The perfect word to describe immigration policy is complicated. There are countless rules and regulations depending on what country an immigrant is coming from or for how long they’ve already been in their new country. Not to mention the mountains of paperwork and applications immigrants are expected to fill out in order to have a shot at staying in their country of choice.

An additional complication to immigration policy is the various types of visas available. Each visa applies to someone only if they qualify. In an effort to make the immigration process easier to understand, I briefly outlined some descriptions of the types of visas below.

The Two Categories of Visas

In total, about 185 different types of American visas exist. There are, however, two main types of visas: immigrant and non-immigrant visas.

  • Non-immigrant visa: Non-immigrant visas allow individuals to come to the United States for a temporary reason. These reasons usually include traveling for leisure, traveling for work and business, visiting family living in the United States, and studying as a foreign exchange student or through a study abroad program.
  • Immigrant visa: Immigrant visas are required for those who want to immigrate to the United States. To obtain a visa, one must prove a long-term purpose for entering the country.

Other forms of travel and immigration documentation exist, but these forms of visa are the most important categories to know.

Obtaining a Visa

As you’ve probably guessed, there are various differences in how one goes about obtaining a non-immigrant and immigrant visa.

Applying for a non-immigrant visa is actually an extremely complicated, convoluted process. As the above description implies, there a host of non-immigrant visa options that each come with their own stipulations and limits. Many non-immigrant visas bring with them extensive applications and may even require you to interview with government officials. This is because these officials want to ensure that you will not use the non-immigrant visa to overstay your visa and remain in the country unlawfully.

The immigrant visa process is equally complicated — just in a different way. To first apply for an immigrant visa, the applicant must be sponsored either by a relative that is a United States citizen, a United States lawful permanent resident, or a potential employer. The sponsor then fills out a petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Once your petition has been approved, you begin the visa process at the National Visa Center. You should then choose an agent to act as your representative during your case — many recommend reaching out to an attorney at a firm like The Law Office of William Jang, PLLC. You will then have to pay a filing fee.

After paying the fee, you can submit your application and the additional documents. If you make it through this process, your next step is to complete an interview with government officials.

Whether you’re looking to obtain a nonimmigrant or immigrant visa, your best bet is to reach out to an attorney. Even if you don’t end up going to court or needing intense legal representation, an attorney can help you fill out the application and corresponding paperwork.

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