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Visa types

There are many different types of temporary visas and a few of the most common types will be discussed here, including:

B-1/B-2 visitor visas

F-1 students

H-1 nonimmigrant worker visas

J-1 exchange visitors

O-1 extraordinary ability

F-1 Students:

Persons coming to the U.S. to pursue education at a college or university will obtain an F-1 temporary visa which will be valid throughout the period of study. The school arranges for the visa, so most questions should be addressed to appropriate school officials.

One important consideration for many students is that the F-1 visa includes significant restrictions on the student's right to work and earn money during the period of study.

H-1 Nonimmigrant Workers:

This is the most common type of visa for persons coming to the U.S. for a temporary position. There are two steps to the process.

1. Labor Condition Application: The employer must provide basic information abou the business and sign a Labor Condition Application (LCA) which is filed with the Department of Labor (DOL) office which has geographical jurisdiction over the location of the employer. Once the DOL approves the LCA, the second stage can begin. In most cases, the LCA stage is very short.

2. I-129 Application to the INS: The I-129 is the temporary worker visa application which is filed with the INS. This stage is somewhat longer than the LCA stage, but is usually completed in 30-45 days.

The major advantage of the H-1 visa is that it is convertible to the green card. This means that if an H-1 visa holder has a green card application approved, he or she can change their status from the H-1 visa to the green card without having to leave the U.S. This is a significant advantage over the J-1 visa (discussed below).

The H-1 visa can be issued for up to three years initially, and a total of six years with extensions.

New Information 04/30/99: While the H-1 cap has not been reached, processing of H-1 visas at the Vermont, Nebraska, and Texas Service Centers has been halted so that the California Service Center can catch up. Any applicants in the three closed centers or potential applicants who had intended to apply soon should consider other forms of temporary visas. In addition, anyone interested in an H-1 visa starting after October 1, 2015 or allowing a current application to roll over until October 1, 2015, should consider pursuing that application now so that it can have a more favorable place in the processing queue.

J-1 Exchange Visitors:

It should be noted that many universities in the U.S. have policies whereby they only offer J-1 visas even when the beneficiary is eligible for an H-1 visa. This policy does not adequately consider the needs of the beneficiary. I would advise anyone dealing with a university to encourage them to pursue an H-1 visa if possible. Alternatively, consultation with an attorney may be beneficial in order to determine if the attorney can discuss the advantages of the H-1 visa with the university officials.

O-1 Extraordinary Ability:

This type of temporary visa is unique in that it avoids some of the technical requirements of the H-1 visa, while conferring upon the beneficiary a determination of extraordinary ability which can be helpful in future green card applications.

The requirements for the O-1 visa are a mix between the Extraordinary Ability green card and the H-1 visa. While H-1 visas are commonly handled by non-lawyer university employees, the O-1 visa is a more complex issue which should only be addressed by someone with extensive experience in immigration.

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