Nonimmigrant and Immigrant Visa Categories: Data Brief

Congress has expressed interest in the visa categories under which foreign nationals may enter or be present in the United States. This brief report provides the following information: a list of nonimmigrant (i.e., temporary) visa categories and lawful permanent resident (LPR) categories, a description of each category, the allowed duration of stay in the United States for each nonimmigrant visa category, the annual numeric limit (or “cap”) for each nonimmigrant and LPR category, and the number of visas issued under each nonimmigrant category/number of individuals obtaining LPR status under each LPR category in FY2017.

Nonimmigrant and Immigrant Visa Categories: Data Brief

October 1, 2019 (R45938)

Introduction

Congress has expressed interest in the visa categories by which foreign nationals may enter or be present in the United States. U.S. immigration policy is governed largely by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which was first codified in 1952 and has been amended significantly several times since.1 The United States has long distinguished permanent immigration from temporary immigration. Permanent immigration occurs through family and employer-sponsored categories, the diversity immigrant visa lottery, and refugee and asylee admissions. Temporary immigration occurs through the admission of visitors for specific purposes and limited periods of time, and encompasses two dozen categories (which are commonly referred to by the letter and numeral that denote their subparagraph in the INA).2

This brief report provides the following information:

  • a list of nonimmigrant (i.e., temporary)3 visa categories and lawful permanent resident (LPR)4 categories,
  • a description of each category,
  • the allowed duration of stay in the United States for each nonimmigrant visa category,
  • the annual numeric limit (or "cap") for each nonimmigrant and LPR category, and
  • the number of visas that were issued/individuals obtaining LPR status for each category in FY2017.

This information is provided in two tables: Table 1 contains information for nonimmigrant visa categories, and Table 2 contains information for LPR categories.

Table 1. Nonimmigrant Visas, FY2017

Visa Category

Description

Initial Duration of Staya

Annual Numeric Limit

FY2017 Visa Issuances

A-1

Ambassador, public minister, career diplomat, or consul, and immediate family

Duration of assignment

None

10,033

A-2

Other foreign government official or employee, and immediate family

Duration of assignment

None

98,849

A-3

Attendant or personal employee of A-1/A-2, and immediate family

Up to three years

None

1,031

B-1

Visitor for business

Six months to one year

None

39,712

B-2

Visitor for pleasure

Six months to one year

None

42,037

B-1/B-2

Visitor for business and pleasure

Six months to one year

None

6,276,851

B-1/B-2/ BCC

Border crossing cards for Mexicans

Up to 30 days (or longer if coupled with B-1 or B-2)

None

1,030,460

B-1/B-2/ BCV

Mexican Lincoln Border Crossing Visa

Up to 30 days (or longer if coupled with B-1 or B-2)

None

43,455

C-1

Alien in transit

Up to 29 days

None

11,061

C-1/D

Alien in transit/crew member

Up to 29 days

None

293,285

C-2

Alien in transit to United Nations Headquarters

Up to 29 days

None

12

C-3

Foreign government official and immediate family, attendant, or personal employee in transit

Up to 29 days

None

8,262

CW-1

Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas (CNMI) transitional worker

Up to one year

13,000 for FY2019

6,198

CW-2

Spouse or child of CW-1

Up to one year

None

648

D

Crew member

Up to 29 days

None

7,202

E-1

Treaty trader, spouse and child, and employee

Up to two years

None

7,063

E-2

Treaty investor, spouse and child, and employee

Up to two years

None

43,673

E-2C

CNMI treaty investor, spouse, and child

Up to two years

None

106

E-3

Australian specialty occupation professional

Up to two years

10,500

5,657

E-3D

Spouse or child of E-3

Up to two years

None

4,169

E-3R

Returning E-3

Up to two years

None

2,306

F-1

Foreign student (academic or language training program)

Duration of study (limited to 12 months for secondary school students)

None

393,573

F-2

Spouse or child of F-1

Duration of study

None

27,435

F-3

Border commuter academic or language student

Duration of study

None

0

G-1

Principal resident representative of recognized foreign member government to international organization, staff, and immediate family

Duration of assignment

None

5,131

G-2

Other representative of recognized foreign member government to international organization, staff, and immediate family

Duration of assignment

None

15,380

G-3

Representative of nonrecognized or nonmember foreign member government to international organization, staff, and immediate family

Duration of assignment

None

292

G-4

International organization officer or employee, and immediate family

Duration of assignment

None

23,930

G-5

Attendant or personal employee of G-1 through G-4, and immediate family

Up to three years

None

583

H-1B

Temporary worker—professional specialty occupation

Specialty occupation: up to three years; Department of Defense (DOD) research & development: up to five years

Specialty occupation or fashion model: 65,000, plus 20,000 for those with U.S. advanced degrees; renewals and certain research/educational employers are not counted against cap;

DOD research & development: 100 at any time

179,049

H-1 B-1

Free trade agreement professional from Chile or Singapore

Up to one year

1,400 for Chile; 5,400 for Singapore

Chile: 632

Singapore: 759

H-2A

Temporary worker—agricultural workers

Up to one year

None

161,583

H-2B

Temporary worker—nonagricultural workers

Up to one year (up to three years in the case of a one-time event)

