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TN Visa, H1B, E3 & Other US Non-Immigrant Visa: An In-depth Exploration
A closeup of the H1B visa stamp over the background of a waving American flag

In this article, we have discussed the following topics:

  • Types of non-immigrant visas
  • TN visa under NAFTA
  • How to apply for US non-immigrant visa?

While reading about the other non-immigrant visas, you might also be interested in some tips for traveling to the US: What to carry and what not.

The US Non-Immigrant Visas: A Closer Look

If you are a foreigner who wants to visit the US to work, study or tour the country, you must have a non-immigrant visa. Non-immigrant visas are available for different travel reasons and for temporary timeframes. All US non-immigrant visas are granted by the US Embassy or Consulate in your home country. Most foreigners who apply for and obtain a US non-immigrant visa are:

  • Students
  • Temporary employees
  • Business people
  • Tourists
  • Diplomats

The rules also allow spouses, unmarried children, and parents (dependents) of the principal visa holders to live and work in the US as long as the principal visa is valid. Hence, if you plan to bring your spouse and children with you to the US, it is best to apply for their dependent visas simultaneously as the original visa.

There are many non-immigrant visa classifications, and each one comes with its own set of rules regarding the following:

  • Timeframe
  • Permitted activities (such as work, education, tourism, artistic performance, etc.)

The application process for non-immigrant visas is also different. Some visas require the applicant to directly apply for the visa with the US Embassy or Consulate in their home country. On the other hand, visas like the H1B require the petition to be first filed by the foreigner or their sponsoring employer and get the approval of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services or the USCIS, an agency functioning under the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

If the USCIS approves your non-immigrant visa, it DOES NOT guarantee entry into the United States. The visa gives you permission to travel to a Port of Entry where you must submit your passport, visa, and evidential documents to a DHS official, who:

  • Grants permission to enter the US.
  • Fixes a timeframe for your stay in the US.
  • Stamps the date for your departure from the US on Form I-94 or the Arrival/ Departure Record. ( You should attach this form to your passport.)

The USCIS also permits non-immigrants to change from one visa to another. This process is called "Change of Status" and requires an application be filed with the USCIS.

Are you aware of the difference between an immigrant and a non-immigrant visa? As already mentioned, the non-immigrant visa is for foreign nationals who wish to visit the US for various reasons. It comes with a definite timeframe that requires the non-immigrant to leave the US when its duration expires. On the other hand, an immigrant visa allows foreigners to apply for citizenship and become lawful permanent residents of the US.

Types of Non-Immigrant Visas

There are three primary non-immigrant visa categories for which non-immigrant visas are issued for:

  • Tourists and business visitors
  • Students
  • Temporary employees

Apart from this, there are 26 non-immigrant visa categories for:

  • Working professionals
  • Diplomats, ambassadors, and foreign officials
  • Treaty investors and traders
  • Ship crew members
  • NAFTA-based trade visas
  • Intra-organization transferees
  • Journalists and foreign media representatives
  • Healthcare and religious workers
  • International cultural exchange visitors
  • Representatives, staff, and resident members of NATO
  • Fiancé(é)s of US citizens
  • Artists, sportspersons, fashion models, and entertainers

We explore some of the most popular US non-immigrant visas in the next segment.

1. H1B Visa

The H1B classification is a highly popular and in-demand visas. It allows foreign nationals to work in specialty occupations that require their skills, knowledge, and expertise. The basic requirement for an H1B visa is a bachelor's degree or its equivalent in the field of his proposed employment. The H1B visa process requires a labor certification attested by the Secretary of Labor. The H1B is always in demand because only 68,000 visas are issued for each fiscal year from October 1st to September 30th of the following year. An additional 6,800 H1B1 visas are issued for Singaporeans and Chileans. All H1B visas are valid for three years, after which one can apply for an extension for another three years.

After their 6-year stay in the US, H1B holders can apply for Permanent Residency or Green Card to remain legally in the US. Normally, obtaining citizenship may take upto five years. However, if the applicant marries a US citizen, the timeframe to get citizenship is only three years.

