Each year, more than 30.0 million people come to the United States as non-immigrants. A non-immigrant is a foreign national seeking to enter the U.S. for a temporary period of time and for a specific purpose or activity. The Immigration and Nationality Act includes more than twenty different non-immigrant classifications, most of which are broken down into several subclassifications. All of the non-immigrant categories have alphabetic designations (A, B, C, D, etc.) which correspond to the section of the law where they are defined.
In general, foreign nationals seeking temporary admission to the U.S. must first apply for a visa at the American Embassy or Consulate in their home country. Citizens of Canada are, in most cases, exempt from the visa requirement. In addition, citizens of roughly thirty countries, including most European countries, Japan, Australia and a few others, are eligible to travel to the U.S. as visitors for business (B-1) or visitors for pleasure (B-2) without first obtaining a visa in their passport. This is referred to as Visa Waiver. Persons who enter the U.S. on Visa Waiver may not extend their stay or change to any other visa classification.
By far, the most frequently used non-immigrant classification is the B-2, or visitor for pleasure. Nearly 75% of all non-immigrant admissions are visitors for pleasure, including tourists and those coming for family reasons. Another 15% of all non-immigrant admissions are visitors for business. This includes persons employed outside the U.S. coming to negotiate transactions, participate in trade shows and conferences, engage in meetings and consultations, meet with business associates and to engage in other activities related to their overseas employment. Visitors for business are not allowed to be employed in the U.S.
Four additional non-immigrant visa classifications represent an additional 7.5% of all non-immigrant admissions. These include temporary workers and trainees and their families, classified as H-1B, H-2A, H-2B, H-3 and H-4 non-immigrants, foreign students and their families, who hold F-1 and F-2 status, intra-company transferees and their families, classified as L-1A, L-1B and L-2 non-immigrants and exchange visitors and their families, who hold J-1 and J-2 status. The remaining classifications of non-immigrant admission include fiances, artists, athletes and entertainers, religious workers, treaty traders and investors, journalists, employees of foreign governments and international organizations and a number of infrequently used, special purpose visa categories.
In this time of heightened concerns over national security, improvements in database technology have helped to improve the screening of foreign visitors. However, it is important to remember that America has benefited from its relatively open borders and has gained immeasurably from the flow of foreign visitors, goods and ideas into this country. While it is important to protect our borders from those who would do us harm, at the Law Office of Matthew I. Hirsch we recognize that shutting out the world by limiting non-immigrant admissions is bad for our country, our economy and our culture as an open society.
To explore your questions about non-immigrant visas, including visas for visitors, foreign students, temporary workers, investors, fiances, exchange visitors, artists, entertainers and athletes and religious workers, please contact the Law Office of Matthew I. Hirsch.