United States Visa Information
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Who requires a Visa?
What documents will be required?
Time required to issue a Visa
How do I apply?
How long is the Visa valid for?
Can I work in USA?
Immigration Business Visas & Programs
Embassy contact information
Embassies of other countries in United States
Registering a Company in United States
Study English in USA
Who requires a visa?
A citizen of a foreign country, wishing to enter the U.S., generally must first obtain a visa, either a nonimmigrant visa for temporary stay, or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. The type of visa you must have is defined by immigration law, and relates to the purpose of your travel. Having a U.S. visa allows you to travel to a port-of-entry (airport, for example) and request permission of the Department of Homeland Security, Customs Border Protection immigration officer to enter the U.S. A visa does not guarantee entry into the United States.
The visitor visa is a type of nonimmigrant visa for persons desiring to enter the United States temporarily for business (B-1) or for pleasure, tourism or medical treatment (B-2). International travelers with visitor visas comprise a large portion of temporary visitor travel to the United States every year.
Students, temporary workers, journalists and persons planning to travel to the U.S. for a purpose other than that permitted on a visitor visa, must apply for a different visa in the appropriate category.Travel Without a Visa – Foreign citizens traveling for visitor visa purposes only, from certain eligible countries may also be able to visit the U.S. without a visa, through the Visa Waiver Program if they meet requirements, including having a valid Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) approval. Additionally, citizens of Canada and Bermuda traveling for visitor visa purposes don’t need a visa, with some exceptions.
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables nationals of certain countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. The program was established in 1986 with the objective of eliminating unnecessary barriers to travel, stimulating the tourism industry, and permitting the Department of State to focus consular resources in other areas. VWP eligible travelers may apply for a visa, if they prefer to do so. Not all countries participate in the VWP, and not all travelers from VWP countries are eligible to use the program. VWP travelers are screened prior to admission into the United States, and they are enrolled in the Department of Homeland Security’s US-VISIT program.
Greek citizens will be able to travel to the US without a visa starting April 5, 2010
Currently, 36 countries participate in the Visa Waiver Program, as shown below:
Visa Waiver Program – Participating Countries:
Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, including Greenland and Faroe Islands, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands including Aruba and Netherlands Antilles, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom (full British citizens only).
Brunei, Japan, South Korea, Singapore.
Australia, New Zealand.
All travelers must have individual passports. It is not acceptable (for the visa waiver scheme) for children to be included on a parent’s passport. Passport requirements (for citizens of VWP pre-2008 members only) depend on the date the passport was issued or renewed: Passports issued or renewed before 26 October 2005 must be machine readable. Passports issued or renewed after 26 October 2005 must be machine readable and contain a digitized photograph, or must be biometric passports. Passports issued or renewed after 26 October 2006 must be biometric (citizens of VWP post-2008 members must present a biometric passport).
VWP travelers who have been admitted under the Visa Waiver Program and who make a short trip to Canada, Mexico or an adjacent island generally can be readmitted to the United States under the VWP for the balance of their original admission period. See the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website for additional details. Also VWP nationals resident in Mexico, Canada or adjacent islands are generally exempted from requirements to show onward travel to other foreign destinations.
Families seeking to enter the United States under the VWP need to obtain an individual machine-readable passport for each traveler, including infants. A machine-readable passport has biographic data for only one traveler in the machine-readable zone. Because of the requirement that passport data be presented in machine-readable format, children included in family or parents’ passports may be denied visa-free entry into the United States since only the primary traveler’s biographic data is included in the machine-readable zone of the passport.
What documents will be required?
Enforced compliance of the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) requirement for VWP travelers is in place. Therefore, VWP travelers who have not obtained approval through ESTA should expect to be denied boarding on any air carrier bound for the United States.
A valid ESTA approval is required for all Visa Waiver Program (VWP) to travel to the United States. The Department of Homeland Security, Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is a free, automated system used to determine the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the VWP. It collects the same information as the paper I-94W form that VWP travelers fill out en route to the United States. ESTA applications may be submitted at any time prior to travel. An ESTA authorization generally will be valid for up to two years. Authorizations will be valid for multiple entries into the United States. DHS recommends that travelers submit an ESTA application as soon as they begin making travel plans.
Visas for Mexican and Canadian NAFTA Professional Workers
North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) creates special economic and trade relationships for the United States (U.S.), Canada and Mexico. The nonimmigrant NAFTA Professional (TN) visa allows citizens of Canada and Mexico, as NAFTA professionals, to work in the U.S. in a prearranged business activity for a U.S. or foreign employer. Permanent residents, including Canadian permanent residents, are not able to apply to work as a NAFTA professional.
Requirements for Professionals from Mexico and Canada to Work in the U.S.
Professionals of Canada or Mexico may work in the U.S. under the following conditions:Applicant is a citizen of Canada or Mexico;Profession is on the NAFTA list;Position in the U.S. requires a NAFTA professional;Mexican or Canadian applicant is to work in a prearranged full-time or part-time job, for a U.S. employer (see documentation required). Self employment is not permitted;Professional Canadian or Mexican citizen has the qualifications of the profession.
