3 Essential Visa Types Immigrants Need to Know

There are several different types of visas. Some visas are only good for a limited amount of time and have a limited ability for renewal. Others are dual intent, where they start out as temporary but can be adjusted to a permanent residency path. Finally, in many cases, getting the appropriate visa will not only bring the applicant to the U.S., but allow their close family members to come along as well.

Those who are from other countries and are looking to develop or share their talents/skills within the U.S. often seek out a visa to meet their goal; however, looking at every possible visa is a bit like drowning in alphabet soup.

Therefore, we’ve put together a list of the three more common visas that were developed especially for those who want to study in the U.S., gain early experience in their field, or share their “extraordinary ability” with those who live in the U.S.

F-1 Student Visa

The F-1 Student Visa is exclusively for academic students ” at an accredited college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school, or other academic institution or in a language training program.”

These visas are usually issued for a period of one year, and can be extended for up to an additional 17 months. F-1 Visas are among the fastest to process, usually only taking a few weeks.

Students with an F-1 visa also have the option of applying for the Optional Practical Training program, which will let them gain a year of work experience in their field of study.

Finally, married students can bring their spouses along with them if their spouse meets the requirements for the F-2 visa. However, spouses of F-1 visa holders are not allowed to work in the U.S. while they are here.

Important: The F-1 Student Visa is not a dual intent visa. The assumption is that the student will return to their home country once the visa expires.

J-1 Internship Visa

Several companies in the U.S. support promising workers from other countries who want to gain work experience through an internship. The J-1 Internship Visa is an option for three different groups:

>College or university students
>Recent graduates from a university
>Individuals with at least five years of work experience

Regardless of which option is best for an individual, this visa is designed for temporary training purposes, and the internship is not considered to be regular employment.

An internship under a J-1 visa can last a maximum of one year and requires a company sponsorship. Visa renewals are possible as long as the visa is still valid.

If the J-1 visa does expire, there is a waiting period of two years before the individual will be able to qualify for another J-1 visa, unless the individual meets exemption requirements.

Married J-1 visa holders may also bring the spouses with them, if their spouse qualifies for a J-2 visa. Unlike F-2 visa holders, J-2 visa holders are allowed to work within the U.S.

For both the J-1 and J-2 visa, the processing time is usually between 1-2 months.

Important: The J-1 Internship Visa is not a dual intent visa. The assumption is that the student will return to their home country once the visa expires.

O-1 Extraordinary Ability Visa

O-1 Extraordinary Ability Visas are reserved for those who are considered to have an “extraordinary ability” in their field, regardless of whether they have a college degree. However, all applicants must have good references, with the application requiring 8-10 accomplished individuals within the applicant’s field to vouch for the applicant’s expertise.

In addition to references, there is a list of specific criteria the applicant must meet that demonstrates their extraordinary ability. Applicants must meet at least three of those criteria. Some examples include:

>Having work published about them in major media outlets or publications
>Service as a judge, either individually or on a panel, of other’s work
>Making an original contribution that is significant to their field
>Authoring scholarly articles published in major media outlets
>Having a leading or critical role in reputable organizations
>Earning a higher salary than others in their field

Aside from the requirements above, O-1 visas require U.S. company to sponsor the applicant, and the processing time is usually 1-2 months.

O-1 visas are usually good for three years at a time and can be renewed as many times as the applicant can retain the sponsorship of their company.

O-1 visa holders are also eligible to bring their spouses to the U.S. if their spouse is able to obtain an O-3 visa. Spouses, however, are not allowed to work in the U.S.

Important: Unlike the other two visas, an O-1 visa does assume dual intent, meaning that the applicant can eventually move towards a permanent residency path.

Note: This post was originally published on 10/8/15 and has been updated as of 11/12/19.

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Disclaimer: Nothing in relation to the enclosed information should be construed and or considered as legal advice for any individual, entity, case, or situation. The following information is prepared for advertisement use only. The information is intended ONLY to be general and should not be relied upon for any specific situation. For legal advice on your specific situation, we encourage you to consult an attorney experienced in the area of Immigration Law.