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A visa is a document issued by the U.S. government that allows you to travel to the United States and, once at the border, to ask for permission to enter.  It is like being pre-screened, but not pre-approved. A visa does not actually grant you permission to enter.  Rather, the decision to admit you is made by a Customs and Border Patrol agent at your port of entry.  Actual admission and the length of your stay is noted on your I-94 form, also known as the Arrival-Departure Record. Visas can be issued for permanent immigration to the United States, or a temporary stay or visit.  Some visas allow you to change to a different visa status while still in the United States, while others require you to return to your home country or otherwise leave the United States to apply for a different visa status. If you intend to apply for a visa in Pennsylvania, a Philadelphia immigration attorney can help you determine which visa to apply for.

Some common temporary stay visas include:

  • B-1 – Visitor for business
  • B-2 – Visitor for pleasure
  • F-1 – Student
  • H-1B – Specialty occupation temporary worker
  • H-2A – Temporary agricultural worker
  • H-2B – Temporary worker, skilled and unskilled
  • J-1 – Exchange visitor
  • K-1 – Fiance(e)
  • K-3 – Spouse of a U.S. citizen
  • O-1 – Worker with extraordinary ability
  • T – Victim of a severe form of human trafficking
  • U – Victim of certain crimes
  • TPS – Temporary Protected Status

Some common immigrant visas include:

  • Family-based immigration
    • Immediate relatives
    • First preference
    • Second preference
    • Third preference
    • Fourth preference
  • Employment-based immigration
    • EB-1
    • EB-2
    • EB-3

Each type of visa has a specific set of conditions attached which must be met before it will be granted. Once admitted to the United States or, if already in the United States, once in receipt of a visa approval, the visa-holder must abide by certain rules to remain in valid status. The requirements to maintain visa status may include such things as leaving the country by the expiration date of your I-94, continuing to work or attend classes if doing so is a condition of admission, or not working if you are not authorized to do so. Overstaying beyond your I-94 expiration date, even if your visa validity is not yet expired, can result in your being barred from re-entering the United States for three years or ten years, depending on how long you have overstayed, and other adverse consequences.

There are many types of visas issued by the U.S. government, and each person's conditions under the visa will differ depending on his or her individual circumstances. It is important to know what you can and cannot do under the terms of your visa and how long you can stay in the United States under the terms of your I-94. Failure to follow these rules can make you ineligible to apply for other immigration benefits or may bar you from coming back to the United States. For any advice on this matter as it pertains to immigration law in Pennsylvania, a Philadelphia immigration attorney can help you determine the specifics of your situation and plan for the future.

Philadelphia Immigration Attorney

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