Did you know that 79.92 Million people visit the U.S. each year? Travel can be challenging and sometimes the hardest part is to determine what you need to enter the U.S. The second biggest problem facing international travelers visiting the U.S. is sorting out how long does a visa last.
Read on as we walk through an overview of U.S. Visa types and the length of time you can remain on that specific visa.
How Long Does a Visa Last?
A Visa is the document that allows you to enter the U.S. Not everyone entering the U.S. needs a visa nor does a visa guarantee entry into the U.S.
For individuals that qualify under this program, you can travel to the U.S. for up to 90 days for business or for pleasure without a visa.
An ESTA Authorization is valid for 2 years from the date of issuance. You can make repeat trips to the U.S. during this two year period on the same ESTA Authorization.
Keep in mind your Passport must be valid past the 2 year period of the ESTA Authorization or the Authorization will expire on the date of your passport.
Business/Tourist Visa (B-1/B-2)
The B-1 visa is for those traveling to the U.S. on business. The B-2 visa is for travel for tourism, pleasure or to seek out medical treatment. The B1/B-2 visas are nonimmigrant visas.
B-1/B-2 visas are granted for 6 months, initially. You can apply for a 6-month extension, assuming you provide an acceptable reason to extend your stay. Since these are non-working visas you must be able to prove you can afford to stay in the U.S. for the period of time you request.
Note: to stay in the U.S. longer than 1 year you must apply through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) using Form I-539 before your stay expires.
Trader/Investor Visas (E-1/E-2)
Just as some countries have ESTA relationships with the U.S., other have Treaty Relationships. Individuals from countries with Treaty relationships can apply for an E-1 visa to promote international trade, or an E-2 visa to invest in a U.S. business.
E-1/E-2 are nonimmigrant work visas. For treaty traders, investors, and their skilled employees may stay in the U.S. for up to 2 years. Just like a B-1/B-2 visa, you can apply for an extension with documentation of a need to extend your stay.
Intra-Company Transfer Visa (L-1A/L-1B)
The L-1 visas are for employees of multinational companies who are transferred to the U.S. branch or affiliate of their companies. L-1A visas are for executives working for multinational companies, while L-1B is for individuals that have specialized skills or knowledge within those organizations.
If the purpose of the L-1 visa is to set up a new office the maximum length of stay is 1 year, others may apply to stay for 3 years. Extensions, with documentation, can be granted in 2-year increments. L-1A visa holders have a lifetime maximum of 7 years, while L-1B visitors have a limit of 5 years.
Specialty Occupation Visa (H-1B)
The H-1B visa is a nonimmigrant work visa to perform specialized work for a U.S. employer. Individuals must have a bachelor’s degree or higher. The USCIS determines which jobs fall under a specialty occupation designation.
H-1B visa holders are granted a 3-year initial visa with a possible extension for up to 6 years.
Extraordinary Ability or Achievement Visa (O-1A/O-1B)
The O-1 visas are a nonimmigrant work visa. This category is reserved for individuals that possess unique skills and have a demonstrated work history in their field. They must be traveling to the U.S. to work in this field.
O-1A visas are for individuals with extraordinary abilities in science, businesses or athletics. A-1B visas are for individuals with extraordinary ability in the arts, motion pictures, or television industry. The initial visa is for 1 year with the potential to increase in 1-year increments.
Diplomats under A or G visas are allowed to stay for the Duration of Status, or as long as the U.S. recognizes your role in the diplomatic service.
F visas are for students and are also Duration of Status, meaning the length of time needed to complete their studies.
R visas are specifically for clergy and are granted for the Duration of Stay to accomplish their stated goals. Clergy can stay for an initial 3 year period and extend their stay for up to 5 years.
T visas are specifically for victims of trafficking. Individuals that fall under this visa can stay for 4 years, initially and apply for their green card to stay permanently after 3 years.
Q visas are available to individuals participating in international cultural exchange programs. The length of time for these visas range from the amount of time needed for the cultural exchange trip or experience up to a maximum of 15 months.
Keep in mind, immigration to the U.S. is different than coming on a visa to visit for an extended period of time. While in some cases you can move from one of the previously mentioned visas to a green card permanent resident status, but not always. Be sure to check with the USCIS to determine the case in your unique situation.
Regardless of your visa, an extended visit to the U.S. will allow immerse yourself in the diverse culture and geography that America has to offer.
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