*Mexican citizens require a visa to request admission to the U.S. (A USCIS approved petition is not required.)
The Immigration and National Act is very specific with regard to the requirements which must be met by applicants to qualify for the student visa. The consular officer will determine whether you qualify for the visa. Additionally, applicants must demonstrate that they properly meet student visa requirements including:Have a residence abroad, with no immediate intention of abandoning that residence;Intend to depart from the United States upon completion of the course of study; and Possess sufficient funds to pursue the proposed course of study.
Applying for a Visa
As part of the visa application process, an interview at the embassy consular section is required for visa applicants from age 14 through 79, with few exceptions. Persons age 13 and younger, and age 80 and older, generally do not require an interview, unless requested by embassy or consulate. The waiting time for an interview appointment for applicants can vary, so early visa application is strongly encouraged.
During the visa application process, usually at the interview, an ink-free, digital fingerprint scan will be quickly taken. Also, because each student’s personal and academic situation is different, two students applying for same visa may be asked different questions and be required to submit different additional documents.
All applicants for a student visa must provide:
– Form I-20A-B, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status. For Academic and Language Students or Form I-20M-N, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student Status for Vocational Students. You will need to submit a SEVIS generated Form, I-20, which was provided to you by your school.You and your school official must sign the I-20 form. All students, as well as their spouses and dependents must be registered in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), an Internet-based system that maintains accurate and current information on non-immigrant students and exchange visitors and their dependents (F/M-2 visa holders). Your school is responsible for entering your information for the I-20 student visa form into SEVIS. Students will also have to pay an SEVIS I-901 fee for each program of study. Questions regarding your exchange program should be directly to your program sponsor;
- A completed application, Nonimmigrant Visa Applicant,Form DS-156, together with a Form DS-158. Both forms must be completed and signed. Some applicants will also be required to complete and sign Form DS-157. A separate form is needed for children, even if they are included in a parent’s passport. The DS-156 must be the March 2006 date, electronic “e-form application.” Select Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form DS-156 to access the electronic version of the form DS-156.
- An interview at the embassy consular section is required for almost all visa applicants. The waiting time for an interview appointment for applicants can vary, so early visa application is strongly encouraged. During the visa interview, an ink-free, digital fingerprint scan will be quickly taken, as well as a digital photo. Some applicants will need additional screening, and will be notified when they apply.
- A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant’s intended period of stay in the United States (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions). If more than one person is included in the passport, each person desiring a visa must complete an application.
- One (1) 2×2 photograph. See the required photo format explained in nonimmigrant photograph requirements;
- A MRV fee receipt to show payment of the visa application fee, a visa issuance fee if applicable and a separate SEVIS I-901 fee receipt. While all F-visa applicants must pay the MRV fee, including dependents, only the F-1 principal applicants must pay the SEVIS fee.
- Students who are authorized for Optional Practical Training (OPT) must have an I-20 endorsed for OPT, and provide a USCIS-issued Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
All applicants should be prepared to provide:
Transcripts and diplomas from previous institutions attended;
– scores from standardized tests required by the educational institution such as the TOEFL, SAT, GRE, GMAT, etc.;
– financial evidence that shows you or your parents who are sponsoring you have sufficient funds to cover your tuition and living expenses during the period of your intended study. For example, if you or your sponsor is a salaried employee, please bring income tax documents and original bank books and/or statements. If you or your sponsor own a business, please bring business registration, licenses, etc., and tax documents, as well as original bank books and/or statements.
Applicants with dependents must also provide:
- Proof of the student’s relationship to his/her spouse and/or children (e.g., marriage and birth certificates.);
– it is preferred that families apply for F-1 and F-2 visas at the same time, but if the spouse and children must apply separately at a later time, they should bring a copy of the student visa holder’s passport and visa, along with all other required documents.
- No assurances regarding the issuance of visas can be given in advance. Therefore final travel plans or the purchase of non refundable tickets should not be made until a visa has been issued.
– Unless previously canceled, a visa is valid until its expiration date. Therefore, if the traveler has a valid U.S. visa in an expired passport, do not remove the visa page from the expired passport. You may use it along with a new valid passport for travel and admission to the United States.
Time required to issue a visa:
Advance travel planning and early visa application are important, since visa applications are subject to a greater degree of scrutiny than in the past. If you plan to apply for a nonimmigrant visa to come to the United States, we know you ’d like to estimate how long you will have to wait to get an interview appointment to apply for a visa.
It is important to thoroughly review all information provided by your Embassy’s Consular Section for local procedures and instructions, such as how to make an interview appointment. Your Consulate will also explain any additional procedures for students, exchange visitors and those persons who need an earlier visa interview appointment.
You’ll also want to know how long it will take for your nonimmigrant visa to be processed at the Consular Section, after a decision is made by a Consular Officer to issue the visa, and the visa is available for pick-up by you or the courier at the embassy. Some visa applications require additional special clearances or administrative processing, which requires some additional time. Most administrative processing is resolved within 60 days of application.
