What is a Nonimmigrant?

Anyone who enters the United States, other than U.S. citizens, holds either immigrant or nonimmigrant status. What do these categorizations mean? We will talk more about what it means to have nonimmigrant status and, conversely, what it means to have immigrant status here.

What is a Nonimmigrant?

Those who enter the U.S. for temporary purposes, such as for tourist travel, business dealings, temporary work arrangements, or study, have nonimmigrant status. Those with nonimmigrant status are restricted to the activity for which they were granted entrance into the country. Only one type of nonimmigrant visa is permitted to grant admittance into the U.S. at a time.

One of the critical aspects that an applicant for a nonimmigrant visa must prove is that he or she is only entering the U.S. on a temporary basis and has the intention of returning to his or her country of origin. Failure to demonstrate this intention will likely result in a visa officer at the U.S. consulate abroad denying an application based on the belief that the nonimmigrant visa application is a mere pretext for entering the U.S. with the intention to stay permanently.

In order for a nonimmigrant visa applicant to be approved for a visa, he or she must be able to substantiate the assertion that he or she intends to return to the home country after the end of the U.S. trip. This can be done by showing significant ties to the country of origin. Some of the most persuasive ties include family relationships and employment. Other proof of returning to a country of origin could be real estate holdings, among other things.

To gain immigrant status, the process can be even lengthier and more complex. This is because immigrant status is granted to those who seek to live in the U.S. permanently. These are the permanent residents, or green card holders, as they are otherwise referred to.

Sometimes, however, there are applicants who try to get a nonimmigrant visa, but who intend to apply for a green card eventually. This is referred to as “dual intent” and it can be the basis for a nonimmigrant visa application denial. If a nonimmigrant visa applicant intends to come to the U.S. on a temporary basis in order to pursue permanent resident status, then his or her application may be denied. There are only a very limited number of nonimmigrant visas that will permit a nonimmigrant to remain in nonimmigrant status while also pursuing immigrant status. Those nonimmigrant visas include:

  • E visas which are granted to treaty traders and investors who travel to the U.S. under a treaty of commerce and navigation established between the U.S. and their country of origin (although technically not “dual intent”).
  • H-1B visas which are granted to those who wish to perform services related to a specialty occupation, services of exceptional merit and ability relating to a Department of Defense cooperative research and development project, or, in the alternative, services as a fashion model of distinguished merit or ability.
  • L visas which are granted for temporary intracompany transferees employed in a managerial capacity or who have specialized knowledge.
  • O Visas for individual with extraordinary abilities in the arts, sciences and business.
  • P visas for individuals who are athletes and individuals engaged in “Culturally Unique” programs

Immigration Law Attorneys

If you have questions or want to access additional information about US or Canadian Immigration and Nationality Laws, please feel free to get in touch with the immigration and nationality lawyers at the NPZ Law Group. If you have more questions about how these laws in the US may impact you or your family, contact the lawyers specialized in US Immigration and Nationality laws at our law firm. You can also send us an em