What Is a Lawful Nonimmigrant?

A lawful nonimmigrant in the United States is a classification given to those entering the country on a temporary visa for a specific and lawful purpose. In order to qualify for this classification, visitors to the United States are required to retain a permanent residence in another nation.

Lawful nonimmigrants generally fall into 13 categories, although there are exceptions. These are:

  • Foreign government officials on political business
  • People visiting for the purposes of either commercial business or tourism and leisure
  • People passing through the United States as part of an onward journey to a destination outside the country
  • Treaty traders and investors
  • Students coming for the purpose of temporary study in the United States
  • International representatives
  • People employed or training for employment on a temporary basis in the United States
  • Media representatives
  • Exchange visitors
  • Fiancees of United States citizens
  • Employees transferred within a multinational company to a branch within the United States
  • NATO officials
  • Religious workers and representatives

Allowances are made by the USCIS for lawful nonimmigrants in all categories to be accompanied during their visit by their spouses and dependent children. Depending on the category of the visa granted, lawful nonimmigrants may be permitted to work.

While all categories are subject to specific regulations, not all are subject to time constraints. In any event, any lawful nonimmigrant who overstays their visa by more than a year is subject to deportation and barring from re-entry to the United States for a period of 10 years.