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What types of visa and status are there?

The short answer is: too many to tell.

The more informative answer, there are well over a hundred or so different categories. They are divided into two main groups, immigrant and non-immigrant.

Non-immigrant categories are then divided into families identified by the letters of the alphabet. So there are A-type visas, B-type visas, C-type, D-type, and so on. Every couple of years, law changes require that the list of visas is changed. Currently, the highest letter used is V.

These categories are then subdivided into classes, such as B-2 or H-1

Some classes are further divided. For instance, there is an H-1B and an H-1C (there also used to be an H-1A, but it has been phased out).

Usually, for each status, there is a corresponding visa, and vice versa. There are exceptions, noted below.

Here is a list of all non-immigrant visa families that, to the best of my knowledge, currently exist as of this writing. For a list of all immigrant visa categories, please see the Department of State's Visa Bulletin

Family Description
ADiplomats of foreign countries.
  • A-1: Ambassadors and career diplomats, and their immediate families.
  • A-2: Other embassy employees and their immediate families.
  • A-3: Personal servants of A-1 and A-2, and their immediate families.
BVisitors.
  • B-1: Visitors for business
  • B-2: Visitors for pleasure

Most visas in this family are actually issued as B-1/B-2 combinations. This means that you can come to the US either on business or as a tourist, as you like.

People who travel to the US on the visa waiver program (VWPP) are also considered to have a B-1 or B-2 visa, but have special restrictions.

There is no "immediate family" type for this visa category. Family members simply get the same type of visa on their own.

When you apply for either a B-1 or a B-2 visa, you are usually issued a combination visa called a B-1/B-2. This simply means that you can use it to travel to the US either for business or for pleasure, whichever you prefer. Once you arrive in the US, you will only have one or the other status. You will be either a B-1 or a B-2, but not both. Please see the General FAQ for more information about the difference between visa and status.

As a special exception, somebody who enters the US as a B-1 business visitor can change to B-2 (tourist) without filing an application to change status. The change happens automatically simply when the purpose of your business trip is accomplished. However, it does not work the other way round!

So it would be permissible for you to come to the US for a convention in Dallas, and then spend two weeks in Hawaii on vacation. However, it would not be allowed to spend two weeks in Hawaii first, and then go to Dallas for a convention!

CTransit visa. This is for people who travel through the US to some other destination.
  • C-1: Alien in transit directly through the US.
  • C-1D: Combination crewman/transit visa.
  • C-2: Alien in transit to UN headquarters. This is how people such as Fidel Castro come to the US even though they are otherwise ineligible to travel here.
  • C-3: Foreign government officials and members of their immediate family and attendants in transit
  • C-4: Transit without visa (TWOV). Obviously, this is only a status but not a visa.

There is no "immediate family" type for this visa category. Family members simply get the same type of visa on their own, with the exception of C-3.

DCrewmember
  • D-1: Crewmember departing on the same vessel.
  • D-2: Crewmember departing on a different vessel.

There is no "immediate family" type for this visa category.

