Temporary Visitors, Visas and Non-immigrant Requirements
Nonimmigrants are foreign nationals seeking to enter the United States temporarily for a specific purpose, such as study, travel, business and diplomacy. While in the U.S., a nonimmigrant's activities are restricted by their visa's stated purpose. For example, a nonimmmigrant admitted to the U.S. for study as an exchange visitor should not be employed. While nonimmigrants may have more than one type of nonimmigrant visa, they are admitted in only one status at a time. The U.S. Department of State maintains a list of those ineligible for a visa.
Nonimmigrant classifications include: foreign government officials, visitors for business and for pleasure, aliens in transit through the United States, treaty traders and investors, students, international representatives, temporary workers and trainees, representatives of foreign information media, exchange visitors, fiance(e)s of U.S. citizens, intracompany transferees, NATO officials, religious workers, and some others.
General requirements for foreign nationals seeking temporary admission include, but are not limited to, the following:
- The purpose of the visit must be temporary;
- A foreign residence must be maintained by the foreign national, in most instances;
- The foreign national may be required to show proof of financial support;
- The foreign national must:
- agree to depart at the end of his authorized stay or extension;
- be in possession of a valid passport;
- be admissable or have obtained a waiver for any ground of inadmissability*;
- abide by the terms and conditions of admission.
Extension of Stays for Nonimmigrants
Once admitted as a nonimmigrant, a foreign national may apply for an extension of a temporary visa. It is very important that you apply for an extension of stay before your authorized stay expires! The Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS) recommends that you submit an application for an extension of stay at least 45 days before your authorized stay expires. The BCIS Service Center must receive your application by the day your authorized stay expires.
When a foreign national enters the country as a nonimmigrant, a U.S. immigration inspector examines your passport and visa and then gives you a Form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record). On the I-94, a date stamp should tell you when you must leave the United States. If you want to extend your stay in the U.S., then you must ask for permission from the BCIS before your authorized stay expires. You are eligible for an extension if:
- you were lawfully admitted into the United States as a nonimmigrant in a category that is not ineligible for an extension
- you have not committed any act which would make you ineligible for an extension
- you submit the application for an extension of stay before the current authorized stay expires
Changes of Status for Non-immigrants
Nonimmigrants previously admitted to the U.S. may, in some circumstances, request a change of status. If you want to change the purpose of your visit while you are in the U.S. then you (or, in some cases, your employer) must ask the BCIS to change your nonimmigrant status. A common change of status for a nonimmigrant is from a visitor or tourist to a student, or from one employer or job to another. In order to do this, you must request the change of status from the BCIS by submitting an application before your current stay expires. It is very important that you make this request before you change the purpose of your stay. If you do not apply to change your nonimmigrant status, you may be in violation of immigration laws. You may become subject to removal (deportation) if you break U.S. immigration laws.
A Nonimmigrant may qualify for a change of nonimmigrant status if:
- you lawfully maintain your present nonimmigrant status in a category that is not ineligible for a change in status
- you are eligible according to immigration regulations for the nonimmigrant status you are requesting
- you have not violated any law which would keep you from being granted this benefit