What is a nonimmigrant visa? A nonimmigrant visa, aka a temporary visa, grants its holder with U.S. government permission to perform a specialized activity – and only that activity – for a specific, limited time. A nonimmigrant visa differs from a green card in that a green card is permanent while a nonimmigrant visa is temporary. Further, green card holders are considered permanent residents of the U.S. whereas nonimmigrant visa holders are not.

There are many kinds of nonimmigrant visas, each for a specific activity in the United States. They are all known by unique letter-number combinations (e.g., B-1), and each category has a specific duration. The following are some of the common types of nonimmigrant visas and what their respective activities:

E-1 Visa – Treaty Traders

  • Treaty traders working for a U.S. company and their spouses and children.

E-2 – Treaty Investors

  • Treaty investors working for a U.S. company and their spouses and children.

H-1B – Specialty Occupations, DOD Cooperative Research and Development Project Workers, and Fashion Models

  • Persons working in specialty occupations requiring at least a bachelor's degree or its equivalent in on-the-job experience and distinguished fashion models.

H-2A – Temporary Agricultural Workers

  • Temporary agricultural workers coming to the U.S. to fill positions for which a temporary shortage of U.S. workers has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

H-2B – Temporary Non-Agricultural Workers

  • Temporary workers of various kinds coming to the U.S. to perform temporary jobs for which there is a shortage of available qualified U.S. workers.

J-1 – Exchange Visitor Visa

  • Exchange visitors coming to the U.S. to study, work, or train as part of an exchange program officially recognized by the U.S. Information Agency.

L-1 – Intracompany Transferee Executive or Manager

  • Intracompany transferees who work in positions as managers, executives, or persons with specialized knowledge

O-1 – Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement

  • Persons of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.