Most special clearances are resolved within 30 days of application. Applicants are advised when they apply. When additional special clearances or administrative processing is required, the timing will vary based on individual circumstances of each case.
How do I apply?
Recently, the U.S. has updated its visa policies to increase security for our citizens and visitors. It will likely take you longer to get a visa than it used to, and you will find that a few new security measures have been put into place. For details that may apply specifically to your country, contact your nearest US Embassy or consulate.
How long is the visa valid for?
10 years. Some visas are valid for multiple entries.
The length of stay in the USA is determined by US immigration officials at the time of entry, but is generally 6 months.
For extensions and further information, apply to the US Immigration & Naturalisation Service.
When you enter the United States on a student visa, you will usually be admitted for the duration of your student status. That means you may stay as long as you are a full time student, even if the F-1 visa in your passport expires while you are in America. For a student who has completed the course of studies shown on the I-20, and any authorized practical training, the student is allowed the following additional time in the U.S. before departure:
– F-1 student – An additional 60 days, to prepare for departure from the U.S. or to transfer to another school.
– M-1 student – An additional 30 days to depart the U.S. (Fixed time period, in total not to exceed one year). The 30 days to prepare for departure is permitted as long as the student maintained a full course of study and maintained status. An M student may receive extensions up to three years for the total program.
Entering the U.S. – Port of Entry
A visa allows a foreign citizen coming from abroad, to travel to the United States port-of entry and request permission to enter the U.S. Applicants should be aware that a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. The Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have authority to permit or deny admission to the United States. Student visitors must have their Form I-20 in their possession each time they enter the United States. Students should review important information about Admissions/Entry requirements by the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection. Upon arrival (at an international airport, seaport or land border crossing), you will be enrolled in the US-VISIT entry-exit program. In addition, some travelers will also need to register their entry into and their departure from the U.S. with the Special Registration program. If you are allowed to enter the U.S., the CBP official will determine the length of your visit on the Arrival-Departure Record (Form I-94). Since Form I-94 documents your authorized stay in the U.S., it’s very important to keep in your passport.
Staying Beyond Your Authorized Stay in the U.S. and Being Out of Status
- You should carefully consider the dates of your authorized stay and make sure you are following the procedures under U.S. immigration laws. It is important that you depart the U.S. on or before the last day you are authorized to be in the U.S. on any given trip, based on the specified end date on your Arrival-Departure Record, Form I-94. Failure to depart the U.S. will cause you to be out-of-status.
– Staying beyond the period of time authorized by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and being out-of-status in the United States is a violation of U.S. immigration laws, and may cause you to be ineligible for a visa in the future for return travel to the U.S.
– Staying unlawfully in the United States beyond the date Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have authorized–even by one day–results in your visa being automatically voided, in accordance with INA 222(g). Under this provision of immigration law, if you overstay on your nonimmigrant authorized stay in the U.S., your visa will be automatically voided. In this situation, you are required to reapply for a new nonimmigrant visa, generally in your country of nationality.
– For non immigrants in the U.S. who have an Arrival-Departure Record, Form I-94 with the CBP admitting officer endorsement of Duration of Status or D/S, but who are no longer performing the same function in the U.S. that they were originally admitted to perform (e.g. you are no longer working for the same employer or you are no longer attending the same school), a DHS or an immigration judge makes a finding of status violation, resulting in the termination of the period of authorized stay.
What Items Do Returning Students Need?
All applicants applying for renewals must submit:
- A passport valid for at least six months;
– an application Form DS-156, together with a Form DS-158. Both forms must be completed and signed. Some applicants will also be required to complete and sign Form DS-157. Blank forms are available without charge at all U.S. consular offices.
– a receipt for visa processing fee. A receipt showing payment of the visa application fee for each applicant, including each child listed in a parent’s passport who is also applying for a U.S. visa, is needed;
– a new I-20 or an I-20 that has been endorsed on the back by a school official within the past 12 months.
All applicants applying for renewals should be prepared to submit:
- A certified copy of your grades from the school in which you are enrolled;
– financial documents from you or your sponsor, showing your ability to cover the cost of your schooling.
Students Away from Classes More Than Five Months
Students in or outside the U.S., who have been away from classes for more than five months, will likely need a new visa to enter the U.S.
Embassy contact information:
Please contact the nearest United States embassy for information on what documentation you may require to enter the USA.
Disclaimer: The contents of these pages are provided as an information guide only, in good faith. The use of this website is at the viewer/user’s sole risk. While every effort is made in presenting up-to-date and accurate information, no responsibility or liability is accepted by the owners to this website for any errors, omissions, outdated or misleading information on these pages or any site to which these pages connect or are linked.
Source & Copyright: The source of the above visa and immigration information and copyright owner/s is the:
– The U.S. Department of State – URL: www.travel.state.gov
– Embassy of the United States, London, UK – URL: www.usembassy.org.uk
The viewer/user of this web page should use the above information as a guideline only, and should always contact the above sources or the user’s own government representatives for the most up-to-date information at that moment in time, before making a final decision to travel to that country or destination.