Visa policy of the United States

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A US visa specimen
Entry passport stamp for the United States issued to a citizen of Canada by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection at San Francisco International Airport.

The visa policy of the United States deals with the requirements which a foreign national wishing to enter the United States must meet to obtain a visa, which is a permit to travel to, enter and remain in the United States. Visitors to the United States must obtain a visa from one of the United States diplomatic missions unless they come from one of the visa exempt countries or Visa Waiver Program countries. The same rules apply to Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands while slightly different rules apply to Guam, Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa.[1]

The United States gives a visitor visa exemption to:

History[edit]

The "Immigration Act of 1990" (see Immigration Act of 1990) attracted thousands of immigrants who have the skills to help enhance the economic life of the US. This law made it easier for family reunification and skilled professionals to enter the United States. This allocated 55,000 immigrant visas to citizens of nations which previously had little immigration in the past. Later on, provisions made to the Immigration Act of 1990 had closed America's doors to many immigrants.[2]

Overview[edit]

Entry visas[edit]

United States visas were issued to 8.9 million foreign nationals visiting the United States and to 482,000 immigrants in 2012.[3] A foreign national wishing to enter the U.S. must obtain a visa unless he or she is

There are separate requirements for Mexican citizens.[4]

While there are about 185 different types of visas,[5] there are two main categories of U.S. visas:

  • Nonimmigrant visa - for temporary visits such as for tourism, business, work or studying.
  • Immigrant visa - for people to immigrate to the United States. At the port of entry, the immigrant visa holder is processed for a permanent resident card (I-551, often known as a 'green card'). Upon endorsement (CBP admission stamp) it serves as temporary I-551 evidencing permanent residence for 1 year.

In order to immigrate, one should either have an immigrant visa or have a dual intent visa, which is one that is compatible with making a concurrent application for permanent resident status, or having an intention to apply for permanent residence.

Entering the U.S. on an employment visa may be described as a three-step process in most cases.[5] First, the employer files an application with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services requesting a particular type of category visa for a specific individual.[5] If the employer's application is approved, it only authorizes the individual to apply for a visa; the approved application is not actually a visa.[5] The individual then applies for a visa and is usually interviewed at a U.S. embassy or consulate in the native country.[5] ƒIf the embassy or consulate gives the visa, the individual is then allowed to travel to the U.S.[5] At the border crossing, airport, or other point of entry into the U.S., the individual speaks with an officer from U.S. Customs and Border Protection to ask to admission to the U.S.[5] If approved, the individual may then enter the U.S.[5]

Contrary to a popular misconception, a U.S. visa does not authorize the alien's entry to the United States, nor does it authorize the alien's stay in the U.S. in a particular status. A U.S. visa only serves as a preliminary permission given to the alien to travel to the United States and to seek admission to the United States at a designated port of entry.[6] The final admission to the United States in a particular status and for a particular period of time is made at the port of entry by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer. For aliens entering the U.S. in a nonimmigrant visa status these details are recorded by the CBP officer on the alien's Form I-94 (Form I-94W for citizens of the Visa Waiver Program countries entering the U.S. for short visits), which serves as the official document authorizing the alien's stay in the United States in a particular non-immigrant visa status and for a particular period of time.[7] 50,000 additional visas are available each year under the visa lottery program. In the last few years more than 9 million people have participated in the visa lottery.[8]

Exit visas[edit]

Exit visas are not required.

However, the U.S. government has required all foreign and U.S. nationals departing the US by air for Canada, Mexico, Bermuda or countries in the Caribbean other than the French West Indies to hold a valid passport (or certain specific passport replacing documents) since October 1, 2007. Even though travelers might not require a passport to enter a certain country, they will require a valid passport booklet (booklet only, U.S. Passport Card not accepted) when attempting to depart the U.S. in order to satisfy the U.S. immigration authorities.[9] Exemptions to this requirement to hold a valid passport booklet include:

  • U.S. Permanent Resident/Resident Alien Card (Form I-551);
  • U.S. Military ID Cards when traveling on official orders;
  • U.S. Merchant Mariner Card;
  • NEXUS Card;
  • U.S. Travel Document:
    • Refugee Travel Document (Form I-571); or
    • Permit to Re-Enter (Form I-327)
  • Emergency Travel Document (e.g. Consular Letter) issued by a Foreign Embassy or Consulate specifically for the purpose of travel to the bearer's home country.
  • Nationals of Mexico holding one of the following documents:
    • (expired) Matricula Consular; or
    • Birth Certificate with consular registration; or
    • Certificate of Nationality issued by a Mexican consulate abroad; or
    • Certificate of Military Duty (Cartilla Militar); or
    • Voter's Certificate (Credencial IFE or Credencial para Votar).

