How are Immigrant and Non-immigrant Visas Different?

Every country has entry procedures to let foreigners visit, study, or stay there. Most countries require a valid visa, which can be a tricky task. Understanding and meeting all the visa requirements is essential, especially if you’re applying for a country like the US. This is because the USA has very strict visa procedure with a lot of details to consider. The US visas are classified into immigrant and non-immigrant categories. This blog will help you understand the key differences between these visas so that you have complete clarity before your visa procedure.

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What is an Immigrant Visa?

The US government issues different immigrant visas to international citizens who wish to permanently reside in the US. People with this visa have similar rights as US citizens, including the right to live, work and study in the US.

us government immigrant visas

It is for people who wish to work and settle in the United States of America permanently. The visa is usually for big investors, specialised skilled workers, diplomats etc. It is generally sponsored by a US based employer or relatives in the US, however you can also file your own US immigrant visa petition under some circumstances. US immigrant visas are of following types:

  • Employment-based immigration
  • Diversity visas
  • Family-based immigration
  • Fianc(e)'s Visa
  • Returning resident visa

US immigrant visa is also granted to refugees and asylum seekers. It is usually a lengthy and difficult procedure to gain the status of immigrant. Usually, it takes around 10 years stay in the US to qualify for a valid immigrant US visa. Many documents are required for the procedure, including sufficient funds, proof of insurance, etc.

What is a Non-immigrant Visa?

This is the most commonly available visa to foreigners who are travelling to the US temporarily. As the name suggests, it is strictly for non-immigration activities. Visa holders of this visa can enter the US only for specified reasons, such as studies, employment, tourism, medical treatment, etc.

Holders of this nonimmigrant visa must demonstrate a strong connection to their home country to prove their intention of leaving the US once their visa expires. They can only stay in the US until a specified time frame. Overstaying this time can result in deportation and other legal punishment. International visitors get their non-immigrant US visa according to their purpose of visit. You can select an appropriate nonimmigrant visa according to your purpose of visiting America.

You May Like to Read: Places to Visit in USA

Difference between Immigrant & Non-immigrant Visa

Simply put, immigrant visas are issued to foreigners who are planning to become US citizens while non-immigrant visas are for people who are not planning to immigrate to the US as US citizens. Take a look at some key differences between non-immigrant and immigrant US visas:

Category US Immigrant Visa US Non-immigrant Visa
Purpose Only for permanent residency in the US Only for temporary stay in the US
Procedure Applied through employers or relatives in the US Applied directly by visitors
Application Portal Through US Citizenship and Immigration Services Through US consulate or US embassy
Rights & Benefits Immigrant visa holders have most rights like US citizens Non-immigrant visa holders have limited freedom and must maintain their visa status

Understanding the differences between both visas is important to select the right visa for your US visit.

Is Immigrant Visa the same as Green card?

No, while both these terms are closely related there is a stark difference between them. An immigrant visa is a path to get permanent status. Once you get this permanent resident status as a foreigner, you will receive a green card. This is a physical card which represents your right to permanently work and live in the United States of America.

A US Green Card is a popular synonym for people with a valid US immigrant visa. Holders of this visa are also referred to as permanent residents, green card holders, immigrants and resident aliens.

However, you must understand some important details regarding these terms:

  • You must first have a visa to travel to the US, whereas your green card is issued only after your arrival/continued stay
  • While immigrant visas can start your procedure for permanent resident status, they can’t provide this status on their own. For this you must consult an immigration attorney.
  • Green card does not equal US citizenship. However, you can only pursue US citizenship after obtaining your green card.

The procedure for getting either a green card or immigrant visa is long and complicated. In fact, US has one of the highest percentage of visa rejection due to faults in filling the form or providing appropriate documents. It requires considerable preparation and funds. You must prepare the specified funds to prove you can afford to stay in the US for specified duration.

US visas are always in high demand and you will realise there is a high waiting time for the entire application procedure. What’s more, preparing for the US visa appointment is also essential as it determines whether your visa is approved or denied. While it is a straightforward process, you must carefully read all the instructions and seek clarification to avoid any delay or visa rejection.

To ensure your financial security abroad, make sure to buy a suitable travel insurance policy for the US. Be it for a few years of work or more, always secure your journey with travel medical insurance. It will secure your stay in the US and reimburse you for several medical and non-medical emergency expenses.

In a Nutshell,

Thanks to so many US visas, you can visit and stay in the US for a few months or several years. These visas open a brand new world for many people all over the world who wish to visit US for higher studies, work opportunities or simply leisure. Whatever be your purpose of visiting the US, make sure to prepare everything thoroughly. With a US travel insurance, you will be safe from any emergency expenditures because of hospitalisation, travel-related issues, personal liability, baggage loss, passport loss, laptop theft and many other emergency expenses.

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