U.S. Visas

 

U.S. Visa Application Guides We Make It Easy!

All of our Visa Application Guides include:

  • Qualification and eligibility requirements
  • Detailed overview of the application process with step-by-step instructions
  • All necessary application forms and guidance on how to complete the forms

Questions About U.S. Visas

What is a U.S. Visa?

A U.S. visa is a travel document that allows you to enter the U.S. Visas are issued for specific purposes of travel, such as tourism, business, study, employment or to join family. Your reason for travelling to the U.S. will determine which type of visa you should apply for. Visas are also issued for a specific period of time - once a visa expires, you no longer have the legal right to travel to or remain in the U.S.

There are two types of U.S. visas, nonimmigrant and immigrant, and the main difference is the length of time they allow you to stay in the U.S.

Nonimmigrant Visas are issued for temporary stay in the U.S. Nonimmigrant visas are issued to people who live outside the U.S. but who wish to visit the country for different reasons like tourism, business, studying or working. These visas are usually issued for periods between three months and two years and may often be extended.

Immigrant Visas are issued for permanent stay in the U.S. An immigrant visa allows you to travel to the U.S. and once you enter, to legally establish your residence. This means you will officially become a U.S. permanent resident and receive a lawful permanent resident card (green card) in the mail. Permanent residents, also known as green card holders, are allowed to live and work in the U.S. permanently. There are three categories of immigrant visas: family-sponsored, employment-based and special immigrant.

What is the difference between a visa, green card and citizenship?

Visas are often confused with green cards and U.S. citizenship. What all these terms have in common is that they relate to a person's immigration status - their lawful right to be in the U.S. and any legal rights or restrictions attached to this status.

Immigration Status Visa Holder
Visa Holder
Green Card Holder (Permanent Resident)
permanent resident card
U.S. citizen
U.S. citizen card
Time allowed to be in the U.S. Temporary Permanent Permanent
Rights while in the U.S.
  • The right to travel to the U.S. to visit friends and family (Visitor Visa)
  • The right to travel to the U.S. to conduct business, trade, attend conferences, or to participate in an event
    (Visitor Visa)
  • The right to travel to the U.S. to receive medical treatment (Visitor Visa)
  • The right to study at a school in the U.S. (Student Visa)
  • The right to train or intern with a company in the U.S. (Exchange Visa)
  • The right to work (Work Visa)
  • Permanent work authorization
  • Option to apply for citizenship after 3-5 years
  • The right to travel in and out of the U.S. without having to apply for a visa
  • Unlimited protections under the U.S. Constitution and its laws
  • The right to work and receive full employment benefits
  • The right to vote in local, state and federal elections
  • The right to a U.S. passport

How do I Apply for a U.S. Visa?

While the application process for a U.S. visa varies depending on the visa type, all processes include:

  • Filing an application with the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs
  • Attending a visa interview at a U.S. consulate or embassy in your home country (generally, only if between ages 14-79)
  • Having a valid passport

Before you apply for a U.S. visa, be sure you know which visa you need. Note that if you are planning on visiting the U.S. for less than 90 days, you may not be required to have a visa.

Read more about Visa Waiver Countries.

How do I Apply for a Visitor Visa?

Visitor visas are nonimmigrant visas issued for the purposes of tourism, business or medical treatment. B-1 visas are for business travel. B-2 visas are for tourism, participating in social events or amateur competitions, or to receive medical treatment.

To apply:

  • File Form DS-160 with the U.S. Department of State.
  • Attend a visa interview at a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad.

Read more about U.S. visitor visas.

How do I Apply for a Work Visa?

There are temporary work visas (nonimmigrant) and permanent work visas (immigrant). Both nonimmigrant and immigrant work visas have several categories, depending on the type of work.

In general, to apply:

  • You must have a job offer from a U.S. employer, who will file an immigrant petition with USCIS on your behalf.
  • File a visa application with the U.S. Department of State.
  • Attend visa interview at a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad, in the country where you live.

Read more about U.S. work visas.

How do I Apply for an Investment Visa?

There are nonimmigrant and immigrant investment visas. The nonimmigrant investment visas are the E-1 Treaty Trader Visas and E-2 Treaty Investor visas. The immigrant investor visas are the E-5 Employment Fifth Preference Visas.

To apply for an E-1 or E-2 visas:

  • File Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, with the U.S. Department of State
  • Attend a visa interview at a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad.

Read more about U.S. E-1 and E-2 investment visas.

To apply for an E-5 Employment Fifth Preference Visa:

  • File Form I-526, Immigrant Petition for Alien Entrepreneur, with USCIS.
  • File a visa application with the U.S. Department of State.
  • Attend a visa interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.

