Immigrant Visa vs. Non-Immigrant Visa

There are many ways for foreign nationals to enter the United States, and it is important to know the difference between the types of visas available — immigrant and non-immigrant visas have different goals and different requirements.

Non-immigrant and immigrant visas both grant foreign nationals the right to enter the country and stay for an extended period of time. The most important difference between the two is quite simple. Immigrant visas are available to individuals that intend to make the United States their permanent home. In other words, the goal of an immigrant visa is lawful permanent residence, also known as having a green card. Lawful permanent residence can be obtained through a process called adjustment of status or through obtaining an immigrant visa.  On the other hand, non-immigrant visas are available for individuals that want to remain in the country on a temporary basis. If you or someone you love wishes to enter the United States, it is important to know the differences between the two.

Immigrant Visas

Immigrant visa holders are also known as immigrants, permanent residents, resident aliens, and green card holders. Individuals that successfully obtain their immigrant visa have most, but not all, of the rights of citizens born in the United States after they enter the United States. The majority of immigrant visas are family-based, which means a relative within the country files an application with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to sponsor the foreign national.

Employment visas are also available for individuals that want to remain in the country on a permanent basis. To obtain an employment visa, employers typically need to sponsor the workers entering the country. One such program is called PERM, or permanent labor certification. With PERM, employers can sponsor immigrants for an immigrant visa to come to the United States to perform a job when the business can show that there are no able, willing, and qualified U.S. workers to perform the job and the employer is able to pay the “prevailing wage” to the immigrant. Certain individuals such as investors or those with extraordinary skills or abilities may petition for an immigrant visa on their own behalf.

Non-Immigrant Visas

Non-immigrant visas allow foreign nationals to temporarily stay within the United States for the purposes of employment, investment, travel, studies, or pleasure, depending on the visa type. Employment-based non-immigrant visas, for example, allow individuals to work in the United States if they have a certain skill level, education, or expertise that are beneficial to the employer, the industry the worker is in, or the country as a whole. Non-immigrant visas are available for individuals with extraordinary abilities, that work in specialty occupations, or are multinational executives. Musicians, performers, professional athletes, and religious workers have special employment visas available to them as well. Non-immigrant (B-1 or B-2) visas are available for tourists who wish to enter the United States but are not from a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program.

Dual Intent Visas

Dual intent visas are appropriate for individuals that want to enter the United States to work, but that also have the intention of becoming a permanent immigrant. Individuals that fall into the categories of H-1B professionals, E, and L can also enter the country while also working towards permanent resident status.

Our Immigration Lawyers in Nashville Can Advise on Which Visa is Right for You


The attorneys at Ozment Law, PLC, have experience obtaining a wide variety of visas for applicants, family members, and employers. Entering the United States to work or to live is very exciting, but the process can be complex. At Ozment Law, our experienced Nashville immigration lawyers can advise on which visa is right for you, help you navigate the process, and ensure the best chance of a favorable outcome. Call us today at 615-321-8888 or contact us online to schedule a consultation with one of our skilled attorneys so we can review your case.