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Visa – What Are The Types Of Temporary U.S. Visas?

The United States requires foreign citizens to have a Visa if they seek entry into the country. There are certain countries whose citizens are not required to have a Visa to travel to the United States. There are two general types of Visas, under which are several different types depending on the purpose of travel: permanent and temporary Visas. The following are the common types of nonimmigrant or temporary Visas.  

Nonimmigrant Visas (Temporary)

These are temporary Visas granted to foreign citizens who want to travel to the U.S. for a definite period. There are over 20 nonimmigrant Visa types but there are three primary categories and these are Visitor Visas, Study Visas, and Employment Visas

Visitor Visas

Visitor Visas are issued to foreign citizens who wish to enter the United States on a temporary basis for three reasons: tourism, business, or a combination of both.

  1. Business Visa – a Business Visa, classified as a B1 Visa, is issued to a foreigner who wants to enter the United States for business reasons. This could include activities such as consulting with business associates, negotiating a contract, attending a conference in connection with business, educational or scientific purposes, or settling an estate. 

The Visa application process differs per United States Embassy where the application is filed. The general process, however, requires that the application contains a completed online nonimmigrant Visa application form, officially called a form DS-160. The form can be found online at the U.S. Department of State Consular Electronic Application Center website.

The applicant should also provide a recent photo, Visa processing fee payment, and a schedule for an interview. The non-refundable Visa processing fee for nonimmigrant Visa application processing for a Visitor Visa is currently $160.00.

Supporting documents may be required as proof of the purpose for the trip as well as the itinerary for the trip. These documents may include the following:

  • Valid passport – this should be valid for six months past the planned visit to the United States.
  • Social media account details – this means a list of the applicant’s social media accounts and platforms and their profile names for each account.
  • Proof of financial capacity – these include financial statements that show the person has the finances to cover their stay in the United States.
  • Guarantees – this means proof that the person has compelling reasons to return to their home country like a family, stable job, proof of property ownership, and so on.
  • Proof of employment – this includes a certificate of employment or a letter from the employer and payslips for the past three months.
  • Letter from the company – if the person is traveling on behalf of a company, a letter from the said company explaining the purpose and details of travel and the person’s position. 
  • Photo – the photo must comply with U.S. Visa photo requirements:
  1. Size – 2 x 2 inches 
  2. Headshot – the photo must be taken so that the subject’s head is at 50% to 69% of the total height of the image from the tip of the chin to the top of the person’s head.
  3. The photo must be in color.
  4. It must be recent, not older than 6 months.
  5. The photo must be clear and not have any shadows.
  6. The background must be plain and white.
  7. The subject must be facing the camera, with a neutral expression, and must have both eyes open.
  8. The person must not wear a uniform or any hair covering unless it is for religious purposes. In case they wear one for religion, it must not cover the face.
  9. Hearing devices and any other electronic devices are not allowed.
  10. Eyeglasses are also not allowed except if medically required as in the case of recent eye surgery. This requires a medical certification from a doctor. In case medically required eyeglasses are needed, the frame must not construct the eyes and the photo must be carefully taken so there is no glare or shadow on the face.
  11. In case the U.S. embassy requires a digital photo submission, the image must be colored, square at 1200 x 1200 pixels, in JPEG format, and no more than 240kB in size. If the image is scanned from a physical photo, it has to be 300 pixels per inch.

Read About The Current Requirements To Obtain A Temporary Visa In The United States

These documentary requirements must be prepared before the scheduled Visa interview. During the interview will ask questions on the applicant’s background and some clarificatory questions regarding the documents to make sure that everything is properly filled out and complete.

It is important that the Visa applicant is honest and reveals all necessary information. Any discrepancies may result in the denial of a Visa.

It usually takes weeks to months to process a B1 or Business Visa, depending on the country and the U.S. Embassy’s workload. The B1 Visa is valid for up to six months and during that time, the business for which the Visa was applied for will be taken care of. The visitor may also travel within the United States for rest and relaxation. At the end of the six months, they are expected to return to their home country. 

