U.S. Immigration law is an alphabet soup of visa categories and concepts, and I thought it would be interesting to try to go from A to Z and see if I could come up with something for each letter. Here goes!

A: Alien – This is the term used for any foreign national involved in an immigration process. When a person applies for permanent residence, they receive an A#, or Alien Number.

B: B1/B2 visa – This is the most common visa held by visitors to the US. B1 is for business visitors, and B2 is for tourists. Usually, this is awarded as a B1/B2 multipurpose visa. It can be given for any amount of time, up to ten years, on a case-by-case basis.

C: Crew Visa – This visa is for airline and cruise staff members. The most important thing to know is that this is a transitory visa and so you cannot change your status. You can’t jump ship and stay and change to another status (pun intended).

D: Deportation – When someone is formally removed from the U.S. through the immigration court system. This can result from an overstay of authorized time/visa or a criminal arrest, or being apprehended after EWI (entry without inspection).

E: E visas are based on bilateral treaties between the U.S. and other countries. E-1 is based on trade and E-2 is based on investment. The duration is maximum five years with unlimited renewals but duration limits depend on reciprocity, and often can be quite limited.

F: F-1 student visas are issued for any formal educational program where the corresponding institution can emit an I-20 form authorizing study. This includes universities, community colleges, and language institutes. It is important to note that these visas can be used to bridge to work visas, and some come with optional practical training (OPT), which gives students a chance to work after program completion for one year or three if a STEM field.

G: G visas are one of the diplomatic visas – NATO and other designated international organizations (A visas are the other ones for other diplomatic employees, e.g. diplomatic missions/consulates). We get involved when transitioning people out of diplomatic status to green card/resident status with the authorization of the sponsoring country’s government.

H: H-1B visas are the principal visas used by college-educated professionals to get employed by US companies; H-2B visas are used for temporary workers; H-3 is a private sector visa for trainees and a great fill-in for those who can’t get in the H-1B lottery.

I: I-Visas for Journalists/Correspondents: These visas have essentially unlimited duration and can be used by foreign journalists – Oftentimes, we can do an EB-1 green card for them to transition to permanent residence.

J: J-1 visas are for interns and trainees, as well as au pairs. These are amazing visas to use to bring in temporary workers at all levels and in all verticals. They can be used as a bridge to a longer-term visa like H-1B, but the most important thing is to make sure they don’t come with a 2-year restriction. If the foreign national’s government funds any of their program or has a role in it, they may be subject to the restriction and then need a waiver to lift the 2-year physical bar, which is something we assist with regularly.

K: The most famous visa, perhaps (Have you seen “90 Day Fiancé”?), the K1 visa, requires proof of a bona fide relationship and person who gets it must get married within 90 days. In practice, it is always recommended doing a direct marriage-based case if the individuals get married overseas, which is faster than the K-1 process, has a lower chance of denial, as well as instant resident status when arriving (compared with the second transitional step of adjustment of status that comes after marriage in the U.S.).

L: Intra-company transfer visa – This is great for multinational companies expanding to the US or already established. It is used by the bigger companies frequently because they can do an L Blanket Petition and then have unlimited transfers processed through US embassies. It is also a great bridge to a green card (EB-1C).

M – The M1 vocational visa is great for people in trades like beauticians, hairstylists, and even acting. It is underused and very useful for people who are not pursuing positions that require a university degree.

N – Naturalization – the process by which a permanent resident becomes a US citizen. This requires passing a civics test and showing basic written and spoken English levels as well as a clean record and payment of taxes. I went through this process when I was 14.

O – The O-1 Extraordinary Ability visa is the most diverse visa, with no numerical caps or limitations based on nationality, profession, requires a showing of a high level of accomplishment and recognition in the person’s field and is a great bridge to the EB-1 green card based on almost identical requirements.

P – The P visa for performers is a precious tool. A P1 visa can be used by an artist, musician, dancer etc., coming to the US for specific performances or tours. A great option can also be a P3 artist, e.g. a Russian pianist for a Russian ballet school (which we did a few years ago).

Q: Qualified Representative – US immigration law is very specialized. Working with a general lawyer or a non-lawyer is very dangerous in terms of navigating the specifics of each process and coming up with the right strategy. There are even specialists within immigration law, such as deportation and removal, criminal immigration or consular-based petitions like reports of foreign birth abroad or waivers, so you need to make sure you are working with the person who is the perfect fit for your needs.

R – Reciprocity – Depending on how long one country gives US citizens visas, the US can expand or shrink the maximum duration of visas for foreign nationals based on “Reciprocity”, e.g. Denmark minimized from 5 years to 18 months, France to 25 months, Netherlands to 36. This is a highly political tool that can exact a form of revenge of sorts, one that can limit or compromise the short and long-term planning of many visa aspirants, especially with E-2 visas.

S: Specialty Occupation – Used for H-1B and E-3 visas, this legal standard requires that an employer prove that the position offered requires the attainment of a bachelor’s degree or higher in a specific specialty, or its equivalent, as a minimum for entry into the occupation. In practice, the more linear the fit between the position and the degree, the better in terms of maximizing approvals.

T: T visa for victims of human trafficking – This epidemic on a human rights level provides a recourse for those who were victims, allowing them to eventually become US residents and not penalizing them for having been smuggled into the US as part of international illegal trafficking rings.

U: ULP – Unlawful presence – This is accrued by individuals who have either entered illegally or in most cases, have overstayed their authorized stay of a specific visa or the visa waiver program. Accrual of ULP can lead to bars to entry, which are triggered when someone leaves the country. Over 180 days mean a 3-year bar, and over 365 days mean a 10-year bar. Getting another visa in the future is also highly unlikely. ULP of even one day leads to the cancellation of ESTA privileges for life!

V: Visa – A U.S. visa allows the bearer to apply for entry to the U.S. in a certain classification, like, for example, (F), visitor (B), or temporary worker (H). The Department of State is responsible for visa adjudication at U.S. Embassies and Consulates outside of the U.S. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) immigration inspectors determine the admission, length of stay, and conditions of stay at a port of entry and decide whether to allow a visa holder to enter or not.

W: Willful misrepresentation – Knowingly making a statement or a claim that is not in accordance with the actual facts. This can have drastic consequences, like visa denials, cancellations, or even permanent 10-year or permanent bars to entry. You must assume the government knows everything and if you don’t tell the truth and you are caught your future in the US is placed at grave risk.

X: (E)Xtraordinary ability – A subjective term that governs the adjudications of O and EB-1 visas – the goal is to show a person is extraordinary through verification from different sources, like expert letters confirming it, media coverage of that person in major media or major trade publications, judging other people’s work, being a member of a distinguished organization, having a starring role in a production or a critical role in an organization. (I had to get creative on this one!)

Y: Yemen – one of the most challenging countries to get a visa from, for example, B, F-1, and H visas are all capped at one year, and there is no E visa treaty, a clear demonstration of how political the US immigration system can be.

Z: Zealous – The representation of clients in this complicated and convoluted sea of letters, laws and policies require zealous, impassioned, and informed representation by a qualified immigration attorney in order to maximize chances of success!

Hope you enjoyed our trip from A to Z! If you have any immigration-related questions please contact us!