Visa Law

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.


Visas - Know Your Rights!

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