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What is a nonimmigrant? 


A nonimmigrant is a foreign national who is visiting the U.S. on a temporary basis. While here in the U.S., the nonimmigrant may work or study or travel as a tourist. What he can do is based on the type of visa he has. There are a variety of categories, some of the more popular and well-known categories are H-1B for specialty workers and F-1s for students. Each category has its own list of requirements that the foreign national must qualify for. Generally, each category has its own length of time that the foreign national is permitted to stay in the U.S., although there are a handful that do not have this characteristic.

An important issue that the nonimmigrant must concern himself with is intent. When applying for a nonimmigrant visa, the foreign national will have to show that he has temporary nonimmigrant intent. That is, he plans on being in the U.S. for only a temporary period of time, and he plans on leaving after his stay in the U.S. expires. This can be done by providing supporting documentation proving his nonimmigrant intent. 

For certain temporary visas, the foreign national will also need to show that he has a residence in a foreign country which he has no intention of abandoning. This means that the alien has a home abroad that he has not desire to abandon. It doesnít require that he own a home abroad, nor does it exclude those who reside in the household of another. The key is that the alien has the intention to establish a residence outside of the U.S.

Some categories require that the foreign national first have an employer submit a petition to the INS. This is the case with H-1B visas. The INS will examine the foreign nationalís qualifications to see if he is eligible for that particular category. If he does, the INS will provide an approval notice for the foreign national. The foreign national can then take that approval notice and present it a U.S. embassy or U.S. consulate in his home country to request a visa stamp. A foreign national going through this procedure can expect the processing time to take several months as it involves the INS, and the INS is burdened with a heavy workload.

Other categories do not require initial approval from the INS, they can be requested directly at the U.S. embassy or U.S. consulate by the foreign national. In those cases, the foreign national will have to demonstrate that he qualifies for the category that he is applying for. Individuals seeking to enter the U.S. as a R-1 religious worker do not need to endure a long INS processing time, and can simply apply directly at the local U.S. consulate.




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