Immigrant and Nonimmigrant Visa: The Differences Explained

The United States immigration laws are constructed upon the following principles: reuniting families, admitting immigrants who are advantageous to the American economy, protecting refugees, and increasing diversity in America. The United States immigration laws are controlled by the  Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, also known as INA. The INA allows the United States to grant about 650,000 immigration visas per year spread across the various immigration visa categories. However, the annual numerical limits do not apply when granting visas to spouses of citizens, unmarried children of citizens under the age of 21, and parents of citizens who are 21 and over.

Types of Visas?

There are two different types of visas that are issued to foreign individuals who wish to reside in the United States. These visas primarily depend on if the residency will be permanent or temporary. The first type of visa is the Immigrant visa. Immigrant visas are issued to individuals who wish to permanently reside in the United States. Then there are Nonimmigrant visas, these are visas granted to individuals who wish to travel to the United States on a temporary basis. Nonimmigrant visas are issued to people traveling for tourism, medical treatment, education, temporary work, business, and other situations similar to the ones listed.

Nonimmigrant Visa

Nonimmigrant visas are granted based upon immigration laws and focus primarily on an individual’s purpose of travel. An individual will apply for a nonimmigrant visa directly with the U.S. consulate or embassy abroad for a tourism or employment visa. However, if the travels are related to school or work, additional documentation and authorization is required before the nonimmigrant visa is granted.

Nonimmigrant visas are conditional and bind the individual to certain regulations to prevent removal of the visa. For example, if you are a foreign exchange student and you are in the U.S. with a temporary visa, you must remain enrolled in courses, otherwise, you are subject to deportation. Moreover, an individual who is granted a nonimmigrant visa for employment cannot apply to other jobs. They must be employed by the same employer whom the visa was granted for.

Immigrant Visa

An immigration visa is granted to individuals who intend on living in the United States. Eligible applicants for immigrant visas include immediate family of U.S. citizens, individuals employed in the U.S., orphans adopted by U.S. citizens, and individuals applying for diversity visas. Special immigrants are individuals who are granted visas for specific situations. Some examples of Special immigrants include, ministers of religion, certain retired NATO-6 civilians, certain foreign medical graduates, and certain unmarried children of international organization employees.

After applying and being granted with an immigration visa in the United States, an individual is considered a lawful permanent resident. A lawful permanent resident is also known as a green card holder. Some individuals who are noncitizens and already living in the United States may be granted with a lawful permanent residency through a process known as adjustment of status. This means that they are eligible for a green card without having to return to their home country to complete visa processing. The adjustment of status process takes about 8 to 14 months.

Lawful permanent residents are not bound to the same conditions that nonimmigrant visa holders are. One of the only conditions that can remove a lawful permanent resident is being convicted of a crime. Lawful permanent residents are eligible to apply for all jobs, with the exclusion of jobs that require valid U.S. citizenships. However, they are not required to work as there are no conditions to their residency in the U.S. Lawful permanent residents may also own property, receive financial assistance, and join the U.S. Armed Forces. Additionally, Lawful permanent residents are eligible to apply for citizenship once they have been residents in the United States for five years. Individuals who have not been granted with lawful permanent residency can not apply for citizenship, regardless of the amount of years they have lived in the U.S.

In Conclusion

The application process can be confusing and stressful. There are several steps and loopholes that the average individual is not aware of. At TEZ Law Group, our attorneys are familiar with the process and can explain it to you every step of the way. Make your application process easy and reach out to our office to make your application process smooth and successful.