US visas are divided into two major classes: Non-immigrant (temporary visas) and Immigrant (permanent resident – Green Card).
Non-immigrant visas (e.g. H-1B, L-1, TN-1, E-1) are issued for a limited time period, often ranging from one to seven years, and have a wide variety of other restrictions and conditions depending on the specific visa. (For a list of the duration of many visa classifications, see the PDF file on the LEFT)
Immigrant visas, Permanent Resident or Green Cards, as they are commonly known, allow the alien to live and work in the US on a permanent basis. Permanent Resident visas are available based upon close family relationships with US citizens or current Green card holders (Family-Based Green Cards) and through your employment (Employment-Based Green Cards).
The CIS does NOT issue visas.
There are a number of US government agencies involved with the visa application process. The US Department of State not the Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) issues visas. US consular officers issue visas at US Consulates, all of which are located outside the United States. The CIS is part of the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), not the Department of State. The CIS issues approvals to obtain a visa and, in most cases, it is not possible to obtain a visa without first obtaining CIS authorization.
The US Department of Labor (DOL) plays a major role in all work related visa processing by providing various authorizations required prior to submitting CIS paperwork. Although similar in name the two approvals issued by the DOL are very different and have vastly different requirements. The two most prevalent DOL approvals are:
- Labor Condition Application – often simply referred to as an LCA (required for many non-immigrant visas)
- Labor Certification – often referred to as Labor Cert (LCP) (required for most employment-based Permanent Resident visas – Green Cards)
Are you seeking a visa for business or pleasure to travel to a foreign country?
You could research the requirements, communicate with the embassy of the foreign country to which you are planning to travel, complete the required applications and visit that country’s embassy to obtain the needed visa.
Or, you could take advantage of a special arrangement we have with CIBT, the leading provider of passport and visa services.