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What is a non-immigrant visa, and when does someone need one?

On Behalf of | Jan 7, 2024 | Immigration & Naturalization

Many people are confused by the term “non-immigrant visa.” That’s typically because they think that only people who immigrate to the U.S. to live need visas.

In fact, anyone who’s a citizen of another country who is going to be in the U.S. for a period of time may need to obtain a non-immigrant visa. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) issues these visas to “foreign nationals seeking to enter the United States on a temporary basis for tourism, business, medical treatment and certain types of temporary work.”

Understanding the different types of non-immigrant visas

It’s crucial to get the appropriate type of visa. For example, business non-immigrant visas are B-1s. Note that these typically aren’t for employment, which is generally prohibited. They would be used by those attending a conference, doing some unpaid consulting or interviewing for a job, for example.

Visitor non-immigrant visas are B-2s. These can be used for tourism, medical care or for any kind of amateur musical or sports event (like a competition). 

Obtaining a non-immigrant visa doesn’t guarantee admittance

People typically have to obtain non-immigrant visas at the U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country. That doesn’t guarantee, however, that they’ll be admitted into the U.S. That decision is made by a CBP officer when they reach their port of entry. They would need a valid reason, however, to deny them admittance.

Non-immigrant visas are valid for ten years, but each visit is typically limited to six months. Note that visitors from all countries aren’t necessarily required to get a visa if they’re staying for a limited period, as long as they have a valid passport from their home country. It’s crucial to find out what the requirements are for a potential visa holder’s country.

If you need to help someone obtain a non-immigrant visa to enter the country, it’s crucial that you — and they — understand the regulations that come with it. Overstaying a visa or doing something that violates the conditions can have serious consequences. Obtaining these visas means navigating bureaucracies in two different countries. Having experienced legal guidance can help.