66,000 (DHS made 30,000 additional visas available for FY2019)

83,600

H-3

Temporary worker—trainee

Alien trainee: up to two years

Special education exchange visitor program: up to 18 months

Alien trainee: none

Special education exchange visitor program: 50

1,232

H-4

Spouse or child of H-1B, H-1B-1, H-2A, H-2B, or H-3

Same as H-1, H-2, or H-3 spouse/parent

None

136,393

I

Representative of foreign information media, spouse and child

Duration of employment

None

14,126

J-1

Cultural exchange visitor

Duration of program

None

343,811

J-2

Spouse or child of J-1

Duration of program

None

39,354

K-1

Fiancé(e) of U.S. citizen

Valid for four months; must marry within 90 days of entry to adjust to LPR status

None

34,797

K-2

Child of K-1

Same as parent

None

5,388

K-3

Spouse of U.S. citizen awaiting lawful permanent resident visa

Up to two years

None

15

K-4

Child of K-3

Up to two years or until 21st birthday

None

8

L-1

Intracompany transferee (executive, managerial, and specialized knowledge personnel continuing employment with international firm or corporation)

Up to three years; up to one year when beneficiary is coming to open or be employed in a new office

None

78,178

L-2

Spouse or child of L-1

Same as spouse/parent

None

85,254

M-1

Vocational student

Duration of study

None

9,587

M-2

Spouse or child of M-1

Same as spouse/parent

None

395

M-3

Border commuter vocational or nonacademic student

Duration of study

None

0

NATO-1

Principal permanent representative of member nations to North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), high ranking NATO officials, and immediate family members

Tour of duty

None

7

NATO-2

Other representatives of member states to NATO (including any of its subsidiary bodies) and immediate family members; dependents of member of a force entering in accordance with provisions of NATO agreements, members of such force

Tour of duty

None

5,797

NATO-3

Official clerical staff accompanying a representative of a member state to NATO, and immediate family

Tour of duty

None

0

NATO-4

Officials of NATO (other than those classifiable as NATO-1), and immediate family

Tour of duty

None

214

NATO-5

Experts employed in missions on behalf of NATO (other than NATO-4 officials), and their dependents

Tour of duty

None

21

NATO-6

Civilian employees of a force entering in accordance with the provisions of NATO agreements or attached to NATO headquarters, and immediate family

Tour of duty

None

547

NATO-7

Attendant or personal employee of NATO-1 through NATO-6, and immediate family

Up to three years

None

2

N-8

Parent of certain special immigrants (pertaining to international organizations)

Up to three years, as long as special immigrant remains a child

None

9

N-9

Child of N-8 or of certain special immigrants (pertaining to international organizations)

Up to three years, or until no longer a child, whichever is shorter

None

0

O-1

Person with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics

Up to three years

None

17,011

O-2

Person accompanying and assisting in the artistic or athletic performance by O-1

Up to three years

None

8,053

O-3

Spouse or child of O-1 or O-2

Up to three years

None

4,974

P-1

Internationally recognized athlete or member of an internationally recognized entertainment group and essential support

Up to five years for individual, up to one year for group or team

None

24,932

P-2

Artist or entertainer in a reciprocal exchange program and essential support

Up to one year

None

120

P-3

Artist or entertainer in a culturally unique program and essential support

Up to one year

None

9,745

P-4

Spouse or child of P-1, P-2, or P-3

Same as spouse/parent

None

1,399

Q-1

International cultural exchange program participant

Up to 15 months

None

1,935

R-1

Religious worker

Up to 30 months

None

4,492

R-2

Spouse or child of R-1

Up to 30 months

None

1,889

S-5

Witness or informant in criminal matter

Up to three years

200

0

S-6

Witness or informant in terrorism matter

Up to three years

50

0

S-7

Spouse or child of S-5 and S-6

Up to three years

None

0

T-1

Victim of human trafficking

Up to four years; may adjust to LPR status if conditions are met

5,000

0

T-2

Spouse of T-1

Same as T-1

None

76

T-3

Child of T-1

Same as T-1

None

339

T-4

Parent of T-1

Same as T-1

None

17

T-5

Unmarried sibling under age 18 of T-1

Same as T-1

None

23

T-6

Adult or minor child of T-2, T-3, T-4, or T-5

Same as T-1

None

18

TN

NAFTA professional

Up to three years

None

16,119

TD

Spouse or child of TN

Up to three years

None

9,612

U-1

Victim or informant of criminal activity

Up to four years; may adjust to LPR status if conditions are met.

