Traveling, working, studying or even relocating to the United States can be an exciting – albeit confusing – process, especially when you’re first getting started.
There’s a plethora of visa options out there, and it’s not always easy to understand which one is best suited to your specific needs. Here are some basics that can help point you in the right direction.
Are you just visiting for leisure?
If you’re just planning on a leisure trip to visit friends or family or even to just tour some of this country’s most fascinating sites, you may simply want a tourist visa. Just be careful about your plans, since you are generally limited to no more than a six-month stay. Overstaying your time could result in consequences that will affect your ability to get another visa in the future.
Are you coming to work?
If you’re coming here to advance your career or just to take advantage of the employment opportunities available, you need a work visa. There are 10 different kinds of work visas available, including special visas for those with special skills, seasonal agricultural workers and those with extraordinary talents. There are even specific visas that are designed for investors who are exploring potential business opportunities and professionals who are attending conferences or important meetings.
Are you coming to study?
A lot of bright students look to U.S. schools for their higher educational needs. If this is your situation, you will typically need a student visa to enroll in school and stay in this country until your studies are over.
Are you coming to immigrate?
Other kinds of visas are not intended to allow you to remain in the U.S. permanently (although it’s very possible, for example, for some foreign nationals studying or working in the U.S. to apply to change their nonimmigrant status to an immigrant visa later). Immigrant visas are often sought through family relations, as spouses, children and parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents – although there are special diversity visas set aside for foreign nationals coming from companies with low rates of immigration, as well.
Sorting out exactly which visa is right for you – and getting it – is difficult to do on your own. Once you’ve established your goals for coming to the U.S., it’s generally wise to seek legal guidance.