Nonimmigrant visas that allow foreign nationals to enter the U.S. for a temporary stay consist of the largest category of all visas issued to by the U.S. consulates. The main categories are given letter designation in the U.S. CIS regulations. They include: A – career diplomats; B – temporary visitors for business and pleasure; C – foreign nationals in transit; D – crew members; E – treaty traders and investors; F – academic students; G – international organization representatives; H – professional temporary workers; I – foreign media representatives; J – exchange visitors; K-1 – fiancé of U.S. citizens; K-3 – spouse of US citizens; L – intracompany transferees; M – students for non-academic training; O – foreign nationals with extraordinary abilities; P – entertainers; Q – cultural exchange program participants; R – religious workers; S – witnesses and informants; TN – NAFTA professionals; T-visas for persons subject to severe trafficking; U - visas for qualified crime victims; and V – spouse of permanent resident.

The following provides brief summaries of the most popular temporary visa categories:

B-1/B-2 Visitors: Thousands of visitors are issued B-1/B-2 visas to visit the U.S. each year from all over the world. The B-1/B-2 visas are for people who enter the U.S. as temporary tourists for pleasure or family visits, and for business activities such as negotiating commercial transactions and attending business meetings. Temporary visitors for business and pleasure are not allowed to engage in gainful employment in the U.S. and must leave the U.S. when their authorized stay expires.

The “visa waiver pilot program” permits foreign nationals from certain qualified countries to visit the U.S. for a maximum stay of 90 days without obtaining visas. The qualified countries include: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, and Uruguay.

E-Traders and Investors: Foreign nationals who seek to come to the U.S. to engage in trade or investment activities may be admitted on E visas for treaty traders or investors. E-visas are limited to business people from countries that have signed trade or/and investment related treaties with the U. S. For a treaty trader (E-1) visa, the company must demonstrate its business involves in substantial international trade principally between the U. S. and the treaty country of which the foreign worker is a citizen. More than 50% of the total volume of international trade conducted by the company must be between the U.S. and the treaty country. To qualify for a treaty investor E-2 visa, the applicant must prove that she has invested or is in the process of investing a substantial sum of capital in a U.S. business enterprise.

F-1 Academic Students: Many foreign students come to the U.S. to pursue their academic studies. The F-1 visa is for those students who enter the U.S. to pursue a full course of study at a qualified high school, language school, college or university. F-1 students may work on campus, and for off campus employment, they must first obtain employment authorization from the U.S. CIS before accepting employment.

H-1B Professionals: For employment purposes, H-1B is the most popular visa. H-1B visas are issued to foreign temporary workers who are professionals in a specialty occupation. Generally, a three-step analysis is required to determine eligibility for an H-1B visa. First, it must be determined whether the position the foreign national will fill is a professional or specialist occupation. Second, it must be proven that the foreign national is a professional or specialist qualified for the position based on her education and/or work experience. Third, the wages and working conditions offered the foreign national must satisfy the labor condition application (LCA) criteria. The H-1B visa has an initial term of three years, and may be extended for three more years. There are numerical limitations on H-1B visas issued each year.

K-1 Fiancés: Fiancés of U.S. citizens who come to the U.S. for the sole purpose of entering into a marriage within 90 days of their admission are eligible for K-1 fiancé visas. The requirements are: the parties have the legal capacity to marry, the citizen and her fiancé met each other in person within two years of filing the petition, and the fiancé is otherwise admissible to the U.S. or eligible for a waiver of any ground of statutory inadmissibility. The application process consists of two steps: the U.S. citizen must first file a petition for her fiancée, and after its approval, the fiancé needs to apply for a K-1 visa at the U.S. consulate. A person who enters under a K-1 visa is not eligible to change to another nonimmigrant status.

L-1 Executives, Managers and Specialized Knowledge Employees: The L-1 visa for intracompany transferees is designed to facilitate entry into the U.S. multinational corporate executives and managers, or persons with specialized knowledge. The foreign national must have been employed abroad by the parent, branch, or subsidiary of the U.S. business continuously for one year out of the prior three years. “Managers” are usually people who manage a function or oversee a component of a company; establish the goals and policies of an organization or a major part or function of an organization; exercise wide latitude of discretionary decision-making; and who receive only general supervision or direction from higher-level executives. “Employees with specialized knowledge” refer to those with knowledge of the company product and its application in international markets or with an advanced level of knowledge of processes and procedures of the company. The L-1 visa has no annual numerical limitations, and the visa-holder may remain in the United States for a period of five to seven years. The spouse and children of the L-1 visa-holder are admitted as L-2s, and they are permitted to work.