Visiting the U.S.? Which type of visa will you need?

Whether you are a British Columbia citizen who wants to travel across the border for temporary employment, to study or to visit, getting the paperwork done can be a daunting task. With frequent changes to U.S. immigration laws and visa requirements, it can be nearly impossible to understand all of the intricacies involved without professional assistance. Having the process simplified might improve your chances of a successful visa application.

Visas to authorize education, employment or training may require extensive documents, applications and petitions to demonstrate your eligibility. The fact that you have to navigate the laws of both Canada and the United States doubles the complexity of the process.

Non-immigrant visas

The first obstacle may be determining the type of visa for which to apply. Non-immigrant visas comprise of 20 different categories. However, the three main types are for business visitors and tourists, education, and temporary workers -- each with subcategories. The following details might help you:

  • Education visas: If you are a student with a valid registration at an academic establishment, you must apply for the F-1 visa. This covers students at high schools, language schools, conservatories, universities, colleges or seminaries. However, if you plan to attend a non-academic or vocational program, you will need an M visa. Then there is the J visa that applies to exchange visitors like trainees, students, professors, teachers and more.
  • Temporary workers: To enter the United States as a temporary worker, you will need to apply for an H visa. If you are a professional such as a computer programmer or systems analyst, you must have an H-1B visa. However, agricultural workers need H-2A visas.
  • Business visitors and tourists: Business visitors are those who intend to engage in commercial transactions, and tourists visit the U.S. for pleasure. If this is your category, the B-1 or B-2 visa will apply to you. If you plan to do business and stay on as a tourist, you can apply for a multiple-purpose B-1/B-2 visa -- which do not allow you to accept employment.
  • Others: Other non-immigrant visas include those for diplomats, aliens in transit, crewmembers, investors, foreign media representatives, religious workers and more.

Where to find proper guidance and support

It can be difficult to separate faulty information and misguided advice obtained from the internet from accurate information regarding immigration issues. For that reason, the most appropriate route might be to consult with a Vancouver law firm whose focus is on U.S. immigration, and one that is fully familiar with the legalities on both sides of the border. If you work with a firm that is a trusted source of up-to-date immigration advice, it can increase your chances of a favourable outcome.

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