Visa exemption[edit]

  The United States and its territories
  Visa free countries
  Visa Waiver Program countries

Four countries and one British Overseas Territory have visa exemption access to the United States, including three that are linked with Compacts of Free Association.[10]

Citizens of  Canada do not require a visa to enter the United States under most circumstances, and can work under special simplified procedure.[11] They may use a NEXUS Card to enter the country from Canada by land, water or by air on a flight that has been precleared in Canada.[12][13][14]

British Overseas Territories citizens with a connection to  Bermuda can enter the United States visa-free under most circumstances.[11] To qualify, they must present a Bermudian passport which fulfils the following criteria: the front cover has printed on it "Government of Bermuda", the holder's nationality must be stated as either "British Overseas Territory Citizen" or "British Dependant Territories Citizen", the passport must contain one of the following endorsement stamps: "Holder is registered as a Bermudian", "Holder Possesses Bermudian Status" or "Holder is deemed to possess Bermudian status".[15]

Citizens of the following countries, linked with the USA by the Compacts of Free Association, do not require a visa to enter, reside, study, and work indefinitely in the United States:

Visa Waiver Program[edit]

Main article: Visa Waiver Program

Currently, 38 countries have been selected by the U.S. government for inclusion in the Visa Waiver Program and their citizens do not need to acquire a US visa (but are required to get an electronic authorization if arriving by air or cruise ship[19]) to visit the United States (including Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands):[20]

Visitors may stay for 90 days in the United States which also includes the time spent in Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, or the islands in the Caribbean if the arrival was through the United States.

The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is not a visa. Rather, obtaining a travel authorization from ESTA is a prerequisite to travelling by air or sea to the US under the Visa Waiver Program.[43] ESTA authorization, once obtained, is valid for two years unless during that time the person obtains a new passport or his/her answers to any of the eligibility questions change.[44] VWP does not apply if a passenger is not arriving on an approved air or sea carrier.

The United States Department of Homeland Security extended the scope of the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act. As of January 2016, visa waivers do not apply where a person has previously traveled to Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen on or after 1 March 2011 or for those who remain nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Syria in addition to the nationality that would otherwise entitle them to a visa waiver. Instead, they are now required to go through the strict process in order to obtain a visa.[45] Certain categories such as diplomats, military, journalists, humanitarian workers or legitimate businessmen may have their visa requirement waived by the Secretary of Homeland Security.[46]

Other arrangements[edit]

Citizens of the following countries and territories can travel without obtaining a visa for the United States under certain circumstances:

  •  Bahamas – Citizens do not require a visa to enter the United States if they apply for entry at one of the Preclearance Facilities located in Nassau or Freeport International Airports. Bahamian citizens must not have had a criminal conviction or ineligibility, violated U.S. immigration laws in the past and must be in possession of valid, unexpired passport or a Bahamian Travel Document indicating that they have Bahamian citizenship. In addition to a passport, all applicants 14 years of age or older must present a police certificate issued by the Royal Bahamas Police Force within the past six months. All Bahamians applying for admission at a port-of-entry other than the pre-clearance facilities located in Nassau or Freeport International airports are required to be in possession of a valid visa to enter the United States.[47]
  •  British Virgin Islands - British Overseas Territories Citizens by virtue of their connection to the British Virgin Islands may travel without a visa to the United States Virgin Islands. They may also continue travel to other parts of the United States if they present a Certificate of Good Conduct issued by the Royal Virgin Islands Police Department indicating no criminal record.[48][49]
  •  Cayman Islands – Whilst residents of the Cayman Islands, as British Overseas Territories Citizens, are eligible automatically to register as a full British citizen under Section 4(A) of the British Overseas Territories Act 2002, thereby able additionally to enter the United States under the Visa Waiver Program, they can alternatively enter visa-free using their Cayman Islands passports. To qualify under the latter method, their Cayman Islands passports must confirm their British Overseas Territories citizenship and be endorsed by the Cayman Islands Passport and Corporate Services Office with a Cayman-U.S. visa waiver, issued at a cost of 25 Cayman Islands dollars and valid for one entry.[50][51] They must travel directly between the Cayman Islands and the United States and their Cayman Islands passport must also have a validity of at least six months beyond their intended departure date from the United States.[52] If Cayman Islanders elect to enter the U.S. using the Cayman-U.S. visa waiver, they are not required to apply for an ESTA online, since they are not entering under the VWP.
  •  Turks and Caicos Islands – British Overseas Territories Citizens by virtue of their connection to the Turks and Caicos Islands can enter the United States visa-free for short business and pleasure.[53] To qualify, they must not have had a criminal conviction or ineligibility, not violated U.S. immigration laws in the past and must arrive in the United States on a direct flight from the territory. In addition, they must present a Turks and Caicos Islands passport or a travel document which states that they are a British Overseas Territory citizen and have the right to abode in the Turks and Caicos Islands. In addition to a valid, unexpired passport, all travelers 14 years of age or older must present a police certificate issued by the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force within the past six months. All British Overseas Territories Citizens of the Turks and Caicos Islands who apply for admission at a port-of-entry that does not have direct air service to/from the territory, are required to be in possession of a valid visa to enter the United States.

