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What is a foreign national?

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Quick Answer

A foreign national is a citizen of another country who is temporarily visiting America, according to Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. A foreign national is neither a citizen nor a permanent resident alien of the United States, notes Reference.com.

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Full Answer

Foreign nationals may enter the United States to reunite with family, study at school, work, perform as an artist or seek refuge. The federal government may also grant foreign nationals a permit to enter the United States so they can invest in American companies and for purposes of diversity, according to the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas.

An American citizen can petition the U.S. government to allow family members to enter the country to live and work. Employers can do the same thing for foreign nationals to work, notes LRS. Temporary visas for students attending college expire after a certain time. Actors and athletes get a temporary performing visa for the time they are in the United States, which can be a few weeks or an entire sports season. Foreign nationals can seek asylum if their lives are in danger in their home country.

A foreign national may be a resident alien or nonresident alien for tax purposes. A foreign national's status as a resident or nonresident alien is determined by visa status, the purpose of the visit and length of stay, notes SIU-E.

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