10,000

129

U-2

Spouse of U-1

Same as U-1

None

122

U-3

Child of U-1

Same as U-1

None

1,226

U-4

Parent of U-1 under age 21

Same as U-1

None

40

U-5

Unmarried sibling under age 18 of U-1 under age 21

Same as U-1

None

40

V-1

Spouse of LPR who has had immigrant visa petition pending for three years or longer; transitional visa that leads to LPR status when visa becomes available

Up to two years

None

0

V-2

Child of LPR who has had immigrant visa petition pending for three years or longer

Up to two years, or until 21st birthday

None

0

V-3

Child of V-1 or V-2

Up to two years, or until 21st birthday

None

0

Total

 

 

 

9,681,913

Source: Visa Category, Description, Duration of Stay, and Annual Numeric Limit: §101(a)(15), §212, and §214 of the Immigration and Nationality Act; and §214 of 8 C.F.R. FY2017. Visa Issuances: U.S. Department of State, Report of the Visa Office 2017, Table XVI (B).

a. Some visas are renewable. For more information, see Appendix in CRS Report R45040, Immigration: Nonimmigrant (Temporary) Admissions to the United States.

Table 2. LPR Categories, FY2017

LPR Category

Description

Annual Numeric Limit

FY2017 LPR Recipientsa

Employment-Based Preference Immigrants

EB-1

Priority workers

40,040

41,060

EB-2

Professionals with advanced degrees or aliens of exceptional ability

40,040

39,331

EB-3

Skilled workers, professionals, and needed unskilled workers

40,040b
(including up to 10,000 for unskilled "other workers")

38,083

EB-4

Special immigrants (including religious workers, employees of U.S. government abroad, and juvenile court dependents)

9,940

(including up to 5,000 religious workers)

9,504

EB-5

Investors/employment creation

9,940

9,877

Family-Based Immigrants

 

 

IR-1

Spouses of U.S. citizens

No annual limit

292,909

IR-2

Children of U.S. citizens (includes orphans and adoptees)

No annual limit

74,984

IR-3

Parents of U.S. citizens

No annual limit

148,610

F-1

Unmarried sons/daughters of U.S. citizens and their children

23,400

26,219

F-2

Spouses, children, and unmarried sons/daughters of LPRs

114,200

113,500

F-3

Married sons/daughters of U.S. citizens and their spouses and children

23,400

23,260

F-4

Brothers/sisters of U.S. citizens (age 21 or older) and their spouses and children

65,000

69,259

Diversity

Individuals from countries that send relatively few immigrants to the United States

50,000c

51,592

Refugees

Aliens admitted to the United States as refugees based on persecution claims who have been physically present in the United States for at least one year

No annual limit

120,356

Asylees

Aliens granted asylum based on persecution claims who have been physically present in the United States for at least one year

No annual limit

25,647

Other

Includes parolees, children born abroad to alien residents, certain Iraqis and Afghans employed by the U.S. government, cancellation of removal, victims of human trafficking, and victims of crime

Various limitsd

23,780

Total

 

 

1,127,167

Source: LPR Category, Description, and Annual Numeric Limit: CRS summary of INA §§203(a), 203(b), and 204, (8 U.S.C. §§1153(a) 1153(b), and 1154) and Presidential Determination No. 2019-01, October 4, 2018. FY2017 Recipients: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Yearbook of Immigration Statistics FY2017, Table 6.

a. Categories in which the number of LPR recipients exceeds the statutory annual numeric limit are largely due to timing differences between when LPR status is officially granted, and when immigrants actually arrive in the United States and are counted by DHS as green card recipients. These differences also result from the "roll-downs" of unused visa numbers from higher-priority categories. For more information, see Table 1 in CRS Report R42866, Permanent Legal Immigration to the United States: Policy Overview.

b. The Immigration and Nationality Act provides 40,040 EB-3 immigrant visas each year. However, beginning in FY2002 that annual ceiling has been reduced by up to 5,000 each year to accommodate adjustments made under the Nicaraguan and Central American Relief Act (NACARA, Title II of P.L. 105-100). The 5,000 offset is temporary, but it is unclear for how many years it will remain in effect to handle these adjustments of status.

c. The Immigration and Nationality Act provides 55,000 diversity immigrant visas each year. However, beginning in FY1999 that annual ceiling has been reduced by up to 5,000 each year to accommodate adjustments made under the Nicaraguan and Central American Relief Act (NACARA, Title II of P.L. 105-100). The 5,000 offset is temporary, but it is unclear for how many years it will remain in effect to handle these adjustments of status.

d. For more information on these categories, see CRS Report R42866, Permanent Legal Immigration to the United States: Policy Overview.

Author Contact Information

Jill H. Wilson, Analyst in Immigration Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

Footnotes

1.

The INA is Title 8 of the U.S. Code. For an overview of U.S. immigration policy, see CRS Report R45020, A Primer on U.S. Immigration Policy.

2.

These categories are found in INA §101(a)(15), 8 U.S.C. §1101(a)(15).

3.

"Nonimmigrants" refers to foreign nationals lawfully admitted to the United States for a specific purpose and period of time, including tourists, diplomats, students, temporary workers, and exchange visitors, among others. For more information, see CRS Report R45040, Immigration: Nonimmigrant (Temporary) Admissions to the United States.

4.

Lawful permanent residents (LPRs) are foreign nationals lawfully admitted to the United States to live permanently. For more information, see CRS Report R42866, Permanent Legal Immigration to the United States: Policy Overview.