Visas for the USA

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Regardless of whether foreigners are travelling to the USA on holiday or making a more permanent move to take up a new job, it is important to be aware of the different types of visas available for the USA.

Visitor visas for the USA

picture of passport for visa in the USAThe USA has a visa waiver programme which allows nationals of certain countries to be present in the USA for up to 90 days for holiday or business without a visa. Many countries participate in this programme. Before applying for a tourist visa, expats should check to see if their home country is included on this list of visa-waiver countries.
Those who are travelling to the USA as a tourist or on a business trip and are not eligible for the visa waiver programme will require a visitor visa. This visa is designed for temporary stays by international visitors and allows entry for those wishing to come to the USA to do business (a B1 visa), those visiting as a tourist (a B2 visa), or a combination of both (B1/B2 visa).
All applicants must prove that they are only intending to stay in the USA for the short term by showing evidence of funds to cover their expenses, evidence of compelling economic and social ties abroad and evidence that they have a residence outside of the USA.

Temporary work visas for the USA

Those wanting to work in the USA need a specific visa based on whichever type of work they will be involved in as there are eleven categories. However, most expats are likely to apply for either the H-1B or the L visa. The H-1B visa is for people taking up positions in speciality occupations, i.e. workers with specific skills and knowledge who have completed higher education. The L visa is for intra-company transferees: employees of international companies who have been transferred to a branch within the USA.

Permanent residence in the USA

To stay permanently in the USA, expats will need to acquire a Permanent Resident Card, otherwise known as a Green Card. In order to get permission to apply for a Green Card, expats will need someone to sponsor or petition for them. Most often this is an employer or family member in the US. Employers acting as sponsors will need to submit Form I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker), while relatives acting as sponsors must submit Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) to the relevant authorities. In most cases, the expat being sponsored can file Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) at the same time. If the petition is approved, expats can then make their application for permanent residence. Expats will need to attend a biometrics appointment and an interview before a final decision is made.

*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

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