What is Visa Law? U.S. Visa law is a subset of U.S. Immigration law. U.S. visas permit entry into and travel within the country. There are two main types of visas in the U.S. Immigrant visas are issued to individuals seeking to relocate to the U.S. permanently and are more closely related to Immigration law. Non-immigrant visas are for visitors traveling to the U.S. for a specific time period. When visitors from another country want to enter the U.S. temporarily, they must apply for a non-immigrant visa, which is an official authorization that’s attached to their passport.
Visa law covers the procedures required to obtain a non-immigrant visa and oversees various agencies. The U.S. Department of State (DOS) manages consulates and embassies around the world, where applicants must begin the visa application process. Visa law also determines grounds of inadmissibility, such as a history of drug abuse, terrorist or criminal activities, and infectious medical problems, which preclude individuals with these characteristics or behaviors from entering the U.S.
The many types of non-immigrant visas are categorized by the purpose of the applicant’s visit to the U.S. and vary in the length of time for which they may be issued. Although these visas are issued expiration dates based on the applicable laws, most can be extended more than once. There are many classifications of visitors to the U.S., which include some of the following: NATO and foreign government officials, students, temporary workers and trainees, intra-company transferees, religious workers, international representatives, visitors for business and for pleasure, representatives of foreign information media, treaty traders and investors, fiancés of U.S. citizens, and aliens in transit through the U.S. Business people and students compose the largest percentage. Spouses and unmarried minor or dependent children may usually accompany or join non-immigrant visa holders.
There are some visitors who do not require a visa if they are from one of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries and are only visiting for up to 90 days for business or pleasure. Visitors who meet these VWP requirements will be issued green I-94 cards which cannot be extended, and they may not change their status.
U.S. Visa Definition
A U.S. visa is an official authorization added to a passport, which permits entry into and travel within the U.S. Citizens of a foreign country who seek to enter the U.S. for a limited period of time must comply with U.S. visa immigration law and specific procedures to apply for a nonimmigrant visa. They must submit an application, or often a series of applications, to one or more of the U.S. agencies responsible for carrying out the immigration laws. Usually part, if not all, of the visa application process must be done in the country where the applicant resides, at a consulate or embassy managed by the U.S. Department of State (DOS). For the protection of the United States, people with histories of criminal or terrorist activities, drug abuse, infectious medical problems, or certain other characteristics or behavior will never be allowed a visa, green card, or U.S. entry. In immigration law terms, these characteristics are known as the grounds of inadmissibility.
There are several types of nonimmigrant visas, which are classified by the reason the visitor is seeking to enter the U.S. These include: foreign government officials, visitors for business and for pleasure, aliens in transit through the United States, treaty traders and investors, students, international representatives, temporary workers and trainees, representatives of foreign information media, exchange visitors, fiancés of US citizens, intra-company transferees, NATO officials, religious workers, and some others. Most nonimmigrants can be accompanied or joined by spouses and unmarried minor, or dependent, children. Students and businesspeople make up the largest groups of nonimmigrant visa holders.
Nonimmigrant visas allow the visitor to enter the United States and to engage in certain activities while there. Just as nonimmigrant visas vary in purpose, they also vary as to how long they last. Each nonimmigrant visa is given an expiration date according to what the law allows. Most can also be extended a certain number of times.
A visa is not necessary for short-term visitors from one of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries. The DOS's Bureau of Consular Affairs provides a list of countries that participate in the VWP on it's website. Nationals from these countries can come to the U.S. for up to 90 days for business or pleasure purposes. Visitors coming to the U.S. under the VWP will be given green-colored I-94 cards. They cannot extend their stay or change their status.
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Articles on HG.org Related to Visa Law
- Which Visa’s for me — the K1 or K3?U.S. citizens looking to bring their partner into the country on a K Visa must decide whether to apply for the K1 or the K3 Visa. The answer to this will depend on the particulars of each case, but knowledge of the differences between the K1 and K3 will be helpful for unsure applicants.
- Can’t Buy Me Love – Overcoming the Sham Marriage Visa DenialPermanent Residence Through Marriage
- Recent Changes to Religious Worker Visa ProcessingR-1s and I-360 Special Immigrant Religious Workers
- All Immigration Law Articles
Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Immigration including: extradition, green cards, naturalization and citizenship, visas, work permits and visas.
Visa Law - US
- Immigration Amnesty
The proposed immigration amnesty would benefit the 12 to 20 million undocumented aliens (illegal immigrants) currently living in the United States. An amnesty for illegal aliens forgives their acts of illegal immigration and implicitly forgives other related illegal acts such as driving and working with false documents. The result of an amnesty is that large numbers of foreigners who illegally gained entry into the United States are rewarded with legal status (Green Card) for breaking immigration laws.
