Visa Attorney for Bellevue, Kirkland, and Seattle

There are many different visas; which one is best for you?

All non-U.S. citizens need a visa to enter the United States lawfully, and the specific type of visa required will depend on the reason for an individual’s entry into the States. Navigating the complexities of U.S. immigration law can be challenging and understanding the right visa for your specific situation is crucial. We guide clients through every step of the immigration visa process.

If you need assistance obtaining a visa, we invite you to complete the contact form or email our office for an initial review of your needs and objectives or to schedule a consultation. For three decades, immigration visa lawyer Barbara Marcouiller has focused exclusively on immigration law. Barbara is committed to delivering personalized, dedicated immigration services to businesses,  professionals, and individuals.

What Is the Difference Between Visa and Status?

A Visa is a document that is placed in the applicant’s passport by the U.S. State Department at a U.S. consulate abroad that allows them to enter the United States. Visas are always obtained at a U.S. consulate abroad and are never issued in the U.S. (unless we get visa revalidation back, which they are talking about!).

Conversely, it is possible to have the “status” of a certain type of visa without actually having the visa. That occurs when someone who is lawfully in the U.S. changes their status from one type to another.  For example, a student on an F-1 visa may apply from within the U.S. to change his status to H-1B. Provided all else is approved (and also the timing is right on the H-1B), then the applicant will have the status of an H-1B as long as he does not violate the status or it expires, and so long as he remains in the U.S.  If that person leaves the U.S. for any reason including vacation or his job, he will need to apply for and receive the actual H-1B visa at the appropriate U.S. consulate abroad before being able to return to the U.S.  It is fine to have the status without the visa so long as the person is in the U.S.  But if that person should ever leave, they need the visa to be readmitted to the country.  Given the appointment backlogs at the consulate, you will want to be sure to plan travel ahead of time, and also to work with us to make sure you have all needed documents to show you continue to qualify for the status.  [See our blog post: The Consular Interview is Not ‘Just the Last Step.’]

What are “Non-Immigrant” Visas?

“Non-immigrant” visas are designed for individuals who intend to stay in the U.S. temporarily for a specific purpose. These encompass a wide range of purposes, including tourism, business, study, and temporary work.

Non-Immigrant Employment Visas

About the H-1B:

Among non-immigrant visas, many are specific to employment . These include the H-1B visa, which requires both the job and applicant to meet specific qualifications.  For an H-1B visa, not only does the foreign national need to possess a minimum of the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree (4-year university degree) from an accredited university in the U.S., but the job must also require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree to be able to perform.  For example, the employer will need to demonstrate the job requires an accountant and could not be done by a bookkeeper, which doesn’t require a degree.

A similar example would be the Registered Nurse whose job is a nurse’s aid or administrator, or one that doesn’t require the qualifications of an RN.  Even though the job applicant may be a registered nurse, the job needs to require a registered nurse to perform it for H-1B purposes.

On the other side of that issue, consider the prospective employee who was an artist with a Master of Fine Arts degree. Certainly, there have been famous artists throughout history who did not have a university degree, so a position as an “artist” would not qualify for an H-1B visa. However, in our case, we realized the specific job duties were an excellent match for a curator of an art gallery.  With the employer-gallery’s full agreement, we applied as a curator, not as an artist, and that visa was approved.  It is important to work with a highly experienced immigration attorney to analyze both the job and the prospective employee’s credentials.

Other Types of Non-Immigrant Visas

Marcouiller PLLC offers expertise in non-immigrant visas, each catering to specific needs and with unique requirements:

  • E-1 and E-2 Visas: For treaty traders and investors from countries with which the U.S. has the required treaty
  • E-3: Similar to an H-1B specialty worker but specifically for Australians, with a few other differences
  • H-1B: For specialty workers (as above)
  • H-2B: For seasonal workers
  • L Visa: For intracompany transferees who work in managerial or executive positions, or have specialized knowledge.
  • O Visa: Extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, business, or athletics
  • P Visa: For athletes, artists, and entertainers.
  • Q Visa: For participants in international cultural exchange programs.
  • R Visa: For religious workers.
  • I Visa: For representatives of foreign media.
  • TN Visa: Under NAFTA, for Canadian and Mexican citizens engaging in professional business activities.

As a visa attorney with thirty years of experience, Barbara Marcouiller guides clients through the complexities of each visa type, ensuring a clear understanding of the eligibility criteria and application process.

What is an Immigrant Visa?

