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What Kind of Visa Do I Need?

Thousands of people want to immigrate to the United States each year, but the legal process for doing so can be complicated and confusing. In order to give you a better idea of which option is right for you, we explain the differences between some of the most common U.S. visas.

Immigrant Visas/ Green Cards

Immigrant visas, also known as green cards, allow those who qualify to maintain permanent residency in the United States. Under federal law, there are two types of green cards – those subject to numerical limitations, and those not subject to numerical limitations.

Visas Subject to Numerical Limitations

This type of visa is available for those sponsored by an employer, a non-immediate family member, or granted on behalf of U.S. diversity efforts.

The following are family-sponsored qualifications:

  • Unmarried children/grandchildren of U.S. citizens
  • Unmarried children or spouse of a legal permanent resident
  • Married children, as well as their spouses and children, of U.S. citizens
  • Siblings, as well as their spouses and children, of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old

In order to obtain this visa under the employment category, your employer must sponsor you as one of the following:

  • Necessary, unskilled worker
  • Priority worker
  • Skilled professional without advanced education
  • Professional with extraordinary or exceptional ability and advanced education
  • Specialty immigrant, such as religious workers or U.S. government employees
  • Investors

You may also obtain this visa via the diversity lottery. In an effort to increase diversity, the government sets aside a small number of visas to randomly distribute to applicants in underrepresented countries. It grants a green card to about 55,000 applicants per year through this program. In order to qualify for this lottery, you must have a high-school equivalent education or have worked within an industry requiring a minimum of 2 years training.

Only a certain number of these visas are available per country per year, making them more difficult to obtain than non-immigrant visas.

Visas Not Subject to Numerical Limitations
If you are applying for a green card with sponsorship from a close relative, such as the child of a U.S. citizen, you may qualify for this type of immigrant visa. Additionally, the parent of a U.S. citizen or the spouse of a U.S. citizen may qualify for this visa. Unlike visas subject to numerical limitations, the number of these visas granted each year is not limited.

Non-Immigrant Visas

Unlike immigrant visas, non-immigrant visas are subject to time limits. After receiving a non-immigrant visa, you may only have a certain amount of time to spend in the U.S. or to reapply for your continued residency. Below, we explore a few common non-immigrant visas and their requirements.

H-1B Visas

H-1B visas are reserved for applicants who are offered employment in a “specialty” occupation within the United States. You must show expertise in the field, with a minimum education equivalent of a bachelor’s degree. Additionally, the U.S. employer sponsoring you must offer the same employment conditions equivalent to their U.S. employees.

O-1 Visas

This type of visa allows for those of extraordinary ability, talent or achievement to travel and work within the United States. In order to qualify for an O-1 visa, you must show your success and achievements within your area of specialty. These areas include: science, education, and athletics.

Unlike other non-immigrant visas, if you receive an O-1 visa, you do not have to maintain a foreign residence while in the United States, nor do you have to show your intent to return to your home country. Additionally, this visa allows for your dependents to travel with you to the U.S. and allows for travel in and out of the country.


An L-1A visa allows for an executive or manager of a foreign business to travel to a United States-based location of the business. Executives can also use this visa to set up a foreign business office in the United States.

EB-5 Visas

Foreign investors looking to come to the United States may qualify for an EB-5 visa. As one of the most flexible non-immigrant visas, it allows you to permanently work and retire within the United States, and it allows your partner and any children under the age of 21 to come live with you.

Additionally, if you apply for an immigrant visa under an EB-5, you do not need an employer or family member to sponsor you. If you obtain a green card through an EB-5 visa, you may apply for U.S. citizenship after 5 years.

In order to qualify for this visa, the investor must show their intent to invest a minimum amount of $500,000 in a geographic area that needs more employment opportunities. You may also qualify if you invest $1,000,000 in a new commercial company, and said company creates 10 or more full-time positions for U.S. citizens.

F-1 or M-1 Student Visas

If you are looking to study within the United States, you will need a student visa. If you are looking to attend a college or university, you must obtain an F-1 student visa. If you intend to study at a vocational school, you will need an M-1 visa.

Many universities encourage foreign students to contact their international office or a local immigration attorney to help secure your education opportunity.

B-1 or B-2 Visas

If none of the above visas fit your specific situation and you are looking to temporarily stay in the United States, a B visa may be right for you. Specifically, this visa allows immigrants to enter the country for business (B-1), or to travel as a tourist or to seek medical treatment (B-2.)

If You Are Looking to Apply for a Visa, Contact Our Pocatello Immigration Attorneys.

Immigration laws are constantly changing, making it difficult to know which visa you need. Don’t worry – our Pocatello immigration lawyers stay up to date on the latest immigration laws and can help you throughout the entire application process. At May, Rammell & Wells, we believe every client deserves the opportunity to live and work within the United States. Discuss your immigration case with one of our attorneys today.

Call (208) 623-8021 today, or fill out our contact form, to request an immigration consultation.

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