- Immigration Laws, Regulations and Guides
This page provides information on laws, regulations and interpretations controlling immigration and the work of the immigration-related bureaus of the Department of Homeland Security. You can explore agency and judicial interpretations of those laws. You can also find handbooks and guides used by immigration officers in performing their mission as well as guides created to help you through the immigration process.
- US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the government agency that oversees lawful immigration to the United States of America. We establish immigration services, policies and priorities to preserve America's legacy as a nation of immigrants while ensuring that no one is admitted who is a threat to public saftey.
- US Department of State - Citizenship and Nationality
Persons born outside of the U.S may acquire U.S. citizenship under certain circumstances. This section of the US Department of State provides all policies on citizenship and nationality.
- Visa and Entry Procedures - Department of Homeland Security
The Department of State issues visas to foreign nations seeking to visit or immigrate to the United States. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is charged with admitting persons seeking entry to the United States for short term visits or immigration. Immigrants to the United States will interact with the Department of Homeland Security to apply for Legal Permanent Residence (Green Cards) and during the naturalization process.
- Visa Information - Department of State
Official United States visa information source. Before traveling to the U.S., a citizen of a foreign country must generally obtain a nonimmigrant visa for temporary stay or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. The type of visa you will need is based on the purpose of your travel.
Visa Law - Europe
- Austria Immigration and Citizenship Law
Recent political developments in Austria have many companies wary of bringing non-EEA nationals into Austria. However, for all the political hot air, there hasn't been any actual change in immigration law or procedure. Properly formatted and documented applications will still be approved irrespective of the nationality of the candidate.
- Belgium Asylum and Immigration Policies
The FPS Foreign Affairs aims to develop, monitor and outline guidelines for the administration, progression, development and coordination of Belgium's foreign policy on asylum and immigration. It also aims to develop guidelines on how to tackle human trafficking and people smuggling. The FPS Foreign Affairs promotes a coherent approach to the external aspects of immigration and asylum policy and identifies the contributions Belgian migration policy can make towards stabilising certain regions. This results in a coherent approach to the various elements of Belgian foreign policy.
- Bulgaria Immigration and Citizenship Policies
Directorate “Bulgarian Citizenship” is a specialized administration within the structure of the Ministry of Justice and has the following basic functions: 1. Accepts applications and proposals concerning Bulgarian citizenship files respective correspondence. 2. Sends the correspondence for coordination with the interested institutions. 3. Makes preparations for the meetings of the Citizenship Council and prepares the draft records.
- European Immigration Laws
The issue of immigration within Europe centres upon the rights afforded to European Citizens. In 1957, the European Economic Community signed a treaty affording European citizens the freedom of movement within the European Community. The Treaty of Rome was a means of promoting labor mobility within in Europe and most importantly workers' rights were afforded to their families as well.
- Treaty of Maastricht on European Union
The Treaty on European Union (TEU) represents a new stage in European integration since it opens the way to political integration. It creates a European Union consisting of three pillars: the European Communities, Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), and police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters (JHA). The Treaty introduces the concept of European citizenship, reinforces the powers of the European Parliament and launches economic and monetary union (EMU). Besides, the EEC becomes the European Community (EC).
- United Kingdom Home Office - Passports and Immigration
We're the government department responsible for immigration and nationality. It's our job to regulate entry to, and settlement in, the UK. This section explains how to obtain passports and visas, provides links to information sources about migrating to the UK, and the latest on ID cards.
Visa Law - International
- Canadian Citizenship & Immigration Resource Center (CCIRC) Inc.
Immigration to Canada serves as the foundation for continued economic growth and which brings people, customs and traditions, rituals and culture to the forefront of current Government policy. Each of the provinces in Canada has authority to implement their own provincial immigration programs (PNP). Canada is a land of opportunity and abounds with economic prosperity, sound and affordable education options, world renown health care and retirement schemes, an abundance of land, clean air and fresh water supplies, all providing for a safe and secure environment. Embrace your future and bring the heritage of your past to a place where you and your family will be proud to refer to as home – Canada!
- Mexican Visas and Immigration
Like many industrialized nations, Mexico has a comprehensive legal and statutory Immigration Policy affecting Mexicans and foreign nationals. This guide gives a comprehensive overview of the Mexican immigration system and outlines the principal visas and options open to persons seeking to visit Mexico for leisure, for retirement, for living, working as well as those seeking permanent residence in Mexico or Mexican Citizenship.
- Visa Law International
A global economy demands global solutions to business and employment migration. Visalaw International is the first worldwide alliance of immigration lawyers. Member firms work with each other to help individuals and companies navigate the myriad of complex immigration laws around the world.
