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The Different Types of Immigration Visas

Every Letter Tells a Different Story

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So you want to apply for a visa and spend some time in the United States? The government will not only want to know who you are, but why you’re coming.

Before you take your trip, you’ll have to journey through the alphabet to find the letter designation that’s exactly the visa you'll need. But be sure you need a visa. Visitors from some countries don't. Here’s a list of the most common visas and who can receive them from the United States government:  

A: For diplomats and foreign officials. If you negotiate treaties, give toasts at state dinners, or run an embassy, this one is probably for you.  

A-2: If you are a foreign military member stationed in the U.S., arm yourself  with this one.  

B-1: Generally, this is a visa for people coming here on business. It can be for athletes, nannies or corporate executives. Many skilled foreign workers looking for jobs in the U.S. will need the B-1 to get hired. Visitors with B-1s come packing baseball gloves, diaper bags, briefcases and countless other tools of their trades.

 B-2: The Great American tourist visa. Millions of foreigners come here on the B-2 just for fun each year to take in the sights and tour the country. The B-2 can also be used to come for medical treatment.

C: A transit visa is used by travelers who are briefly passing through the U.S. on their way to somewhere else.  

D: Foreign crew members of airliners and ships use this visa, for shore leaves and layovers mainly.

E: Sorry mate, but this is a special visa that's given only to Australians who come here to work. No one but Aussies need apply.

EB-2: For advanced-degree professionals, entrepreneurs who can contribute to the U.S. economy by starting businesses.

F: Millions of students have used the F visa to come here and attend college. It is one of the world’s most sought-after education passes that has strengthened America’s ties to people on every continent.  

G1-G5: You have to work for NATO or another sanctioned international organization to get one of these passes for official business.

 H-1B: Skilled professionals with specialized knowledge can visit with this visa, doctors and computer nerds in particular.  

H-2A: Allows farm workers to enter the country temporarily during the growing season.  

H-2B: Similar to the H-2A but applies to non-farm workers with seasonal jobs. Christmas retail help, maybe.  

I: For media and journalists. Demand for the I visa spikes when the United States hosts an Olympics.  

J: This visa brings in lots of IQ points. It’s mainly for scholars, professors and physicians. But admittedly, it can also include au pairs.  

M: Vocational students can obtain this temporary pass.  

O: It would probably be an honor just to be nominated for an O visa, which is for foreigners “who possess extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics,” or those who have demonstrated extraordinary achievement in the motion pictures or television. Superstar athletes often can get the O.  

P: This visa is for performing athletes, artists and entertainers. Americans appreciate a good song and dance as much as a 100 mph fastball.  

Q: Used for a wide variety of international cultural exchange visits. It’s how Americans can learn about your country without leaving their country.  

R: Permits religious workers to come here and spread the faith.  

T: The T visa allows certain victims of human trafficking and their families to remain here while they are assisting prosecutors to make cases.

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