ETreaty Trader
  • E-1: Treaty Trader and immediate family.
  • E-2: Treaty Investor and immediate family.
  • E-3: Guest workers from Australia.
FAcademic student
  • F-1: Student
  • F-2: Spouse and child
  • F-3: Commuting students (Mexican and Canadian Nationals only)
GForeign government officials to international organizations
  • G-1: Principal resident representative, and members of immediate family.
  • G-2: Other representative, and members of immediate family.
  • G-3: Representative non-recognized or non-member government, and members of their immediate family.
  • G-4: International organization officer or employee, and members of their immediate family.
  • G-5: Attendant of G-1, G-2, G-3 or G-4, and members of their immediate family.
HGuest worker
  • H-1B: Speciality worker, DOD worker, fashion model.
  • H-1C: Nurses.
  • H-2A: Temporary agricultural worker.
  • H-2B: Temporary worker, skilled and unskilled.
  • H-3: Trainee.
  • H-4: Spouse and child of an H-1, H-2 or H-3.
IForeign media representative based on reciprocity
JExchange visitor
  • J-1: Exchange visitor.
  • J-2: Spouse or child.
KFiancee or spouse of a US citizen
  • K-1: Fiancee of a US citizen.
  • K-2: Minor child of a K-1.
  • K-3: Spouse of a US citizen under the LIFE Act.
  • K-4: Child of a K-3
LIntracompany transferee
  • L-1A: Executive or manager.
  • L-1B: Specialized knowledge.
  • L-2: Spouse or child of an L-1.
MVocational and language students
  • M-1: Vocational or other nonacademic student.
  • M-2: Spouse or child of an M-1.
NRelatives of certain special immigrants
  • N-8: Parents of alien classified as SK-3 Special Immigrant.
  • N-9: Child of N-8 or of SK-1, SK-2 or SK-4
OWorkers with extraordinary abilities
  • O-1: Extraordinary ability in Sciences, Arts, Education, Business, or Athletics.
  • O-2: Support personell for an O-1.
  • O-3: Spouse or child of an O-1 or O-2
PAthletes and entertainers
  • P-1: Individual or team athlete, or entertainment group.
  • P-2: Artist or entertainer in reciprocal exchange program.
  • P-3: Artists or entertainers in culturally unique programs.
  • P-4: Spouse or child of P-1, P-2 or P-3.
QInternational cultural exchange visitors
  • Q-1: International cultural exchange visitor.
  • Q-2: Irish Peace Program.
  • Q-3: Spouse or Child of Q-2.
RReligious worker
  • R-1: Religious worker.
  • R-2: Spouse or child.
SWitness and informant
  • S-5: Informant of criminal organization information.
  • S-6: Informant of terrorism information.
TVictims of human trafficking
  • T-1: Victim.
  • T-2: Spouse of T-1.
  • T-3: Child of T-1.
  • T-4: Parent of T-1, if T-1 is under 21 years of age.
UVictims of certain crimes
  • U-1: Victim.
  • U-2: Spouse of U-1.
  • U-3: Child of U-1.
  • U-4: Parent of U-1, if U-1 is under 21 years of age.
VSome spouses and minor children of Green Card holders
  • V-1: Spouse of a GC holder. To qualify, the petition must have been filed before December 21, 2000, and the petition must have been pending for at least three years.
  • V-2: Child of a GC holder. To qualify, the petition must have been filed before December 21, 2000, and the petition must have been pending for at least three years.
  • V-3: Child of a V-1, if it doesn't qualify as V-2.
Special non-immigrant visas
NATONorth Atlantic Treaty Organization
  • NATO-1: Principal Permanent representative and resident members of official staff, and family members.
  • NATO-2: Other representative of member state and immediate family.
  • NATO-3: Official clerical staff and immediate family member.
  • NATO-4: Official of NATO who doesn't qualify as NATO-1, and immediate family.
  • NATO-5: Expert other than NATO official, and immediate family.
  • NATO-6: Member of civilian component, and dependents.
  • NATO-7: Servant or personal employee, and dependents.
TNNAFTA visa
  • TN: Trade visa for Canadians and Mexicans.
  • TD: Spouse or child of TN. A TD can be from any country, as long as the TN is from Canada or Mexico.
TWOVStatus for passenger or Crew Member in transit without visa. This status is also known as C-4. Note: TWOV has been suspended indefinitely after 9/11 and is currently not available.
TPSTemporary protect status. This is similar to refugee status for people from certain countries that were hit by disasters, such as earthquakes or hurricanes.
Application Pending

This is a special status that you may have if you file a non-frivolous application to change or extend your status, and your old status expires. For instance, let's say you arrived in the US with a tourist visa (B-2) on January 3, 2003. You now hold B-2 status, usually good for six months, until July 2, 2003. On June 25, 2003, you file an application to extend your status with all the proper paperwork, and a good reason for requesting the extension. That means, your application is not frivolous.

In that case, your B-2 status would still expire on July 3. As of July 4, you would be considered to remain in status anyway until USCIS decides your application. Your new status would be "Application pending".

Note: this is a bit simplified; there are some additional restrictions that only a competent attorney can explain in detail.

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