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What is the difference between an immigrant visa and nonimmigrant visa?

immigrant or nonimmigrant visa differencesImmigrant visas and nonimmigrant visas have clearly defined differences in U.S. immigration. In short, the United States grants an immigrant visa to people that intend to work and live permanently in the United States and issues a nonimmigrant visa to people who are temporarily visiting the U.S. for tourism, medical treatment, temporary work, school and other reasons.

Immigrant Visa

The U.S. government grants an immigrant visa to foreign-born individuals who intend make the United States a permanent home. Synonymous terms for immigrant visa include: permanent resident, immigrant, green card holder, and resident alien. Those with immigrant status may work in the United States and live within the U.S. with most of the privileges and rights as U.S. citizens. To acquire an immigrant via, most people are sponsored by a family member or employer in the United States. Other people may become permanent residents through refugee or asylum status or other humanitarian programs. Depending on the path, gaining immigrant status can be a lengthy and complex process.

RECOMMENDED: Family-based Immigration in the United States

Nonimmigrant Visa

The U.S. government grants other foreign-born individuals a nonimmigrant visa for the purposes of a temporary visit to the United States. Generally, the terms of a nonimmigrant visa require that the visa holder depart the U.S. within a certain time frame. The purpose for the visit may be tourism, business, temporary work, or school. Once a person has entered the U.S. in nonimmigrant status, they are restricted to the activity or reason for which they were allowed entry. For example, someone with a student visa must continue to be enrolled in school to keep within the terms of the visa. Most nonimmigrant visas are issued only to applicants who can demonstrate their intentions to return to their home country.

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Dual Intent Visas

People applying for a nonimmigrant visa may be denied if they appear to have the true intention of visiting the U.S. for the purposes of obtaining immigrant status. Likewise, you may be violating the terms of your nonimmigrant visa if you come to the United States for the purposes of adjusting status to permanent resident status.

there is a class of visas that allow this “dual intent,” coming to the United States in a nonimmigrant status with the eventual intention or possibility of becoming a permanent immigrant. Presently, only E, H-1 and L nonimmigrant categories are allowed to enter and remain nonimmigrants while simultaneously pursuing permanent resident status. When applying for a nonimmigrant visa, it is important that the applicant be able to demonstrate family and employment related ties to their country of origin. Without these ties, the visa officer from a U.S. consulate may conclude that the visa application is only a pretext for an intent to stay permanently U.S. and may deny the application.

RECOMMENDED: Dual Intent Visas and the Concept of Nonimmigrant Intent Explained