Entry Requirements to the USA
Requirements to enter the U.S. vary depending on your nationality and the reason for and length of your intended stay.
- U.S. Citizens
- U.S. Permanent Residents / Green Card holders
- Visa Waiver Program
- Temporary / Nonimmigrant Visas
- Tourist Visa
- Business Visa
- Worker Visa
- Student Visa
- Immigrant Visas
U.S. citizens entering the country are required, in most cases, to have a passport to enter the country. However, if you are returning from a country participating in the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), you must show a WHTI compliant document, such as a passport or passport card, to enter the U.S. In some cases you may be required to show alternate documents as well.
- The Caribbean
WHTI Compliant Documents:
- U.S. passport
- U.S. passport card
- Enhanced Driver's License
- Trusted Traveler Program Card
U.S. Permanent Residents / Green Card holders
U.S. permanent residents (green card holders) and conditional permanent residents who are absent from the U.S. for less than one year are required to show their U.S. green cards to enter the U.S.
U.S. permanent residents who are absent from the country for one year or longer must apply for a re-entry permit. Use Form I-131, Application for a Travel Document, to obtain a permit. These permits are valid for two years from the date of issue.
Visa Waiver Program
If you are national of a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program, you do not need a visa to travel to the U.S. if your trip is for the purpose of tourism or business and is 90 days or less.
The following countries participate in the Visa Waiver Program:
- Czech Republic
- Republic of Korea
- The Netherlands
- New Zealand
- San Marino
- United Kingdom
Temporary / Nonimmigrant Visas
If you are travelling to the U.S. for the purpose of tourism and are not a national of a participating country in the Visa Waiver Program, then you will need a visa to enter the U.S.
Apply for a B-2 Tourism Visa with the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs.
B-2 Visas may be used for the following travel purposes:
- Visit with friends or relatives;
- Medical treatment;
- Participation in social events hosted by fraternal, social, or service organizations;
- Participation by amateurs in musical, sports, or similar events or contests, if not being paid for participating; and
- Enrollment in a short recreational course of study, not for credit toward a degree (for example, a two-day cooking class while on vacation).
B-2 visas are generally valid from one to ten years with an allotted period of stay of three to six months.
If you are travelling to the U.S. for the purpose of business and are not a national of a participating country in the Visa Waiver Program, then you will need a visa to enter the U.S.
Apply for a B-1 Business Visa with the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs.
B-1 Visas may be used for the following travel purposes:
- Consult with business associates;
- Attend a scientific, educational, professional, or business convention or conference;
- Settle an estate; and
- Negotiate a contract.
B-1 visas are generally valid from one to ten years with an allotted period of stay of three to six months.
All foreign nationals who wish to travel to the U.S. to work are required to have a visa and an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). There are several types of nonimmigrant worker visas. Visit the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affair's website to learn which visa is right for you and the visa requirements.
In most cases, you will need a U.S. employer to petition for you before you can apply for a nonimmigrant worker visa.
If you wish to study in the U.S., you will need a student visa. There are two types of student visa: F visas for academic students and M visas for vocational students.
F visas are issued to:
- University students;
- High school students;
- Private elementary school students;
- Seminary students;
- Conservatory students; and
- Other students of academic institutions including language training.
M visas are issued to students of vocational training or other recognized institutions, other than a language training program.
You will need to be accepted into a U.S. educational institution before you can apply for a student visa.
If you wish to travel to the U.S. to live permanently, you will need an immigrant visa. Immigrant visas allow you to travel to the U.S. and upon entry you will be issued a permanent resident green card. Immigrant visas are issued in preference categories to persons with family ties to U.S. citizens or permanent residents and highly skilled individuals. To learn more about immigrant visas, visit the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affair's website.
- U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affair
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
- "Travel: Documents for Permanent Residents and Foreign Citizens Living in the U.S." from USA.gov
- "Visa Waiver Program: Passport Requirements Timeline" from U.S. Department of Homeland Security
- "Immigrants to the United States" from U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affair