Guam and Northern Mariana Islands Visa Waiver Program[edit]

The U.S. territories of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands have a specific Guam-Northern Mariana Islands Visa Waiver Program too. Under this program, first enacted in October 1988 and periodically amended, nationals from several additional countries in Asia and the Pacific islands are permitted to enter the Northern Marianas and Guam as tourists without a visa for up to 45 days. Travel is not permitted onwards to the mainland United States, and because of special visa categories for the Northern Mariana Islands foreign workers, traveling between Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands still requires a full immigration inspection.[54] In addition to the citizens of Australia, Brunei, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and the United Kingdom who are also eligible for the Visa Waiver Program (but do not require ESTA for Guam and Northern Mariana Islands), citizens of the following countries and territories are eligible only for the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program:[55][56]

  •  Russia - despite not being included in the new Guam-CNMI visa waiver program, as part of a parole arrangement, Russian citizens in possession of a machine-readable passport, a completed Form I-736 (Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Information form) and Form I-94 (Arrival-Departure Record) and a non-refundable and non-transferable return ticket can visit both Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands visa-free for up to 45 days.[57]
  •  China - Chinese citizens in possession of a machine-readable passport, completed Form I-736 (Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Information form) and Form I-94 (Arrival-Departure Record) may enter the CNMI only visa-free for up to 45 days (travel to Guam still requires applying for a visa in advance).[58]

American Samoa[edit]

American Samoa entry stamp

The visa waiver does not apply to American Samoa.

Nationals of the following countries arriving for tourism purposes only do not require a visa (they are issued with a 30-day entry permit on arrival): Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Palau, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and United Kingdom.[59]

Alaska[edit]

Residents of the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug in Russia who are members of the indigenous population do not require a visa to visit Alaska if they have relatives (blood relatives, members of the same tribe, native people who have similar language and cultural heritage) in Alaska. Entry points are in Gambell and Nome.[60]

Individuals must be invited by a relative in Alaska, must notify local authorities at least ten days before traveling to Alaska, and must leave Alaska within 90 days.[60]

The agreement establishing this policy was signed by Russia and the United States on 23 September 1989. The United States made it effective as of 17 July 2015.[60]

Summary of visa exemptions[edit]

Country or territory Overland Air/Cruise ship All means of transport
United States
and Puerto Rico
United States
Virgin Islands
Guam Northern Mariana
Islands
American Samoa
 Canada Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
 Marshall Islands Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
 Micronesia Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
 Palau Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
 Bermuda Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
 Australia Yes electronic authorization electronic authorization Yes Yes Yes
 Brunei Yes electronic authorization electronic authorization Yes Yes Yes
 Japan Yes electronic authorization electronic authorization Yes Yes Yes
 New Zealand Yes electronic authorization electronic authorization Yes Yes Yes
 Singapore Yes electronic authorization electronic authorization Yes Yes Yes
 South Korea Yes electronic authorization electronic authorization Yes Yes Yes
 United Kingdom[Note 1] Yes electronic authorization electronic authorization Yes Yes Yes
 Taiwan[Note 2] Yes electronic authorization electronic authorization Yes Yes No
 Andorra Yes electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization Yes
 Austria Yes electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization Yes
 Belgium Yes electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization Yes
 Denmark Yes electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization Yes
 Finland Yes electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization Yes
 France Yes electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization Yes
 Germany Yes electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization Yes
 Iceland Yes electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization Yes
 Ireland Yes electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization Yes
 Italy Yes electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization Yes
 Liechtenstein Yes electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization Yes
 Luxembourg Yes electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization Yes
 Monaco Yes electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization Yes
 Netherlands Yes electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization Yes
 Norway Yes electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization Yes
 Portugal Yes electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization Yes
 San Marino Yes electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization Yes
 Slovenia Yes electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization Yes
 Spain Yes electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization Yes
 Sweden Yes electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization Yes
  Switzerland Yes electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization Yes
 Chile Yes electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization No
 Czech Republic Yes electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization No
 Estonia Yes electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization No
 Greece Yes electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization No
 Hungary Yes electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization No
 Latvia Yes electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization No
 Lithuania Yes electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization No
 Malta Yes electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization No
 Slovakia Yes electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization electronic authorization No
 British Virgin Islands No police certificate Yes police certificate police certificate No
 Bahamas No preclearance preclearance preclearance preclearance No
 Cayman Islands No police certificate police certificate police certificate police certificate No
 Turks and Caicos Islands No police certificate police certificate police certificate police certificate No
 Hong Kong[Note 3] No No No Yes Yes No
 Malaysia No No No Yes Yes No
 Nauru No No No Yes Yes No
 Papua New Guinea No No No Yes Yes No
 Russia No No No Yes Yes No
 China No No No No Yes No
  1. ^ British citizens only.
  2. ^ Passports containing a national identification number.
  3. ^ For holders of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region passports or British National (Overseas) passports only. Must in conjunction hold a Hong Kong Permanent Identity Card.

