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The Alphabet Soup of Visas

At Antonini & Cohen, we work with many clients who are obtaining temporary visas for themselves or for family members. But there are almost as many visas as there are letters in the alphabet—thus, the “alphabet soup” of visas. Immigration attorneys work with clients to sort through this soup, petitioning for the visa that best suits their situation, or helping clients better understand the uses and limitations of a particular visa. 

Here’s the alphabet soup of visas, from A to W. 

A – A visas, or diplomatic visas, are for foreign government officials, their families and sometimes their personal employees. 

B – B visas are one of the most common types, and they include visitors for business (B-1) and tourism (B-2). The business visa isn’t for those entering the U.S. to work, however. Instead, it’s for individuals looking to attend meetings, seminars or training sessions.  

C –The transit visa is for people passing through the United States on their way to another destination. 

D – D visas are for air or sea crewmembers passing through the United States. Most commonly, we’ll see this visa associated with people who work on cruise ships. However, D visas do come with some complicating factors for those seeking to obtain green cards through marriage, making it essential to speak with an immigration attorney if you’re trying to change your status.

F – F visas are for students and their families. We call this the “gateway visa” for obtaining other types of work visas later on. F visas typically do not include work options, though there is some flexibility, including the opportunity to participate in internships.  

G – This visa is for employees of international organizations, like the International Committee of the Red Cross. 

H – H visas, meant for temporary workers, are one of the most common types. They include visas for professionals (H-1B), nurses (H-1C), agricultural workers (H-2A), seasonal workers (H-2B) and trainees (H-3). There’s even a specialized visa meant for professionals from Chile or Singapore (H-1B1) as part of a free trade agreement. 

I – The I visa is for representatives of the international media. 

J – An Antonini & Cohen favorite, the J visa is an exchange visa meant to facilitate individuals coming to the United States, gaining skills, creating bonds and taking what they learned back home again. It’s a wide category, including some international exchange students, foreign doctors seeking graduate medical training, professors and researchers, scholars, camp counselors, individuals in the hospitality industry and au pairs. It is important to understand that most J visas require the foreign national to return home for two years before transitioning to another visa type. 

K – K visas are for fiancés and fiancées of U.S. citizens (K-1), their children (K-2), spouses of U.S. citizens (K-3), and their children (K-4).  

L – L visas are for intracompany transfers of managers and executives (L-1A) or workers with specialized knowledge (L-1B). These visas are tricky to obtain, especially those based on specialized knowledge. To successfully receive an L-1B visa, you have to show that your knowledge is unique to the company you work for and that your job couldn’t easily be taken on by a U.S. citizen. 

M – The M visa is for students of language or vocational schools. 

N – The N visa is for the parents or children of special immigrants.

O – O visas are for people with extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, athletics, education or business (O-1) and their support personnel (O-2). We jokingly call it the “I am so great visa,” as you have to demonstrate that you are at the very top of your field. It does offer a great way to get around some of the limitations of other visa types. 

P – The P visa is for athletes, entertainment groups and orchestras, as well as their support teams. 

Q – The Q visa is a special variety of exchange visa for foreign nationals entering the U.S. to participate in cultural festivals or exchange programs. 

R – A common visa type among Antonini & Cohen clients, the R visa is for religious workers. 

S  – The S visa may be granted for those providing critical information to the U.S. government regarding organized crime or terrorism. It requires a government entity’s sponsorship. 

T  – There are two, unrelated types of T visas. The first, the TN visa, is a work visa for people from Mexico or Canada. The second, the T visa, is for victims of human or labor trafficking. This visa requires the participation of law enforcement and can provide protection for victims. 

U  – The U visa is for the victims of certain types of serious crime. It can be helpful in protecting victims and offering them some security as they work with law enforcement.

W – The WB visa is a waiver for business travelers. The WT visa is a waiver for tourist visas. Both allow foreign nationals from certain countries to enter the U.S. without a visa. 

Understanding the provisions of your visa is important. If you plan to transition to a different type of visa, or if you’re looking to obtain a visa for family members abroad, please call us at (404) 850-9394 or visit us online.

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