- Visas, Immigration and Refugees - Australian Government
For people who want to visit, work, study or live in Australia. Includes details of Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian Program. Includes information for employers about sponsoring skilled people to work in Australia.
Organizations Related to Visa Law
- American Immigration Lawyers Association - AILA
The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.
- European Migration Network (EMN)
The overall objective of the EMN is to improve the availability of, and access to, information concerning migration and asylum at European and Member State level in order to support policy- and decision-making in the EU. This will involve providing the Community, its Member States and, as a longer term objective, the wider public with objective, reliable and comparable information on the migration and asylum situation.
- Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)
The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) is a national, nonprofit, public-interest, membership organization of concerned citizens who share a common belief that our nation's immigration policies must be reformed to serve the national interest.
- International Center for Migration, Ethnicity and Citizenship (ICMEC)
The International Center for Migration, Ethnicity, and Citizenship (ICMEC) is a collaborative undertaking involving scholars and researchers from The New School and other New York-area universities (including Columbia University, New York University, City University of New York, and Fordham University), which engages in scholarly research, public policy analysis, and graduate education bearing on international migration, refugees, and the incorporation of newcomers into host societies.
- International Organization for Migration (IOM)
Established in 1951, IOM is the leading inter-governmental organization in the field of migration and works closely with governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental partners. With 125 member states, a further 18 states holding observer status and offices in over 100 countries, IOM is dedicated to promoting humane and orderly migration for the benefit of all. It does so by providing services and advice to governments and migrants. IOM works to help ensure the orderly and humane management of migration, to promote international cooperation on migration issues, to assist in the search for practical solutions to migration problems and to provide humanitarian assistance to migrants in need, including refugees and internally displaced people.
- NAFTA Secretariat - Canadian Section
The NAFTA Secretariat, comprised of a Canadian Section, a United States Section and a Mexican Section, is responsible for the administration of the dispute settlement provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement. The Canadian Section also carries responsibility for similar provisions under the Canada-Chile, Canada-Israel and Canada-Costa Rica free trade agreements.
- NAFTA Secretariat - Mexican Section
he main goal of the federal government is that all Mexicans have access to a better life style. “Live better” stands for a developing and stronger economy. With more investment to create further and better jobs for Mexicans. As Secretary of Economy I am convinced that in order to achieve genuine improvement we need to create better conditions to accelerate our growth.
- NAFTA Secretariat - United States Section
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), is an outstanding demonstration of the rewards to outward-looking countries that implement policies of trade liberalization as a way to increase wealth and improve competitiveness. The NAFTA is an example of the benefits that all countries could derive from moving forward with multilateral trade liberalization. Farmers, workers and manufacturers benefit from the reduction of arbitrary and discriminatory trade rules, while consumers enjoy lower prices and more choices.
- National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
The National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights works to defend and expand the rights of all immigrants and refugees, regardless of immigration status. As part of a global movement for social and economic justice, we are committed to human rights as essential to securing healthy, safe and peaceful lives for all.
- Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC)
The Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) is an independent, non-departmental public body set up under the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. The OISC's key responsibilities are: * regulating immigration advisers * promoting good practice by setting standards * accepting and addressing complaints about anyone giving immigration advice * prosecuting those who operate outside of the law * oversight of the regulation of those who give immigration advice and are regulated by one of the Designated Professional Bodies The OISC does not provide immigration advice or recommend or endorse a specific adviser.
- The Complete Canadian Immigration Information Resource
Canadian Immigration offers fantastic opportunities and a great lifestyle if successful. We know it isn't easy and there are many unforeseen challenges along the way but if you are properly informed and prepared then there is a better chance of settling successfully.
Publications Related to Visa Law
- Georgetown Immigration Law Journal
The Georgetown Immigration Law Journal is the only student-edited law journal devoted exclusively to the study of immigration law. The Journal publishes articles on timely issues by professors and practitioners, coordinates symposia on important topics, and produces thoughtful student notes.
- Immigration Law Journal (ILJ)
The ILJ is a premier newsletter for your U.S. immigration law needs and resources. We are dedicated to informing foreign workers, immigrants, companies, lawyers and practitioners on updates in U.S. immigration matters.
- United States Immigration Newsletter
The United States Immigration Newsletter is a free monthly service provided by the U.S. Immigration Support. The U.S. Immigration Newsletter is a monthly publication. It is available online on this website and as an email mailing list. Its content is carefully researched for every issue and provides the latest news and information regarding immigration to the United States. The U.S. Immigration Newsletter covers immigration laws, changes on filling procedures, immigration-related news from across the country, and the growing issue of illegal immigration to the United States.