Under the current U.S. immigration system, all visas can be divided into two main categories: immigrant visas and nonimmigrant visas. For many foreign nationals, these terms are subject to confusion. In short, a nonimmigrant visa means temporary. This category includes a broad variety of visas with a limited authorized period of stay. B-1/ B-2 Visitors for Business or Pleasure, F-1 Academic Students, H-1B Temporary Workers are just a few examples of the visas falling into this category.
On the contrary, an immigrant visa means permanent and is another term for Green Card and Legal Permanent Residency (LPR). Immigrant visas allow foreign-born nationals to live and work in the U.S. indefinitely. In order to obtain an immigrant visa, also known as Green Card, most applicants have to be sponsored by a family member or an employer, or fall into a category of special immigrants and self-petition.
When a foreign national applies for an immigrant visa in the U.S., this process is called Adjustment of Status, meaning a transition from a temporary, nonimmigrant visa to a permanent, immigrant visa (Green Card). It is important to understand that during this process, which can take anywhere from a few months to a few years, most of the applicants are required to maintain their legal status by utilizing nonimmigrant visas.
For example, a beneficiary of an employer-sponsored immigrant petition will have to maintain his/her legal status by keeping H-1B or F-1, or any other nonimmigrant temporary visa active until an immigrant visa petition is filed on his/her behalf with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). There are some exceptions to this rule. Thus, beneficiaries of a marriage-based immigrant visa petition are exempt from this requirement.
To sum it up, an immigrant visa means permanent and is a synonymous term for Green Card. A nonimmigrant visa means temporary and always limits how long a foreign national can stay in the U.S.
If you are interested in applying for an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa or are in the process of adjusting your status, it is highly recommended to consult with an experienced immigration attorney. An immigration expert can guide you through the process, provide viable advice and help avoid unnecessary complications along the way, which increases your chances of being approved. Here, at Root Law Group, we offer a free in-office consultation with our knowledgeable immigration attorneys. Call us at (323) 456 7600 to schedule your appointment. Let’s talk about your immigration options today!