In order to enter the United States, a citizen of a foreign country must generally get either a nonimmigrant visa for temporary stay or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. There are visas for visitors, business travelers, temporary workers, students, and permanent residency visas. The type of visa you need is based on the purpose of your travel.

Visas for conditional and permanent residency are reserved for family based immigration, employment based immigration, special immigrants, Cuban immigrants and Vietnam Amerasian immigrants. Additionally there are two special visas which offer conditional and permanent residency.

The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program makes a certain number of diversity visas (DVs) available annually. These are drawn from random selection among all entries to qualifying persons from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. This diversity visa is also known as the “Lottery Visa”

The Employment Creation of Investor (EB5 visa) is available to immigrants who invest $1,000,000, or in some cases $500,000, in a new business which employs at least 10 people full-time. The immigrant must be involved in the daily operation or policy formation of the business.

Non-Immigrant VISA ABC
If you enter the United States with a non-immigrant visa, you may be able to convert that to permanent residency according to the rules of the individual visa you hold. The following alphabetical list identifies the various visas for travel and temporary residency in the United States. Many of these visas also have derivative visas which, depending on the visa, may be available to spouses, children and/or employees of the principal visa holder.

“A”Officials in foreign governments. For an A-1 or A-2 visa, you must be traveling to the United States on behalf of your national government to engage solely in official activities for that government.

“B”Visitor Visa. Non immigrant temporary visa for visitors traveling for business or pleasure

“C”- Transit Visa; allows foreign nationals to enter and travel in and out of the United States on their way to another country. This visa has an immediate and continuous travel requirement.

“D” – Crewmember Visa; reserved for crewmembers serving on board a sea vessel or aircraft in the United States. Must intend to depart on same vessel within 29 days

 “E” – Treaty Trader (E1) and Treaty Investors (E2). Alien’s country must be part of treaty. For those entering the U.S. to carry on substantial trade between the U.S and the traveler’s home country or developing and directing the operations of an enterprise in which the alien has substantial investment. (“E3” – Australian in Specialty Occupation)

“F” – Student Visa; Must be accepted in an approved school; Good for as long as you are a full-time student

"G"International Organizations & NATO; For diplomats and government officials

“H”- Temporary worker; For persons in specialty occupations, agriculture workers, and trainees

"I"– Journalist, Media, Press; a nonimmigrant visa for representatives of the foreign media temporarily traveling to the United States (U.S.), to engage in their profession while having their home office in a foreign country.

“J”- Exchange Visitor; issued to people who will be participating in an educational or cultural exchange program; Waiver for the 2 year foreign residency requirement is available

“K”- Fiancée Visa; for fiancées of American Citizens. Recipient must marry American citizen petitioner within 90 days; Can also be used for the spouse of a US citizen

“L” - Intracompany Transferees;  must have been continuously employed abroad for 1 year, within the three preceding years, and will be employed by a branch, parent, affiliate, or subsidiary of that same employer in the U.S. in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity

“M” – Non Academic Student; For students attending vocational or other recognized nonacademic institutions, other than a language training program

“N”Deriviative visa for parents and minor children of certain employees and officers of international organizations and NATO employees

“O”- Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or extraordinary achievements in the motion picture and television field;

“P”- Individual or Team Athletes, or Members of an Entertainment group that are internationally recognized; also for artists or entertainment performing under reciprocal exchange program or programs that are unique

“Q”- allows Participants in an International Cultural Exchange Program to enter for the purpose of providing practical training, employment, and the sharing of the history, culture, and traditions of the person’s home country

“R”Religious Worker Visa; allows foreign nationals in religious occupations to enter into the U.S. for the purpose of performing the duties of a religious worker.

“S” – also known as the Snitch Visa; for persons who aid U.S. law enforcement to investigate and prosecute crimes and terrorist activities

“T” – Trafficking Victims Visa; for persons who are or have been victims of human trafficking and are willing to assist law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of acts of trafficking. Category was created in 2000 when Congress passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (VTVPA).

“U” – Victims Visa; for victims of specific crimes who cooperate with law enforcement. Category was created in 2002 when Congress passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (VTVPA).

“V”Spouse or child of Legal Permanent Resident. For some with pending or approved visas which have been delayed. Must have filed the petition before December 21, 2000.