ATHLETES & PERFORMERS | The P Visa
P visa status is generally designated for athletes, entertainers, and performers, along with those who can be classified as their “essential support personnel.” These visas can be issued to individuals, groups, or teams, but they are typically only valid for the duration of an event, competition, or a specific series of events such as a tournament. Therefore, the maximum validity of the initial visa is usually one year unless it is for an individual athlete, in which case it can be up to five years depending on the nature of the relevant activities.
Regardless of the type of P visa application, almost every P visa request must include a very detailed itinerary that lists all the relevant appearances and performances for the athlete(s) or entertainer(s). Additionally, most P visa applications must include written consultations from relevant labor organizations which describe the nature of the work to be performed or relevant facts about the performing group that establish their credentials and stature.
Despite the independent nature of the work performed by athletes and entertainers, these visas require a sponsor such as a US employer or agent. Spouses and unmarried children under 21 years old can also obtain P visas for the same validity period as the principal applicant. And while these family members can attend school in the US if they desire, they are not permitted to work under this status.
DIVERSITY VISA PROGRAM | The Green Card Lottery
The Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery Program is almost certainly the most generous visa program currently offered by the United States, and possibly by any of the developed countries in the world. As indicated by the title of the program, one basically qualifies for it by being randomly selected in the annual DV Lottery administered by the US Government. In order to have a chance of being selected, one simply needs to register during the annual registration period on the Diversity Lottery website (which is usually between October and November of each year). The US Government then releases the names of the “winners” the following May or June, and subsequently begins issuing Diversity Visas the following October 1 and ending exactly one year later on September 30. Therefore, from the time of initial registration, one can potentially receive this visa in 1-2 years.
However, it is important to understand that if you are selected, it does not guarantee that you will receive a Green Card. That is, you still need to complete the DV application process and meet certain requirements (e.g. the principal applicant must at least hold a high school diploma or its equivalent, or have a high level of recent work experience). However, the requirements for Diversity Visas are significantly lower than those of most employment-based visas, and, unlike many other immigrant visa pathways, they do not require official financial sponsorship unless specifically requested by the interviewing officer.
Overall, this is an excellent pathway to a Green Card if one is fortunate enough to be selected, but it is unwise to rely on it since the chances of being selected are not only very low, but there are discussions of this program being removed altogether by the US Government in the not so distant future.
ASYLUM & REFUGEES | An opportunity for the less fortunate
The US immigration system has always placed a high priority on trying to assist foreigners who are forced to leave their homes due to various forms of persecution. With the ongoing war in Syria and growing unrest in various other parts of the world, this visa category is arguably more important than ever. At the same time, the security concerns raised by granting mass asylum to mostly undocumented individuals has caused many countries to reconsider their asylum & refugee programs, the United States included. In fact, with the new Trump Administration heavily focused on national security and border protection, it can be expected that those applying for asylum in the United States will have an increasingly difficult time doing so. However, it still remains a viable option as the US Government expects to grant asylum to thousands of refugees each year.
RELIGIOUS WORKERS | R-1 Visa
The R visa is designated for religious purposes. As a result, the sponsoring US employer must be a recognized religious organization. Usually, such recognition is demonstrated by providing official documentation from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), such as proof that the IRS recognizes the religious organization as a 501(c)(3) tax exempt entity.
As for the primary visa applicant, it must be demonstrated that he or she is a member of the relevant religious denomination for at least two years immediately preceding the date of the application. Additionally, it must also be demonstrated that such applicant is in possession of the proper credentials to perform the requested religious vocation in the United States. For example, as part of an R visa application, a minister or rabbi will typically need to submit documents which prove the specific courses that were undertaken and the certifications awarded in order to attain the title of Minister, Priest, Rabbi, etc.
Initial approval for a religious worker can be for a maximum of two and a half years, with the potential to extend for an additional two and a half years (making a total maximum stay of five years). Family members of the religious worker (spouse and unmarried children under 21) can also come to the US and legally stay for the same period of time as the principal applicant, but these family members are not authorized to work as part of this visa classification.