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The distinctions between a nonimmigrant vs. an immigrant visa

On Behalf of | Dec 13, 2023 | Immigration

If you’re considering a move to the United States or even just a visit, understanding the immigration system is essential. The U.S. offers a variety of visas, each with its own eligibility requirements and permissions. Two key categories are the immigrant and nonimmigrant visas.

Understanding the differences between these two can help you determine which visa type best aligns with your circumstances and future plans.

What is a nonimmigrant visa?

The U.S. immigration system issues a nonimmigrant visa to individuals planning a temporary stay in the U.S. This can include tourists, students, business travelers and temporary workers. With this visa, holders enjoy specific benefits depending on their visa type. For instance, some visa types allow them to bring their dependents through a petition.

However, certain limitations apply:

  • Nonimmigrant visa holders cannot establish permanent residence in the U.S.
  • They may not qualify for certain benefits available to U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
  • Some nonimmigrant visas do not permit employment in the U.S.

Nonimmigrant visa holders need to understand that their status requires them to stay in the U.S. for a specific purpose (e.g., tourism, study, business, work). Violating these terms can lead to serious consequences, such as termination of their visa status.

What is an immigrant visa?

An immigrant visa is for those who wish to live and work permanently in the U.S. It comes in several types, including family-sponsored and employment-based visas. As an immigrant visa holder, you have the right to work and study without restrictions and have access to most social services provided to U.S. citizens. Plus, after a certain period, you can apply for U.S. citizenship. However, it’s important to note that an immigrant visa doesn’t mean an automatic grant of U.S. citizenship. Also, before applying for an immigrant visa or becoming a green card holder, you must meet specific eligibility requirements, such as having a U.S. sponsor.

Both nonimmigrant and immigrant visa holders need to understand their specific limitations and responsibilities to avoid impacting their status as an immigrant or a nonimmigrant.

Knowing how the system works

Ultimately, knowing the distinctions between nonimmigrant and immigrant visas can help you make an informed decision about which is right for you. If you feel overwhelmed, you should consider consulting with an immigration lawyer to gain assistance in navigating the immigration system.