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If you want to study at a US college or university, you first must be able to enter the United States legally as a student.
A visa authorizes you to come to a US port or inspection point to apply to be admitted to the US for the specific purpose detailed in your visa. A visa does not give you the right to enter the US, but only the right to apply to be admitted at an inspection point.
Many international students attending US universities are nonimmigrants because they stay in the US for a limited amount of time and intend to return to another country after their stay in the US ends. “Nonimmigrant” also can refer to the type of visa issued to a nonimmigrant, such as a visitor or student.
A nonimmigrant visa allows you to remain in the US for a particular purpose. It is valid only for the purpose for which it was originally issued. For example, a student visa cannot be used for entry by a visitor, and you can’t use a visitor visa to enter the US and study.
You are an immigrant if you come to the US and plan to remain permanently or for an indefinite period of time, making the United States your primary home.
An immigrant visa is awarded by a US consul to applicants after they qualify for permanent residence. After arriving in the US, they can receive the coveted green card.
When you arrive in the US, you are subject to inspection at the port of entry by US immigration officials who have the authority to deny you admission. Therefore, we suggest that you always carry with you the evidence you submitted to the consular officer when your visa was obtained.
The most common violation of the nonimmigrant visa is when visitors or students engage in business or work for hire. By engaging in these activities, nonimmigrant visitors and students risk their future ability to legally live and/or work in the US.
For more visa and immigration information, please visit Legal Language Services.
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