“Immigrant” visas admit someone into the U.S. for permanent residence, not a temporary stay. Someone who enters the U.S. on an immigrant visa is a lawful permanent resident and possesses what is commonly called a “green card”.  Unlike nonimmigrant status, someone who has either adjusted status to lawful permanent resident from within the U.S. or obtained an immigrant visa abroad and entered the U.S. as an immigrant, will receive a green card.  If that person travels outside the U.S., they will not need to go to a U.S. consulate abroad to obtain a valid visa to re-enter; the green card will get them admitted back into the U.S.

The U.S. immigration law is basically divided into two categories of immigrant visas: family-based immigration and employment-based immigration. See our page on permanent residence for more details.

Employment-based Immigrant Visas

Employment-based immigrant visas offer a pathway to U.S. permanent residency for individuals based on their job skills and the U.S. employer’s need. These visas are categorized into several types:

  • EB-1: For individuals with extraordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers, or certain multinational executives and managers.
  • EB-2: Aimed at professionals holding advanced degrees or persons with exceptional ability in the arts, sciences, or business.
  • EB-3: For skilled workers, professionals, and other workers.
  • EB-4: For “special immigrants,” including certain religious workers, employees of U.S. foreign service posts, retired employees of international organizations, and others.
  • EB-5: For immigrant investors who are investing in new commercial enterprises in the U.S. and creating jobs.

Each category has specific requirements and processes, and the availability of these visas can be subject to annual caps.

Family-based Permanent Residence

Another way to obtain lawful permanent residence and a so-called green card, is based on a qualifying family relationship.  Immediate Relatives are not subject to a waiting line, and include only the spouse or minor unmarried child or parent of an adult U.S. citizen.  For all three relationships, the U.S. citizen petitioning to bring their relative to the U.S. must be at least 21 years old.

Other familial relationships qualify for permanent residence but may be subject to a waiting line.  Those relationships include adult unmarried son or daughter of a U.S. citizen, adult married son or daughter of a U.S. citizen, sibling of a U.S. citizen, spouse or unmarried minor child of a permanent resident, or unmarried adult son or daughter of a permanent resident.  Again, the U.S. citizen or permanent resident petitioning for a qualifying family member must be at least 21 years old.

There are some other methods of obtaining permanent residence that are beyond the scope of this article, including the Diversity Visa Program, Special Immigrant Visas, and permanent residence for those already granted refugee or asylee status.

Each of these categories has specific eligibility criteria and application processes, addressing the diverse needs of individuals seeking permanent residency in the United States. As an experienced Kirkland visa lawyer, Barbara Marcouiller can discuss your immigration objectives and provide guidance on the visas that may best fit your situation.

What is Immigrant Intent?

The law contains a presumption that anyone applying to enter the U.S. intends to stay. That is called immigrant intent.  Anyone applying for a temporary or “non-immigrant” visa has the burden to establish that he is coming for the stated purpose (e.g., to visit or to attend X University), and that he intends to return to his country.   Taking action that is inconsistent with the temporary status, such as marrying a U.S.  citizen shortly after entering as a visitor, may raise potential issues of immigrant intent.   The exception to the presumption of “immigrant intent” are those on H-1B visas or L-1A visas, or certain other limited employment situations that allow for dual intent, meaning the applicant may already be in the process of applying for permanent residence but still be granted an extension of their non-immigrant status.

The Admissibility Requirement

In addition to qualifying for the visa or status, each applicant for any type of visa must be admissible to the U.S., i.e. not subject to any of the grounds of inadmissibility, which take into consideration any prior immigration history or violations, criminal history, security risk, and more. Depending on the reason that someone is inadmissible to the U.S., there may be a waiver available. Each case requires an individual evaluation.

Marcouiller PLLC offers expertise in many visa types, including but not limited to:

  • Nonimmigrant employment-based (work) visas (H-1B, L-1, E-1/2, E-3, R-1, TN, O-1)
  • K visas for Fiancees and Spouses
  • Visitor Visas
  • Employment-based permanent residence applications
  • Family-based immigrant visas

We are committed to providing personalized and comprehensive legal guidance.  Our clients are frustrated with the complicated system and backlogs.  We understand that each case is unique and requires a detailed, individual assessment. Our goal is to navigate the complexities of visa applications and ensure a smooth process for our clients.

Embarking on your immigration journey can be daunting, but you don’t have to navigate it alone.  Complete the contact form or email us, so we can learn about your current situation and objectives.  We will review it, respond to you, and go from there!


This is general information and does not constitute legal advice; each case must be analyzed independently. Nothing here creates an attorney/client relationship; each potential client must set up an appointment for proper analysis, and written agreement if after a full analysis we both agree in writing that we accept to represent the case and you also agree that you want us to represent your case as detailed specifically in the written contract.

We do not endorse the content on this website in translations other than English, unless officially translated by our law office.