The Different Types of Visas in USA

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  1. Needless to say, the United States of America has always been a popular choice among migrants since its inception. Ranging from study to work and consequently visitation/inhabitation, people never seem to run out of reasons to set foot in the Land of Liberty. Thankfully, the U.S. government has done more than just turn a blind eye to this fact. With the introduction of about 185 types of visas in USA, actualizing the dream of visiting the country has become a lot more realistic.

What Is a U.S. Visa?

A U.S. visa represents your eligibility to gain access into the United States. It is a sort of permission in the form of a stamp on your passport or any other travel document. 


Non-Residents of the United States need a U.S. visa to enter the country. However, applying for a U.S. visa depends on your nationality. Apart from the citizens of Visa Waiver countries who are permitted to visit the United States for business or tourism purposes for a period of 90 days (or less) without a visa, citizens of the other countries need a visa to enter the U.S. Another category of people who do not require a visa before travelling to the U.S. are the citizens of Bermuda and Canada. They are also allowed a temporary stay in the U.S. for 90 days without a visa. An Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is used in place of a visa, and it is usually issued by the U.S. Customs and Borders Protection (CBP).  Canadian citizens have the liberty of entering, staying, and working in the United States with the option of using an enhanced Driving Licence for identification in place of a passport.  Citizens of Bermuda, on the other hand, can be exempted from all visa requirements, provided they are staying for less than 6 months in the U.S. In addition to these, all travellers, irrespective of the location or nationality, are mandated to have an electronic passport which has all the biometric information in it as well as a biographic page with a machine-readable zone.

How Many Types of Visas are in the USA?

As stated earlier, there are a total of about 185 types of U.S. visas. These visas are generally grouped under two major categories: The Immigrant Visas and Non-immigrant Visas. The Immigrant visas are aimed at ensuring permanent residency for migrants in the United States via immigrant investors schemes or as a result of family reunions.  Non-immigrant visas, on the other hand, are basically meant for temporary visits to the United States. Such visits include tourism, business, employment, family visit, and studying. Some of the most important types of U.S. visas are further discussed in the next section.

What are the Types of Visas in the  USA?

Non-Immigrant Visas

It’s just exactly like it sounds. With a Non-immigrant visa, you cannot immigrate to the U.S. but rather stay there temporarily for a specified period of time. The different non-immigrant visas differ with respect to the purpose of one’s stay.

  • Work Visas

Before you can apply for a U.S. work visa, you must have landed a legit job offer by a U.S. employer. It is important to note that obtaining a work visa with a particular company means that you are only permitted to work for the company with whose name you applied for the visa. The different types of U.S. work visas include;

  • C-1/D Visa- For crew members of international flights or ships.
  • E-1 Visa- For Treaty Traders. These are managers/executives/specialists/supervisors of companies driving trade to the U.S.
  • E-2 Visa- For Treaty Investors such as managers/executives/specialists/supervisors of companies investing in the U.S.
  • H-1B Visa- For highly qualified professionals and people with an academic degree who take up specialized roles.
  • I Visa- For journalists and media representatives.
  • L-1 Visa- For the internal transfer of employees from any country.
  • L-1 Blanket Visa / Registration- For the internal transfer of employees with a simplified application process.
  • O-1 Visa- For people who have extraordinary skills and abilities.
  • TN Visa- For Canadian and Mexican skilled workers.

  • Visitor Visas

If your intended stay in the United States for restricted business or touristic reasons would last up to 180 days, you might want to opt for a U.S. visitor visa. 

  • B-1 Visa- For business travelers who stay in the U.S. for up to 180 days.
  • B-2 Visa- For tourists who want to stay in the U.S. for up to 180 days
  • Internship/Student Visa

These include:

  • F-1 Visa- For students studying at an American university or college.
  • J-1 Visa- For exchange visitors who participate in an exchange program in the U.S. (e.g. an internship or training)
  • M-1 Visa (Non-academic & Vocational)

Immigrant Visas (Green Card)

An immigrant visa is otherwise known as a Green Card. This type of visa allows you to live and work in the U.S. without boundaries or expirations. The different categories of U.S. immigrant visas are:

  • EB-1 (Priority Workers)   
  • EB-2(Advanced Degrees/Exceptional Ability)   
  • EB-3 (Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Other Work 
  • EB-4 (Special Immigrants, including Religious Workers).
  • EB-5 (Immigration Investor Program).


There are other Immigrant visa types. These include the Diversity Immigrant Visa. To qualify for this visa category, one needs to be from a country with low immigration rates to the United States. The SB visa, otherwise known as Returning Resident Visa, is a special type of visa given to permanent U.S. residents who have stayed outside their home country for a long period of time, e.g., over a year. Those whose re-entry permit has also exceeded the validity period can apply too. 

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

The major differences between non-immigrant and immigrant visas are:  

  1. The length of time for which the visa Holder is supposed to stay in the U.S. for.
  2. Immigrant visas, also known as Green Cards and permanent, allow the holder to stay in the US for as long as possible. 
  3. U.S. non-immigrant visas have an expiration date, which depends on the type of visa.

How Can I Apply for a U.S. Visa?

Application for a U.S. visa is done at a U.S. Consulate. The following simple steps:

  • Check if you need a visa.
  • Select the applicable U.S. visa with respect to your purpose of travelling.
  • Fill in the Non-immigrant visa Application Form DS-160.
  • Pay your application fee.
  • Schedule visa interview.
  • Compile the document file.
  • Attend the visa interview.
  • Wait for processing.

Get detailed information here.

Which of the Types of Visas is the Best for the USA?

Considering the fact that there are over a hundred U.S. visa types, picking out the best to suit your purpose of travelling could be a hassle. The following would serve as a guidance in picking the best U.S. visa for the occasion.

  • Choose the B-2 visa if you are  planning a visit to the U.S. The B-2 is a non-immigrant visa and is usually issued to people entering the U.S. on a temporary basis. 
  • Go for a Visitor visa if you have to visit family and friends in the United States.
  • Choose a H visa if you are a professional aiming to work for an American company.
  • The H-1B visa is meant for American business professionals. 
  • The H-2A and H-2B visas make it possible for employers in the United States to bring foreign nationals in to fill temporary agricultural and non-agricultural jobs, respectively.
  • The H-3 is available for trainees.
  • If you want to study in the US, the F visa is for you. The F-1 visa is for academic students to enter the US as full-time students at an accredited college or university, seminary or conservatory, academic high school or elementary school.
  • For foreign medical residents who wish to run the professional GME program, the J-1 visa is the best bet. This sort of visa can be extended for a period of seven years, doing it one year at a time. Please note that medical practitioners who wish to explore the country for the purpose of research or clinical practices should apply for the H-1B visa.
  • The United States also offers the opportunity of E-visas for Entrepreneurs. Thus, if you are a business owner, and you wish to expand your business by introducing it to the American populace, If you’re an entrepreneur, then you might need an E visa. The E visa is meant for treaty traders as well as investors who come to the United States under a treaty of commerce and navigation between the U.S. and the investor’s home country.
  • An O visa is meant for professionals who have gained international recognition for their achievements in their chosen fields. An O-1A non-immigrant visa is meant for those who exhibit extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics. Actors, and other media professionals should apply for the O-1B visa. Migrants with O-2 visas would accompany an O-1, artist or athlete, to assist in a specific event or performance.

See also: The differences between a Green Card and a visa.

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