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What are the Differences Between Immigrant and Non-Immigrant Visas?

If you are thinking about visiting the United States or moving to the United States, you may have realized that there are many options for visas and other paperwork that will allow you to visit, live, or work legally in the country.

Your experienced Austin immigration attorney can help you analyze the subtle differences between various types of visas and choose the path that is best for you and your needs. Most U.S. visas fall into one of two categories: immigrant visas and non-immigrant visas. These visas differ in several key ways.

Immigrant Visas Visas are for individuals who wish to immigrate permanently to the United States. This is most commonly achieved by family based petitions in which a family member can file an immigrant petition for a family member. An employer can also sponsor an immigrant for permanent residency, this usually requires the filing of a Labor Certification first. Others, such as aliens with extraordinary ability and certain investors may also self-petition. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security issues immigrant visas, reviews applications for legal permanent resident status, and approves or denies these applications. Approved applicants receive a permanent resident card, also known as a “green card,” which allows them to live and work in the U.S.

Non-Immigrant Visas are for individuals who wish to enter the United States for a specific, usually short, period of time. The purpose of the visit may be travel, business, or another reason, and the visa issued will usually reflect the reason for the visit. Some non-immigrant visas allow the holder to do certain types of work or to live in the United States in the short term, while others do not. Non-immigrant visa holders typically do not seek legal permanent resident status while they are inside the U.S., but make plans to go home to another country when they have finished their visit. One must be very careful about entering the U.S. with what immigration may deem to be considered “immigrant intent” when on a Non-Immigrant visa. If immigration feels your true intent is to enter and stay and live and work permanently, but you are on a Non-immigrant visa, they can deny your entrance and revoke your non-immigrant visa at the airport/border. Talk to an attorney if you are on a Non-Immigrant Visa and are considering immigrating. If you are already inside the U.S., you may be eligible for a process called Adjustment of Status.

Whatever your goals are, do not seek out a visa without the help of a skilled attorney. To learn more through a consultation with the legal team at Peek & Toland, LLP, call (512) 474-4445.

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