Foreign nationals entering the United States on a temporary basis are generally required to obtain an appropriate visa prior to entry, unless a waiver is available. The appropriate visa may be a B visa if the foreign national seeks short term entry for certain types of business (B-1 visa) or pleasure (B-2 visa).
Although generally not available for activities involving U.S.-based employment or remuneration, a B-1 visa may be appropriate for foreign nationals entering the United States temporarily for legitimate commercial or professional activities which are incidental to work principally performed outside of the United States. Legitimate commercial or professional activities might include conduction client consultations, negotiating contracts, or attending business meetings, seminars or conferences. A B-1 visa may also be appropriate for domestic helpers or nannies of certain U.S. citizens living abroad or nonimmigrant foreign nationals living in the United States.
A B-2 visa may be appropriate for foreign nationals wishing to enter the United States temporarily for tourism, amusement, visiting friends and relatives or to receive medical treatment.
Visiting foreign nationals of certain designated countries may enter the United States temporarily without a visa under the visa waiver program. Procedure for and requirements of the Visa Waiver Program are distinct from those of the B visa.
Many foreign nationals enter the United States on a temporary basis in order to pursue studies at an approved educational institution. The appropriate visa category in this situation may be an F-1, for academic students, an M-1, for vocational students, or a J-1, for exchange students.
Many foreign nationals enter the United States temporarily each year to engage in U.S.-based employment. Normally it is necessary for the foreign national to first obtain an offer of employment from a U.S. employer/sponsor. There are a number of employment-based, nonimmigrant visas, including H-1B visas for speciality workers, L-1 visas for intracompany transferees, E-1 visas for treaty traders, E-2 visas for treaty investors, E-3 visas for Australian professionals, I visas for Journalists, J-1 visas for certain permitted exchange workers, O visas for persons with extraordinary ability in the arts, athletics, business, education or science, P visas for certain types of performers and athletes, Q visas for certain cultural exchange visitors, R visas for certain religious workers and TN status for qualifying Canadian and Mexican nationals. This list is not exhaustive.
Residence (Green Card)
Permanent residency, or a “green card”, is normally obtained through employment, family or a diversity lottery. Employment-based immigration normally requires a U.S. employer/sponsor and is often subject to preference categories and numerical limitations. Family-based immigration is distinguished by immediate relatives, like a spouse, parent or child, of a U.S. citizen and other preference categories. Although immigration by immediate relatives, like a spouse, parent or child, of a U.S. citizen is not subject to numerical limitations, immigration by foreign nationals in other family-based immigration categories is subject to numerical limitations as well as preference categories. Diversity-based immigration is generally determined by a random drawing of qualifying petitions from nationals of eligible countries received during a designated application period. To qualify, diversity petitioners must have the equivalent of a high school education or at least two years of work experience in an occupation which requires at least two years of experience or training.
U.S. citizenship may be obtained by one of four ways: by birth in the United States or its territories, by birth outside the United States to a U.S. parent, by naturalization or by naturalization of a parent while a child is under age 18. U.S. citizenship by naturalization generally requires a lawfully admitted permanent resident to meet certain residency, physical presence and moral character standards. The residency requirement is normally 5 years, although 3 years is sufficient for spouses of U.S. citizens.