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What is the difference between an immigrant and non-immigrant visa?

Sanford, NC |

I have married an Egyptian man and need to know the difference between an immigrant and non-immigrant visa. What are the easiest and quickest procedure to follow to bring him into our household in the states?
Thank you very much for your help

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Attorney answers 5


If a foreigner has immigrant intent for the purposes of the visit, then he should be denied a non-immigrant visa, such as a B-1 and B-2 visitors visas, among other visa types. That is the difference.

The law requires the U.S. Government to presume immigrant intent, when someone applies for a non-immigrant visa. Consular officials are allowed to use discretion in deciding who they have reason to believe will try to immigrate for the purposes of the visit. The CBP has the same discretion and can cancel visitor visas, when foreigners seem to abuse them.

Those who will immigrate should be encouraged to consider immigrant visas or other arguable dual intent visa options such as H1-b professional visas or fiance visa petitions.

There are no easy or quick procedures. There are faster, not necessarily fast procedures. The process can take quite some time and the Consular Officials in Cairo are a skeptical group. An experienced immigration attorney can assist in lawfully documenting the case with material that will help the USCIS and consular officials approve a petition and visa.

The above is general information and does not create an attorney-client relationship.


Immigrant visa means getting a green card and non- immigrant visas are visa to be in the US for temporary purposes such as work visa or visitor's visa.

The quickest way to bring him to the US will depend upon your Immigration status in the US.


An immigrant visa allows the bearer to travel to the United States in order to permanently live and work. Immigrants are foreign nationals who seek lawful permanent residence in the United States. A grant of immigrant status as a lawful permanent resident is usually a prerequisite for foreign nationals who wish to become United States citizens. Foreign nationals who become eligible for lawful permanent residence while outside the United States are required to obtain an immigrant visa before traveling to the United States.

A nonimmigrant visa allows the bearer to travel to the United States temporarily for business, tourism, studies, or work. Nonimmigrant visa classifications are commonly identified by alphabet letters from A to T according to the subsection of the Immigration and Nationality Act which authorizes them. Each classification has specific requirements and restrictions, but generally, nonimmigrant visas have two things in common:

1. Limited Timeframe: Nonimmigrant visas status is usually limited to a specified time period which expires upon a date certain or specific occurrence; and

2. Limited Purpose: Nonimmigrant visa status is usually limited to the particular purpose for which admission is authorized.

Generally, nonimmigrant visas can be obtained in a much shorter timeframe than immigrant visas, and therefore may be strategically used to allow for travel to the Unites States while immigrant classification is sought.

In the marriage context, the difference between a non immigrant and immigrant visa is blurred a bit. Spouses of U.S. citizens and the spouse's children can also come to the United States on K nonimmigrant visas (K-3/K-4 respectively) in order to complete the immigration process in the United States. In contrast, a spouse of a U.S. citizen who is granted an immigrant visa completes all the required processing outside the U.S..

In theory it should be faster to get a K-3 than an immigrant visa for a spouse of a U.S. citizen, but this is not always the case. Delays at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Service Center, or at the Consulate abroad can make a K-3 take as long an immigrant visa. An experienced immigration attorney would be able to help you in ascertaining the best path to take.


The difference between non-immigrant intent and immigrant intent is whether or not the person intends on residing in the U.S. permanently. As for which is the easiest and quickest procedure, that will depend on the processing times for I-130 visa petitions and K-3 visa petitions in conjunction with the wait times at the Cairo embassy for immigrant visas and non-immigrant visas. Consult a lawyer before proceeding on a course of action.


If your husband intends to reside permanently in the US, you should apply for an immigrant petition. The most popular one is the I-130 petition. This is the one you file to petition a relative. Aside from the I-130, there is a more recent visa category that you can apply for in behalf of your foreign husband. It is the K-3 petition. Usually, it is a lot quicker than the I-130 petition. However, there are instances that the waiting time for the two categories are almost the same.

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