A Visa extension may be requested, and further letters or documentation from the person’s employer are required to prove that the extension is necessary to complete the company’s business in the United States. As a Temporary Visa holder, the person is not allowed to be employed and be compensated within the U.S. This means that proof of financial capacity must also be presented to prove that the Visa holder has the money needed for an extended stay in the U.S.

  1. Tourist Visa – a Tourist Visa, or a B2 Visa, is issued to a foreign citizen who wishes to visit the United States on a temporary status for pleasure, tourism, visits with friends or family, medical treatment, attend social gatherings hosted by organizations, join music or sports contests that are not paid, and enroll in short courses without credits like cooking classes. 

Most of the requirements for a Tourist Visa are the same as for a Business Visa. Those who are visiting to seek medical treatment must also present letters or documents from doctors citing the diagnosis and required treatments. Students who are looking to do short term courses are required to submit their transcripts and/or diploma. Those visiting friends and family in the U.S. may present an invitation letter from those friends asking them to visit. However, this isn’t a mandatory requirement. 

The B2 Visa is valid for up to 6 months and the visitor is allowed to travel anywhere within the United States during those six months. Upon expiry of the Visa, the foreign citizen must return home. The B2 Visa may be extended for another six months but this  must be applied for at least 42 days before the person’s I-94 card expires. The I-94 card is the form that is attached to the nonimmigrant visitor’s passport upon entering the U.S. It is given by the Customs and Border Patrol officer and is stamped with an expiry date. This date indicates when the holder must leave the country.

Employment Visas

Temporary Visas are also granted to individuals who are looking to enter the United States to work for a specific period. This type of work is not permanent and the individual will have to leave when that period expires. There are several types of temporary Work Visas and for each one, there must be a valid petition by an employer, approved by the U.S. government, before the employee can apply for the Visa.

There are many classifications of temporary Work Visas but the following are the most  common:

  1. H Visas 

H1-B Visas – individuals in specialty occupations with a college degree or higher in a specific academic field. This type of Visa needs a job offer from an employer in the U.S. for a position that needs specialized knowledge and experience. The applicant must provide proof of a bachelor’s degree in the specified field. The employer should also present proof that there was an attempt to fill the position with U.S. applicants but there were none qualified. 

H-2A and H-2B Visas – temporary employees in the agricultural or non-agricultural fields that are needed on a seasonal basis. 

H-3 Visas – meant for individuals that wish to undergo training in any field provided that they only want training in the United States but will be practicing their chosen careers in other countries.

  1. I Visas

These are for members of foreign press, film crews, and other related professions while they are representing any foreign media outlet that has a home office in another country.

  1. L Visas

L Visas are granted to individuals that are temporarily occupying a position within their own company if they are either in management or have specialized expertise. 

  1. O Visas

Persons that are deemed to have extraordinary abilities or achievements in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics are eligible for O Visas. Individuals who have been recognized on a national or international level to have extraordinary achievements in film or television are also eligible for this category of Visas.

  1. P Visas

This category is for individuals that are entering the U.S. for the sole purpose of competing in athletic events. These are internationally-acclaimed athletes or artists and their coaches. Members of a group or team are included. The entry to the U.S. must only be for specified events.

  1. R Visas

This temporary Visa category is available to religious workers of a non-profit religious denomination who are coming to the United States to work for that denomination.


Under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), qualified individuals from Canada and Mexico may be granted nonimmigrant Work Visas. They must be professionals whose professions are eligible under NAFTA regulations. Examples of these professions include attorneys, engineers, teachers, and scientists, among others. 

Foreign citizens looking to enter the United States temporarily may visit the U.S. Embassy in their home country. An embassy official should be able to provide insight on which type of Visa is most appropriate to apply for. A good immigration lawyer can also help figure out the different types of temporary Visas and the applicable type for the Visa applicant. 

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