U.S. Non-Immigrant Travel Visas: What Are They and How Do You Qualify For One?
There are many different legal ways to travel to the United States. You could get a standard travel visa that’s good for six months, or qualify for a visa waiver, which gives you 90 days to visit before you need to leave. Of course, these options only work if you’re traveling on vacation. What happens if you want to work in the U.S. for a period of time?
The Non-Immigrant O1 Visa
This is where the non-immigrant O1 visa comes in. It doesn’t give you the ability to become a citizen, but if you prove that you have an extraordinary skill (foreign actors and athletes are the two most popular groups that receive these visas) you can work in the U.S. legally for a specific period of time, usually between one and three years.
In order to apply for this visa it helps to have access to a travel lawyer or agent, or at the very least, someone who is familiar with the documentation required. You don’t need to be an actor or athlete (those were just examples), but you do need to prove that you have a particular skill that the U.S. would benefit from.
Applying for an O1 non-immigrant visa requires several steps, including a written application and an interview. There’s a fee that must be paid, as well as other documentation that you’ll have to have on hand, including a clear photograph of yourself and proof that you have no intentions of abandoning your home country to live in the U.S. for good. You’ll also need a valid passport from your home country. This document must be valid for the entire time that you’ll be in the U.S., so if yours is set to expire, renew it before beginning the application process.
Although applying for one of these visas sounds like an arduous process, it really is less intimidating than it sounds, especially if you can prove that you have an important skill that the U.S. needs and already have a job lined up.
Then, there are the standard travel visas. If you’re only going to the U.S. for a short period of time, you’ll need one of these:
Six Month Travel Visa
There are two different types of non-immigrant travel visas, both good for up to six months. The first is a B1, which is specifically for people traveling to the U.S. on business. The main difference between this and the O1 visa is the length of time that you’re allowed in, and the fact that while you’ll be working during your stay, your main job is still based in your home country.
The other type of travel visa, the B2 is just for standard vacationers and those who are going there for medical treatment. No matter the type of travel visa that you need, the application process is the same. You’ll need to fill out the form, pay the required fee, and make sure that your passport won’t expire while you’re in the U.S. Unlike the O1 visa, there isn’t an interview.
The visa waiver is the other way to travel legally to the U.S. In order to qualify for one, which is only good for 90 days, you have to be traveling for reasons that fall under the B1 and B2 visas – business, vacation, or medical treatment. You also have to live in a designated country that participates in the visa waiver program. These countries include Denmark, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Singapore, and Sweden. You also need to be qualified under the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, or ESTA, which is run by the Department of Homeland Security, and need a valid passport.