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Visas: Immigrant or non-immigrant? Which do you need?

Colorado is home to many people who traveled to the United States from other countries of origin. You may have plans of your own to apply for a visa that brings you one step closer to legally entering the U.S., either on a temporary or permanent basis. Determining which type of visa you need and learning more about the legal processes involved can help you avoid complications that may impede you from achieving your goals.

There are eligibility requirements you must first fulfill before applying for a visa. It's critical that you understand the differences between the types of visas available, so that you know which one best fits your particular needs and ultimate immigration travel goals. You'll also want to remember that obtaining a visa doesn't guarantee entry to the United States. It simply means immigration officials have deemed you eligible. If a legal status problem arises, you'll want to know where to turn for guidance and support.

If permanent residency is part of your plan

Not every immigrant who travels to Colorado or elsewhere in the United States returns to his or her origin country. Perhaps you have met the love of your life and are busy planning your wedding, which includes plans to permanently relocate to the U.S. By marrying a U.S. citizen, you may be eligible for a green card, which would allow you to stay in this country to live and work on an indefinite basis.

This is one example of a situation that would fall under immigrant visa classification. There are other reasons you may want to apply for an immigrant visa, as well. This type of visa is for those who wish to enter the U.S. and stay here permanently.

If your visit to the United States is temporary

Perhaps you wish to study at a Colorado university, or maybe your purpose for travel includes medical treatment you wish to receive at a U.S. hospital or medical treatment center. If your reasons for visiting the United States include plans to return to your country of origin, then you would want to apply for a non-immigrant visa.

There are several types of non-immigrant visas, each with its own eligibility and application requirements. In fact, some types of non-immigrant visas necessitate receiving proper authorization before you file your application.

Do you need a visa at all?

In certain circumstances, the U.S. government might allow you to cross its borders without a visa. Under the Visa Waiver Program, you might be able to visit the U.S. for 90 days or less without first obtaining a visa. Your purpose of travel might be business-related or merely for pleasure.

Not only must you have a valid passport that is active for six months past your intended stay, you might also need to show proof of a round-trip ticket that will transport you out of U.S. territory within the prescribed time frame. If you enter the United States under the Visa Waiver Program, you may not seek an adjustment of legal status unless you are seeking asylum.

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