Read more about E-5 investment visas.

How do I Apply for a Student Visa?

There are three types of U.S. student visas: F-1 Academic Student, M-1 Vocational Student, and J-1 Exchange Student. All student visas are nonimmigrant.

To apply:

  • Enroll an SEVP approved school or certified exchange program.
  • File Form DS-160 with the U.S. Department of State.
  • Attend a visa interview at a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad.

Read more about U.S. student visas.

How do I Apply for a Family Visa?

U.S. family visas are immigrant visas. They are available to family members of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. Spouses, children and parents of U.S. citizens may apply for Immediate Relative Immigrant Visas. Spouses and children of U.S. permanent residents and siblings of U.S. citizens may apply for Family Preference Immigrant Visas. Fiancé(e)s of U.S. citizens and permanent residents may apply for K visas.

To apply:

  • Have your U.S. relative file an immigrant petition on behalf of the foreign-national family member.
  • File a visa application with the U.S. Department of State.
  • Attend a visa interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.

Read more about U.S. family visas.

How do I Apply for a Transit Visa?

Transit (C) visas are nonimmigrant visas for persons travelling through the U.S. on their way to another country.

To apply:

  • File Form DS-160 with the U.S. Department of State.
  • Attend a visa interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.

Read more about U.S. transit visas.

Where do I Apply for a U.S. Visa?

All visa applications go through the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs. In many cases, the first parts of the visa application process (completing the proper application forms) can be completed online. Once the application forms are received and approved, you will have to attend a visa interview at a U.S. consulate or embassy near you.

How Long is a U.S. Visa Valid?

The visa validity is the length of time between the visa issuance date and the visa expiration date. Visa validity is determined by the visa type and by the consular officer who issued the visa. It is the period of time you are allowed to travel to a U.S. Port of Entry, not the amount of time you are allowed to stay in the U.S.

Having a U.S. visa means that you're eligible to travel to a U.S. port-of-entry for a specific purpose. Once you arrive at a U.S. port-of-entry, a U.S. immigration officer will decide whether to allow you to enter and how long you may stay. If you are given permission to enter the country, the immigration officer will either stamp your passport with an admission stamp or give you a paper Form I-94 which marks the amount of time you are allowed to stay in the U.S. If the stamp or Form I-94 has a specific date, this is the date you must leave the U.S. If the stamp or Form I-94 is marked "D/S" (duration of status), then you may remain in the U.S. as long as you continue your course of study, remain in your exchange program or remain employed. The date you are admitted into the country and the date your status expires will be entered into an electronic system by the immigration officer (this electronic method was recently started in 2013 for travelers entering via air or sea).

For further explanation, please read this example scenario:

Rosa is visiting the U.S. from Argentina on a B-2 visa that is valid for four years. This means that during that four-year period, Rosa has permission to travel to a U.S. Port of Entry (i.e. U.S. customs at the airport, border patrol stop if going via car, or seaport) and ask for admission into the U.S. The visa validity only denotes Rosa's permission to travel to the U.S., not how long she is allowed to stay in the U.S. during each trip.

At the U.S. Port of Entry, An immigration official will decide whether to allow Rosa to enter and how long she will be allowed to stay in the U.S. during that particular visit. The length of stay is usually shown by a passport stamp, which has an "expiration date". The expiration date is the date Rosa's permission to stay expires and the date she must leave the U.S. The date Rosa was admitted into the country and the date her status expires (known as the arrival/departure record) will be entered into an electronic system by the immigration official (this electronic method was recently started in 2013 for travelers entering via air or sea).

Regardless of the four-year validity of Rosa's B-2 visa, she must leave the U.S. no later than the expiration date given to her at the U.S. Port of Entry (unless she applies for an extension of stay). If Rosa wants to come back and visit the U.S. at a later time during those four years, she does not have to apply for a new visa just go to the Port of Entry and request entry.

U.S. Visas

How do I Extend my U.S. Visa?

Many nonimmigrant visa-holders can apply for an extension of stay, lengthening the amount of time they able to remain in the U.S. For most nonimmigrant visas you may file Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status before your current visa expires.

What is the Diversity Visa Program?

The Diversity Visa Program, also known as the Green Card Lottery, is a green card program for foreign-nationals from countries with traditionally low immigration rates to the U.S. Currently there are approximately 55,000 visas available. To apply, the applicant must be a national of a qualifying country, have an equivalent education to a U.S. high school diploma, or have two years of work experience in a job that requires two years of work experience.


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