The United States of America remains one of the most popular destinations in the world, both for tourism purposes and for potential migrants.
If you would like to move to America, or visit for a holiday, there are a number of US visa options available to you.
Visas for Migration to the USA
There are many different visa options available to potential migrants to the US; each one has its own qualifying criteria and holder requirements, here is a look at some of the possible options.
Temporary Work Visa categories
If you intend to live and work in the US on a temporary basis, there is a range of individual visas available.
- H1B Visa – Intended for foreign citizens in speciality occupations or with in demand skills.
- H2B Visa – Intended for temporary employment whose duration is limited by season, demand or unique circumstances.
- L1 Visa – Also known as in the Intracompany Transferee visa, this visa is for employees of international firms transferring to American based branches.
- Employment based preference visas – This category allows American employers to petition the American government for permanent residency on behalf of qualifying employees.
- E3 Visa – Intended for Australian citizens employed in speciality occupations.
Permanent Work Visas
Certain migrants are eligible to migrate permanently to the work without a qualifying American citizen as a spouse or family member. In or order to be eligible, an applicant will usually require their American based employer to petition the United States Citizenship and Immigration (USCIS) on their behalf.
The applications are prioritised in five separate categories:
- First Preference (EB1) – Priority workers with extraordinary abilities such as professors and multinational executives.
- Second Preference (EB2) – People with advanced degrees or exceptional ability in the arts, sciences or business who can offer a significant benefit to the American economy.
- Third Preference (EB3) – Skilled workers and professionals
- Fourth Preference (EB4) – Speciality immigrants such as religious ministers
- Fifth Preference (EB5) – People willing to invest in the American economy
- Schedule A Workers – Health care workers with exceptional abilities e.g. surgeons.
Foreign citizens with close family members or spouses who are American citizens are often eligible to obtain permanent residency if they meet certain requirements.
There are two categories of family visa: non-preference visa, meaning applications are not ranked visa the preference system, and preference visas.
- Spouse, child (under the age of 21) and parent visas are all non preference and are eligible to be granted permanent visas upon application.
- Sibling and adult child visas are assessed via the preference system which can affect the processing time of applications.
Foreign fiancés of American citizens can also be eligible to apply for the K1 visa which allows the holder to obtain permanent residency following marriage.
Visas for Holidays to America
Citizens from 36 countries, including the UK, Ireland and much of Europe, constitute part of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) which allows citizens of those countries to enter the US for tourism or business purposes for a period of 90 days without a visa.
In order to enter the US as part of the VWP, travellers must apply through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).
An ESTA can be applied for online and obtained easily. In order to qualify for an ESTA, an applicant must:
- Be travelling to the US for no more than 90 days
- Hold a passport from an eligible country with at least six months remaining beyond the end of the intended visa
- Provide evidence of the holder’s intention to leave following the 90 day period (e.g. a return plane ticket)
- Be of good character
B2 Tourist Visa
For trips longer than six months, tourists can apply for a B2 Tourist visa which allows the holder to visit the US for up to six months. Holders can then extend their visa for a further six months if they are able to prove they can support themselves financially during the duration of their trip.