Know the Difference


Know the Difference

The difference between an immigrant visa and a non-immigrant visa is simple: immigrant visas do not expire while non-immigrant visas do.

Immigrant visas are essentially a path to permanent residence. Either through family or employment sponsorship, a person who successfully files for this visa meets the essential criteria to live and work in the U.S. indefinitely. This happens either through a family relationship to a U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident, such as being a spouse or child. On the other hand, it can happen through employment sponsorship which normally requires a permanent job offer for a particular position. Some employment-based immigrant visas can be self-petitioned by the individual applicant and they do not require any employer sponsorship.

Non-immigrant visas on the other hand are meant to only grant the applicant a limited amount of time to live and work in the U.S. To this end, applicants must prove that they have no intention of being in the U.S. indefinitely and do intend on returning to their home country or last country of residence. The law is written to place the burden of proof on the applicant. Section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act states that each visa applicant is presumed to be an immigrant unless he or she proves otherwise.

In order to successfully petition for a non-immigrant visa, the applicant must show sufficient evidence or proof of ties to his or her country of origin (or last country of residence). Consular officers may deny your non-immigrant visa should they determine that you do intend to immigrate to the U.S. permanently. The only exception to this rule is for visas that are classified as “dual intent visas” such as H-1B and L-1 visas. In these cases, the officer may not deny your case based on intent alone.

Should you be in a position where you wish to change from a non-immigrant visa to an immigrant one or vice versa, you should consult an immigration lawyer to discuss the best strategy for your case. Contact us today to discuss your options to maximize your chances of success.
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