the United States temporarily to work in their profession. The activities done in the United States while on an I visa should be done for a media organization with a home office outside the United States.

Visa Category Granted To Validity Application Fee
I Visas for foreign media representatives D/S $185

Visa for Exchange Visitors

Individuals joining exchange visitor programs in the United States must secure J visas. The first step of this process is that an individual will apply for an exchange visitor program. This is often done through a sponsoring organization in the United States.

Visa Category Granted To Validity Application Fee
J-1 Visas for exchange visitors D/S $185
J-2 Spouse or child of J-1 D/S $185

The USCIS website has a list of exchange visitor categories that are included in the program.

Visas for Fiancé(e)s of U.S. Citizens

United States citizens who want to bring their foreign fiancé(e) into the U.S. to get married need to file a Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) or Form I-129F. Filing the petition is the first step to obtaining a K-1 visa.

To acquire the K-1 visa, the U.S. citizen and the foreign fiancé(e) should intend to get married in the U.S. within 90 days of arrival. The marriage must be valid, the couple must have seen each other in person within the last two years before filing, and the couple should have a bona fide intention to live as a married couple. It should not be entered into for the mere purpose of gaining immigration benefits.

Visa Category Granted To Validity Application Fee
K-1 Fiancé(e) 90 days to get married $265
K-2 Minor child of K-1 Based on their parent's adjustment of status. $265
K-3 Spouse of a U.S. Citizen (LIFE Act) 2 years $265
K-4 Child of K-3 (LIFE Act) Based on their parent's adjustment of status. $265

Visa for Intracompany Transferee

U.S. employers may transfer a manager or executive from one of their foreign offices to its offices in the U.S. through an L-1A nonimmigrant visa. This visa also applies to foreign companies that do not yet have an affiliated U.S. office to send one of its executives or managers to the U.S. to establish a U.S. office.

Visa Category Granted To Validity Application Fee
L-1A Executive, managerial 3 to 7 years $205
L-1B Specialized knowledge 3 to 5 years $205
L-2 Spouse or child of L-1 Based on the primary L-1 visa holder. $205

Visa for Vocational Students

Like F-1 visas, M-1 visas are given to individuals who would like to study in the United States. The only difference is that F-1 visas are given to academic students who enter universities, colleges, or other academic institutions. M-1 visas are for vocational students who enter nonacademic programs other than language training.

Visa Category Granted To Validity Application Fee
M-1 Vocational student or other nonacademic student For the duration of the vocational program. $185
M-2 Spouse or child of M-1 Validity aligns with the M-1 visa holder's validity $185

N-Visas

N Visas are only issued in exceptional circumstances under the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). These visas generally apply to employees, representatives, and other personnel directly involved with the operations of NATO.

Visa Category Granted To Validity Application Fee
N-8 Parent of an alien classified SK-3 "Special Immigrant." N/A No Fee
N-9 Child of N-8, SK-1, SK-2, or SK-4 "Special Immigrant" N/A No Fee

The USCIS often does not assign a validity period for N-8 or N-9 visas, the same as for nonimmigrant visas. Instead, N visas are immigrant visas meant for the person to live permanently in the United States.

Visa for North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

Employees and officials of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) working for the organization in the U.S. must secure visas for NATO employees. The type of visa required depends on the purpose of the trip to the United States.

Visa Category Granted To Validity Application Fee
NATO-1 Principal Permanent Representative of Member State to NATO and resident members of official staff or immediate family. D/S No Fee
NATO-2 Other representatives of member States; Dependents of Members of a Force entering following the provisions of the NATO Status-of-Forces agreement; Members of such a Force if issued visas D/S No Fee
NATO-3 Official clerical staff accompanying Representative of Member State to NATO or immediate family D/S No Fee
NATO-4 An official of NATO other than those qualified as NATO-1 and immediate family D/S No Fee
NATO-5 Expert other than NATO officials qualified under NATO-4, employed on behalf of NATO, and immediate family D/S No Fee
NATO-6 Member of civilian component who is either accompanying a Force entering following the provisions of the NATO Status-of-Forces agreement; attached to an Allied headquarters under the protocol on the Status of International Military headquarters set up under the North Atlantic Treaty; and their dependents D/S No Fee
NATO-7 Servant or personal employee of NATO-1, NATO-2, NATO-3, NATO-4, NATO-5, NATO-6, or immediate family Validity aligns with the NATO visa holder's validity No Fee

Visa for Workers with Extraordinary Abilities

O-1 visas are given to individuals with specialized knowledge or abilities in arts, athletics, business, education, or sciences. It may also be granted to those who have shown extraordinary achievement in television or motion picture and were recognized internationally or nationally.