H1B Dependents

The USCIS grants H4 visas for dependents of H1B holders. The dependents include the spouses, unmarried children, and parents of beneficiaries with valid H1B visas. The H4 visa allows dependents to pursue their education in the US. However, they must apply for EAD or Employment Authorization Deployment to have a job. To obtain an H4 visa, dependents must prove a qualifying relationship by providing their marriage certificate.

2. H1B1 Visa

The H1B1 visa similar to the H1B and is exclusive to citizens of Singapore and Chile. It was created under the US/Chile Free Trade Agreement and the US/Singapore Free Trade Agreement. The H1B1 visa requires:

However, your employer need not file the I-129 petition with the USCIS.

H1B1 Dependents

Similar to the H1B visa, the H1B1 holder's spouse and unmarried children below 21 years can accompany them on an H4 visa. Here again, the H4 spouse can work with an EAD and enroll in US schools without a student visa.

3. E3 Visa

The E3 visa is similar to the H1B visa, but it is exclusive to Australian citizens. Another defining aspect is that the E3 visa can be indefinitely renewed in two-year increments. The annual quota for E3 visas is 10,500. The application process for the E3 is also similar to H1B. It begins with the employer filing an LCA with a note mentioning that it is for an E3 visa. Australian citizens who are already in the US on other visas can also apply for a COS for an E3 visa.

E3 Dependents

If you are an E3 employee, your spouse and unmarried children below 21 years are eligible for E3D status. It is not mandatory for E3 dependents to be Australian citizens. With an E3D visa, the dependant can study full-time or part-time and even apply for EAD to gain employment. If the dependant is using the E3D status to pursue education, the duration of the study depends on the E3 holder's stay.

4. TN Visa under NAFTA

The North American Free Trade Agreement was implemented on January 1st, 1994, and has ever since eliminated many trade barriers between Canada, Mexico, and the US. The NAFTA has greatly influenced trade between the three nations and reduced export and import tariffs.

The NAFTA visa or the TN is the NAFTA non-immigrant classification that allows Canadians and Mexicans to temporarily live in the US and engage in business activities at a professional level. Given below are the types of professionals eligible to seek admission as TN non-immigrants:

  • Accountants
  • Engineers
  • Pharmacists
  • Lawyers
  • Teachers
  • Scientists

There are two types of TN NAFTA Visas:

  • TN1 for Canadian Citizens
  • TN2 for Mexican citizens

The TN visa is valid for three years, and the NAFTA professional can apply for renewal an indefinite number of times. To know more about the NAFTA professional list, please log in to the USCIS official website.

TN Dependents

Dependents of TN1 holders do not require a visa for entering the US. They must prove their Canadian citizenship and relation to the TN1 holder at the Port of Entry. They must also prove that the TN 1 holder has entered the US under the TN category. Before entering the United States, non-Canadian children and spouses should submit the petition for a TD non-immigrant visa at a US Consulate or Embassy. The beneficiary with TN status must apply for a TN visa at a United States Embassy or Consulate for their dependents to apply for TD visas if they travel with the visa holder.

How to Apply for a US Non-Immigrant Visa

For a non-immigrant visa application, you need to:

  • Fill out Form DS-160.
  • Pay $160 (for non-petitioned visas) and $190 (for petitioned visas) as visa fees for a temporary employee.
  • Schedule an interview at your local US Embassy or Consulate.
  • Collect the required documents.
  • Attend the interview.
  • Wait for the US Embassy's decision on your petition.

Also read: Must-Know List of United States Immigration Forms

The Finale

The process for obtaining a non-immigrant visa is highly complex and time-consuming. Even the smallest discrepancy can prolong the process and jeopardize the outcome. It is wise to hire an experienced immigration attorney to deal with the specifics of the visa you are applying for.

You can also follow/visit TechFetch H1B for information regarding non-immigrant visa processes.

**Disclaimer: All H1B processes are subject to change. Kindly refer to the USCIS official website for the latest updates.

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