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Immigrant versus nonimmigrant visas

On Behalf of | Feb 23, 2024 | Immigration Law |

When it comes to traveling or relocating to another country, visas play an important role.

Whether you are planning a short visit or considering moving permanently, knowing the difference between immigrant and nonimmigrant visas is important.

Immigrant visas

The United States has 45,289,690 immigrant residents as of 2021, according to the American Immigration Council. Immigrant visas, also known as permanent residency visas, are for individuals who intend to live permanently in a foreign country. These visas grant holders the right to reside, work and study in the host country indefinitely. Immigrant visas typically lead to citizenship after meeting certain requirements and completing a waiting period.

One common type of immigrant visa is the family-based visa, which allows individuals to join close relatives who are citizens or permanent residents of the host country. Another type is the employment-based visa, which individuals with specific desirable skills or qualifications receive.

Nonimmigrant visas

Nonimmigrant visas are temporary. Governments give these visas to individuals who plan to stay in a foreign country for a limited period. They typically have specific purposes, such as tourism, business visits, education or temporary employment. Nonimmigrant visas do not provide a pathway to permanent residency or citizenship in the host country.

Key differences

The primary distinction between immigrant and nonimmigrant visas lies in their intent and duration. In addition, immigrants tend to become part of the labor force, contributing to taxes, Medicare and Social Security. Non-immigrants also often have to show deep ties to their home countries.

The visa-issuance process is a consular duty that occurs in the country of origin. However, actual entry into the U.S. is the decision of Customs and Border Patrol at a port of entry.