Outlying islands[edit]

Visits to the United States Minor Outlying IslandsBaker Island, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Midway Atoll, Palmyra Atoll, Wake Island and Navassa Island – are severely restricted. Most of the islands are closed off, and prospective visitors require special permits, usually from the US army.[61][62][63][64][65][66][67][68][69][70][71][72][73][74][75][76]

Qualification process[edit]

The typical process for issuing a United States visa, possibly including a Visas Mantis check

Applicants for visitor visas must show that they qualify under provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The presumption in the law is that every nonimmigrant visa applicant (except certain employment-related applicants, who are exempt) is an intending immigrant unless otherwise proven. Therefore, applicants for most nonimmigrant visas must overcome this presumption by demonstrating that:

  • The purpose of their trip is to enter the U.S. for a specific, intended purpose;
  • They plan to remain for a specific, limited period; and
  • They have a residence outside the U.S. as well as other binding ties which will ensure their return at the end of their stay.

All visit, business, transit, student, and exchange visitor visa applicants must pay a US$160 application fee (up from $140 as of April 2012) to a US Consulate in order to be interviewed by a Consular Officer who will determine if the applicant is qualified to receive a visa to travel to the U.S (additionally, the officer may also ask the United States Department of State for a Security Advisory Opinion, which can take several weeks to resolve). The application fee is increased to $190 for most work visas (up from $150 as of April 2012) and can be even higher for certain categories. If the applicant is rejected, the application fee is not refunded. Amongst the items included in the qualification decision are financial independence, adequate employment, material assets and a lack of a criminal record in the applicant's native country.

Visitor visa statistics[edit]

Issued B-1,2 visas in fiscal 2015
  United States
  Visa exempt nationalities
  Over 400 thousand issued visas
  Over 100 thousand issued visas
  Over 50 thousand issued visas
  Over 25 thousand issued visas
  Over 10 thousand issued visas
  Over 5 thousand issued visas
  Under 5 thousand issued visas

In fiscal 2015 most B-1,2 visas were issued to the nationals of the following countries (listed over 40,000 visas):[77]

Nationality Issued B-1,2 visas in 2015
 China 2,227,670
 Mexico[78] 1,234,885
 Brazil 870,008
 India 553,385
 Colombia 345,233
 Argentina 240,115
 Venezuela 223,854
 Ecuador 150,458
 Israel 137,439
 Nigeria 136,409
 Russia 122,147
 Peru 97,936
 Saudi Arabia 85,303
 Dominican Republic 85,140
 Jamaica 83,483
 Philippines 83,139
 Poland 81,861
 Vietnam 80,936
 Turkey 78,118
 Pakistan 62,714
 Costa Rica 58,139
 El Salvador 56,287
 Hong Kong 54,027
 Ukraine 52,943
 Guatemala 48,735
 South Africa 48,432
 Indonesia 48,239
 Egypt 46,433
 Thailand 44,795

In fiscal 2014 most reasons to refuse a visa were cited as "failure to establish entitlement to nonimmigrant status", "incompatible application" (most overcome), "unlawful presence", "misrepresentation", "criminal convictions", "smugglers" and "controlled substance violators". Smaller number of applications were rejected for "physical or mental disorder", "prostitution", "espionage", "terrorist activities", "falsely claiming citizenship" and other grounds for refusal including "presidential proclamation", "money laundering", "communicable disease" and "commission of acts of torture or extrajudicial killings".[79]

