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Visa Categories

There are various types of nonimmigrant visas for temporary visitors to travel to the U.S., if you are not a U.S. citizen or U.S. lawful permanent resident. The purpose of your intended travel and other facts will determine what type of visa is required under U.S. immigration law. It's important to have information about the type of nonimmigrant visa you will need for travel, and the steps required to apply for the visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad.

Review the chart below. For more information specific to each visa category, including how-to-apply information and more, select a link from the Visa Type column below. Additional details for each visa category are available here.

Purpose of Travel to U.S. and Nonimmigrant Visas Visa Type Required: Before Applying for Visa*
Athletes, amateur & professional (compete for prize money only) B-1 (NA)
Au pairs (exchange visitor) J SEVIS
Business visitors B-1 (NA)
Crewmembers D (NA)
Diplomats and foreign government officials A (NA)
Domestic employees or nanny -must be accompanying a foreign national
B-1 (NA)
Employees of a designated international organization, and NATO G1-G5, NATO (NA)
Exchange visitors J SEVIS
Foreign military personnel stationed in the U.S A-2
Foreign nationals with extraordinary ability in Sciences, Arts,
Education, Business or Athletics
International cultural exchange visitors Q USCIS
Intra-company transferees L USCIS
Medical treatment, visitors for B-2 (NA)
Media, journalists I (NA)
Performing athletes, artists, entertainers P USCIS
Physician J, H-1B SEVIS
Professor, scholar, teacher (exchange visitor) J SEVIS
Religious workers R USCIS
Specialty occupations in fields requiring highly specialized knowledge H-1B DOL then USCIS
Students: academic, vocational F, M SEVIS
Temporary agricultural workers H-2A DOL then USCIS
Temporary workers performing other services or labor of a temporary or
seasonal nature.
Tourism, vacation, pleasure visitors B2 (NA)
Training in a program not primarily for employment H-3 USCIS
Treaty traders/treaty investors E (NA)
Transiting the United States C (NA)

*What the abbreviations (above) mean

Before applying for a visa at a U.S. Embassy abroad the following is required:

  • DOL = The U.S. employer must obtain foreign labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor, prior to filing a petition with USCIS.
  • USCIS = DHS, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approval of a petition or application (The required petition or application depends on the visa category you plan to apply for.)
  • SEVIS = Program approval entered in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)
  • (NA) = Not Applicable - Means that additional approval by other government agencies is not required prior to applying for a visa at the U.S. Embassy abroad.

Note: K visas are for the purpose of marrying a U.S. citizen and immigrating or joining a U.S. citizen spouse in the United States while awaiting USCIS approval of Form I-130 for immigrant status. Visit the immigrant visa section of this website for K-1 and K-3 visa information.

Important Notices

This chart includes nonimmigrant visas and the associated purpose of travel with links to relevant web pages. However, it should be noted this chart is not a complete list of all purposes of travel or types of nonimmigrant visas. Each visa applicant must meet the eligibility requirements for the type of visa for which he/she is applying, as determined by the consular officer at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, following U.S. immigration laws.