Visa Category Granted To Validity Application Fee
O-1 Individuals with extraordinary ability in Sciences, Arts, Education, Business, or Athletics up to 3 years $205
O-2 Individuals who will accompany the O-1 in certain events or performance up to 3 years $205
0-3 Spouse or child of O-1 or O-2 Validity aligns with O-1 to O-2 visa holder's validity $205

Visa for Athletes and Entertainers

P visas are given to athletes and entertainers with internationally recognized reputations coming to the U.S. to join an athletic competition. It may also be given to entertainers coming to the U.S. as members of an internationally recognized entertainment group.

Visa Category Granted To Validity Application Fee
P-1A Individual athletes Up to 5 years $205
P-1A Athletic teams Up to a maximum of 1 year $205
P-2 Artists and entertainers in reciprocal Exchange programs Up to a maximum of 1 year $205
P-3 Artists and entertainers in culturally unique programs Up to a maximum of 1 year $205
P-4 Spouse or child of P-1, 2, or 3 Validity aligns with P 1, 2, or 3 visa holder's validity $205

Visa for International Cultural Exchange Visitors

Q visas are nonimmigrant visas given to participants of international cultural exchange programs. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) designates these programs. The cultural exchange is done to give practical employment and training to the participants. It also aims to share the participant's culture, history, and traditions with the United States.

Visa Category Granted To Validity Application Fee
Q-1 International cultural exchange visitors Up to 15 months $205
Q-2 Irish Peace Process Cultural and Training Program (Walsh Visas) Up to 15 months $205
Q-3 Spouse or child of Q-2 Validity aligns with Q-2 visa holder's validity $205

Note that after the participants complete the cultural exchange program, they are given 30 days to leave the United States. Then, they must stay at least one year outside of the U.S. before they can apply to the program again.

Visa for Religious Workers

R-1 are nonimmigrant visas given to foreign nationals coming to the U.S. temporarily to work as a minister or for a religious vocation or occupation. To qualify for this visa, the individual should have been a member of the religious organization. The organization should have a bona fide nonprofit branch in the U.S. for at least two years immediately before visa application.

Visa Category Granted To Validity Application Fee
R-1 Religious workers An initial period of admission is up to 30 months $205
R-2 Spouse and/or child of R-1 Validity aligns with R-1 visa holder's validity $205

The USCIS may grant R-1 visas with an initial validity of 30 months. The individual may then ask for subsequent extensions of up to 30 months. But, the total period of stay for R-1 visas should not be more than five years or 60 months.

Visa for Witness or Informant

S visas are granted to individuals who assist law enforcement agencies as informants or witnesses. The law enforcement agency may apply for a green card or lawful permanent residence on behalf of the informant.

Visa Category Granted To Validity Application Fee
S-5 Informant of criminal organization information Up to 3 years $185
S-6 Informant of terrorism information Up to 3 years $185

Visa for Trafficking Victims

Nonimmigrant T visas are given to victims of severe types of human trafficking. This serves as a relief under U.S. immigration laws and allows the victim to stay in the country. The purpose of the visa is for the victim to assist in the prosecution or investigation of violators of human trafficking.

Visa Category Granted To Validity Application Fee
T-1 Victims of a severe form of trafficking in persons. Up to 4 years $185
T-2 Spouse of a victim of a severe form of trafficking in person. Up to 4 years $185
T-3 Child of a victim of a severe form of trafficking in persons. Up to 4 years $185
T-4 Parent of a victim of a severe form of trafficking in persons (if T-1 victim is under 21 years of age) Up to 4 years $185

Visa for North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

The TN nonimmigrant visa program allows qualified citizens of Mexico and Canada to enter temporarily in the U.S. to conduct professional business activities. The U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulates in these countries often process the issuance of these visas.

