Determine Which Type of U.S. Visa Is Right for You

passport and US visa background
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Citizens of most foreign countries must obtain a visa to enter the U.S. There are two general classifications of U.S. visas: nonimmigrant visas for temporary stays, and immigrant visas to live and work permanently in the U.S. 

Temporary Visitors: Nonimmigrant US Visas

Temporary visitors to the U.S. must obtain a nonimmigrant visa. This type of visa allows you to travel to a U.S. port-of-entry. If you are a citizen of a country that's part of the Visa Waiver Program, you may come to the U.S. without a visa if you meet certain requirements.

There are a number of reasons why someone would come to the U.S. on a temporary visa, including tourism, business, medical treatment and certain types of temporary work.

The State Department lists the most common U.S. visa categories for temporary visitors. These include:

  • Australian (E-3) in Specialty Occupation
  • Border Crossing Card - Mexican Travelers
  • Business, Tourist, and Visitors
  • Chile Free Trade Agreement (FTA) Professional
  • Diplomats and Government Officials
  • Exchange Visitors
  • Fiancé(e) to Marry U.S. Citizen/Spouse
  • International Organizations & NATO
  • Media & Journalists
  • Mexican and Canadian NAFTA Professional Worker
  • Religious Workers
  • Singapore Free Trade Agreement (FTA) Professional
  • Students
  • Temporary Workers Overview
  • Treaty Traders & Treaty Investors
  • Visa Renewals

Living and Working in the U.S. Permanently: Immigrant US Visas

To live permanently in the U.S., an immigrant visa is required. The first step is to petition the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to allow the beneficiary to apply for an immigrant visa. Once approved, the petition is forwarded to the National Visa Center for processing. The National Visa Center then provides instructions regarding forms, fees, and other required documents to complete the visa application. Learn more about US visas and find out what you need to do to file for one and how long the process will take.

The major immigrant US visa categories include:


The U.S. Department of State

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McFadyen, Jennifer. "Determine Which Type of U.S. Visa Is Right for You." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, McFadyen, Jennifer. (2021, February 16). Determine Which Type of U.S. Visa Is Right for You. Retrieved from McFadyen, Jennifer. "Determine Which Type of U.S. Visa Is Right for You." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 2, 2023).