5 Best Types of US Visas for African Immigrants
The United States welcomes immigrants from all over the world, with more than 1 million legal permanent residents admitted every year. However, if you’re not from one of the 38 countries that qualify for the Visa Waiver Program, or if you’re seeking to immigrate to the US permanently, you’ll need to apply for a visa before coming to America. Many visas have strict requirements and long wait times, but some have quicker processing times and can be an excellent option depending on your situation. Here are five of the best types of US visas available to immigrants from Africa.
F1 Visa – Undergraduate Studies
F1 visas are reserved for students who wish to pursue undergraduate studies in a US institution. Students must apply directly to and be accepted by a school before applying for their visa. F1s cannot work off-campus without explicit permission from their educational institution, so you’ll need a job lined up prior to landing an F1 visa. Unlike other types of visas, there is no legal limit on how long an F1 can stay in the United States – it’s not uncommon for them to extend their stay indefinitely with further coursework.
F1 Visa Requirements
Here are the documents required to apply for an F1 Visa:
- Your valid passport.
- Form DS-160 for non-immigrant visa applications.
- Two photographs meet the US Visa Photo Requirements.
- Proof of paid F1 visa fee.
- Form I-20. Your Form I-20 states the number of funds you need to finance your education and living in the US. You must submit documents that prove you have that amount readily available. This can be done by submitting various documents, such as:
- Bank statements for the last 3 years
- Tax records for the last 3 years
- Pay stubs of previous employment
- If you have received a scholarship, you also need to submit proof of it
- Paying a semester’s or a year’s worth of tuition is also a good idea, but not mandatory
- If you are supported or sponsored by someone else in the US, you will need to submit Form I-134, Affidavit of Support, and bank statements for the last three years of that person.
- If you are funding your US education through a loan, you must also show proof of the approved loan
- Documents that prove your previous education and current qualifications:
- Original transcripts
- Standardized test scores (TOEFL, IELTS, GRE, GMAT, etc.)
- Acceptance letters from the educational institution which accepted you
- Previous degree diplomas
- Proof of purchased health insurance for international students.
F2 Visa – Spouse of an F1 Visa Holder
If you’re married to a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or other eligible individuals, then you may be eligible for an F2 visa (also known as a K-3 Visa). F2 visas allow foreign nationals and their spouses to work in any field. Be aware, however, that F2 visas must be converted into immigrant status before your beneficiary spouse is able to do any sort of paid work. This process involves filing form I-751 and applying for adjustment status once an immigrant petition has been approved by USCIS—it’s no small feat!
Gather Required Documentation
Gather and prepare the following required documents before your visa interview:
- Passport valid for travel to the United States – Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your period of stay in the United States (unless exempt by country-specific agreements). Each individual who needs a visa must submit a separate application, including any family members listed in your passport.
- Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160 confirmation page.
- Application fee payment receipt, if you are required to pay before your interview.
- Photo– You will upload your photo while completing the online Form DS-160. If the photo upload fails, you must bring one printed photo in the format explained in the Photograph Requirements.
- Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status-For Academic and Language Students, Form I-20 or Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student Status for Vocational Students, Form I-20 – Your school will send you a Form I-20 once they have entered your information in the SEVIS database. You and your school official must sign Form I-20. All students must be registered in the Student and Exchange Visitor System (SEVIS). Your spouse and/or minor children, if they intend to live in the United States with you, will each receive an individual Form I-20.
Additional Documentation May Be Required
A consular officer will interview you to determine your qualifications for a student visa and may request additional documents, such as evidence of:
- Your academic preparation, such as:
- Transcripts, diplomas, degrees, or certificates from schools you attended; and
- Standardized test scores required by your U.S. school;
- Your intent to depart the United States upon completion of the course of study; and
- How you will pay for all educational, living, and travel costs.
Review the instructions for how to apply for a visa on the website of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will apply.
L1A/L1B Visa – For Specialized Workers
If you’re skilled in an area where there’s currently a shortage of qualified labor, then it’s a good idea to consider applying for an L1A or L1B visa. These visas allow companies to import foreign workers on a temporary basis with specialized knowledge and experience. If you’re applying as an individual, you must be paid at least $60,000 per year. The spouse and minor children may apply for work permits on your behalf if necessary.
Requirements for L1 Visa
There are a number of basic requirements for an L1 Visa and there are also certain specific necessities that are applicable to employers and employees.
The basic requirements include:
- The U.S company(branch, subsidiary, etc.) petitioning for the visa, must have a qualifying relationship with the parent company.
- There must be enough physical space for a new office (if applicable).
- For the entire period of the visa holder’s stay in the States, the company that petitioned for this visa must be engaged in business as an employer in the States and a minimum of one other country.
Requirements for Employee – L-1A:
- The employee should have worked overseas for a company for a minimum period of one continuous year within 3 years prior to his/her admission to the States.
- The employee must have been in a managerial or executive position in order to qualify.
- The employee must be going to the States in order to provide his/her services in a managerial or executive capacity for qualifying organizations such as a branch of the employer.
- The holder of this visa must have intentions to depart the country after completion of the stay.
Requirements for employee- L-1B:
- The employee must have worked overseas for a company for a minimum period of one continuous year within 3 years prior to his/her admission to the States.
- The employee will have to work with the company to provide specialized services to the qualifying organization
- Visa holders must intend to leave the country after completion of work.
H1B Visa – For Skilled Workers
The H1B visa is an employment-based, non-immigrant visa. Employers must file a petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on behalf of foreign workers they wish to hire before those workers can apply for a visa. The number of annual H1B visas issued is capped at 65,000, although exemptions may be granted if there are unused visas from previous years or if employers can demonstrate a shortage in certain specialized fields—for example, health care professions. A minimum bachelor’s degree is required and employers must file Labor Condition Applications with the U.S. Department of Labor prior to offering any jobs to prospective employees on H1B visas.
Following is a typical sample of the required document for the H-1B petition:
- Copy of passport.
- Copy of degrees /educational certificates / transcripts.
- Letter of current employment.
- Copy of previous employment /experience.
- Copy of any certifications/achievements.
EB5 Visa – Invest in America
If you’re an immigrant looking to move to America and you’ve got at least $500,000 USD in liquid assets, then an EB5 visa might be your best bet. The EB5 program is intended to attract investment from foreign nationals willing to invest and create jobs in America. It’s one of a few different types of visas available to immigrants who want to live in America permanently. It can also take years before you get approved for an EB5 visa—in fact, it can take anywhere between two and ten years. It all depends on how long it takes your petition to make its way through the process.
The main requirements for an EB-5 Visa investment are:
- It must meet the minimum capital amount. Either $900,000 in a TEA or $1.8 million outside TEAs.
- It must create at least 10 new full-time jobs for at least two years. If you cannot prove immediately that the investment has created the positions, you should be able to prove that the need for at least 10 new full-time employees will arise.
- The money you invest must have been acquired legally.
- The investment must be approved by the USCIS.
- The enterprise you invest in must be a “for-profit” new commercial enterprise that was established after 1990.
- The money you invest must be considered “at-risk”, meaning that there is no guarantee of capital return.