Engineers, pharmacists, lawyers, teachers, and scientists are among the professionals allowed to look for admissions as TN nonimmigrants.

Visa Category Granted To Validity Application Fee
TN Trade visas for Canadians and Mexicans Up to3 years $185
TD Spouse or child accompanying TN Validity aligns with TD visa holder's validity $185

Visa for Victims of Certain Crimes

Victims who suffered physical or mental abuse because of criminal activity and have information about certain criminal acts may receive a nonimmigrant visa.

Law enforcement officials should certify that the U-1 visa receiver has been or will help prosecute or investigate criminal activity.

Visa Category Granted To Validity Application Fee
U-1 Victim of certain criminal activity Up to 4 years $185
U-2 Spouse of U-1 Validity aligns with U-1 visa holder's validity $185
U-3 Child of U-1 Validity aligns with U-1 visa holder's validity $185
U-4 Parent of U-1, if U-1 is under 21 years of age Validity aligns with U-1 visa holder's validity $185

Visa for Certain Second Preference Beneficiaries

U.S. immigration laws allow certain family members of U.S. citizens to become lawful permanent residents of the United States. The visas are given based on the family relationship and level of preference.

Visa Category Granted To Validity Application Fee
V-1 Spouse of an LPR who is the principal beneficiary of a family-based petition (Form I-130), which was filed before December 21, 2000, and has been pending for at least three years N/A $325
V-2 Child of an LPR who is the principal beneficiary of a family-based visa petition (Form I-130) that was filed before December 21, 2000, and has been pending for at least three years N/A $325
V-3 The derivative child of a V-1 or V-2 N/A $325

Note that this nonimmigrant visa allows family members to stay in the U.S. while waiting for their green cards.

Visa for Temporary Protected Status (TPS)

TPS status is given to certain nationals of foreign countries designated by the Secretary of Homeland Security. For these individuals, the adjustment of status may also be possible. These countries are listed because certain conditions temporarily prevent their nationals from returning safely.

The Secretary designates these countries for TPS often due to the following conditions:

  • Natural calamity or environmental disaster
  • Ongoing armed conflict
  • Other temporary and extraordinary conditions

The Secretary of Homeland Security also includes countries that could not appropriately handle their nationals' return.

Visa Category Granted To Validity Application Fee
TPS Citizens of countries designated by the Secretary of DHS 6 to 18 months No Fee

Visa Application Fees

It is important to remember that visa application fees are subject to change and may often fluctuate. The USCIS or the U.S. Department of State may also periodically adjust the fees. Thus, to get the most accurate information on visa application fees, it is best to check the U.S. Department of State's website or contact the U.S. embassy or U.S. consulate.

Visa Validity and Travel with Expired Passports

Generally, the visa will be valid until its expiration date unless canceled or revoked. Therefore, the U.S. visa will remain valid even with an expired passport. Note that most visas are attached to the page of a passport. Therefore, the individual traveling to the U.S. with a visa must bring the expired passport and the new one when traveling to the United States.

Note that the duration of nonimmigrant or visitor visas would also depend on the reasonable time you need to be in the United States. This applies especially to transit visas, temporary worker visas, and student visas.

The provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act play a crucial role in these visa regulations and renewals. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials at the port of entry can allow or deny admission to the United States.

Seek Legal Advice From An Immigration Law Attorney

Navigating the complexities of U.S. immigration laws can be challenging and overwhelming. Thus, consulting an experienced immigration law attorney is recommended. They can help you understand the crucial rules for ports of entry in the United States. They can also provide legal advice if you want to earn a nonimmigrant status in the U.S.

An immigration law attorney can also guide you through learning about your eligibility for a U.S. visa or naturalization. They can also assess the possible waivers that apply to your case. They can also advise on the visa interview process mandated by the U.S. Department of State. This will ensure that you present your case in the best possible light.

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