Admission statistics[edit]

Number of non-immigrant admissions for tourist and business purposes into the United States in fiscal year 2014
  United States
  Over 2 million admissions
  Over 1 million admissions
  Over 500 thousand admissions
  Over 250 thousand admissions
  Over 100 thousand admissions
  Over 15 thousand admissions
  Under 15 thousand admissions

Highest number of non-immigrant admissions for tourists and for business purposes into the United States in fiscal year 2014 was from the following countries (listed over 700,000 admissions):[80]

Country FY 2014
 Mexico 18,889,281
 Canada 11,289,743
 United Kingdom 4,549,934
 Japan 3,933,941
 Germany 2,283,086
 Brazil 2,275,588
 China 2,001,302
 France 1,966,335
 Korea, South 1,576,328
 Australia 1,389,358
 Italy 1,282,485
 India 1,111,738
 Spain 955,737
 Colombia 924,916
 Venezuela 726,963
 Netherlands 766,936
 Argentina 730,089
Total (worldwide) 67,519,113

Classes of visas[edit]

Nonimmigrant visas[edit]

A visa[edit]

"A" visas are issued to representatives of a foreign government traveling to the United States to engage in official activities for that government. "A" visas are granted to foreign government ambassadors, ministers, diplomats, as well as other foreign government officials or employees traveling on official business (A-1 Visa). Certain foreign officials require an A visa regardless of the purpose of their trip. The A visa is also granted to immediate family members of such foreign government officials, defined as "the principal applicant's spouse and unmarried sons and daughters of any age who are not members of some other household and who will reside regularly in the household of the principal alien" (A-2 Visa) and which "may also include close relatives of the principal alien or spouse who are related by blood, marriage, or adoption who are not members of some other household; who will reside regularly in the household of the principal alien; and who are recognized as dependents by the sending government (A-3 Visa).[84]

B-1 and B-2[edit]

Main article: B visa

The most common non-immigrant visa is the multiple-purpose B-1/B-2 visa, also known as the "visa for temporary visitors for business or pleasure." Visa applicants sometimes receive either a B-1 (temporary visitor for business) or a B-2 (temporary visitor for pleasure) visa, if their reason for travel is specific enough that the consular officer does not feel they qualify for combined B-1/B-2 status.[85] Holders may also attend short non-credit courses. Mexican citizens are eligible for Border Crossing Cards.[86]

From November 29, 2016, all holders of Chinese passports who also hold 10-year B visas are required to enroll in the Electronic Visa Update System (EVUS) before travelling to the United States. This requirement may be extended to other nationalities in the future.[87][88]

Validity period[edit]
US B visa validity period
  United States
  120 months
  60 months
  24-48 months
  12 months
  Under 12 months

Validity of visas by nationality for B-1/B-2 visa:[89]

Adjusted Visa refusal Rate[edit]
US B visa refusal rate in 2016
  United States
  Visa exempt countries
  Over 50%
  Over 40%
  Over 30%
  Over 20%
  Over 10%
  Over 5%
  Over 3%
  Under 3%

The Adjusted Visa Refusal Rate for fiscal year 2016 for B visas was:

Overstay rate[edit]

A number of visitors overstay the maximum period of allowed stay on their B-1/B-2 status after entered the U.S. on their B-1/B-2 visas. The Department of Homeland Security published a report for 2015 that lists the number of violations by passengers who arrived via air and sea. The table below excludes statistics on persons who left the United States later than their allowed stay or legalized their status and shows only suspected overstays who remained in the country.

The top 20 visa-required nationalities by the number of suspected in-country B-1/B-2 overstays (out of a total of 252,939) are:[99]

The top 10 nationalities by in-country B-1/B-2 visa overstay rate are:[99]

Use for other countries[edit]

US tourist visas that are valid for further travel are accepted as substitute visas for national visas in following countries:

  •  Albania — 90 days;
  •  Antigua and Barbuda — 30 days; USD 100 visa waiver fee applies.
  •  Argentina — 90 days; online registration required, for nationals of China only.
  •  Belize — 30 days; USD 50 visa waiver fee applies.
  •  Chile — 90 days; for nationals of China only.
  •  Colombia — 90 days; for nationals of China, India, Thailand, and Vietnam.
  •  Costa Rica — 30 days or less if the visa is about to expire; must hold a multiple entry visa.
  •  Dominican Republic — 90 days;
  •  El Salvador — 90 days; not applicable to all nationalities.
  •  Georgia — 90 days within any 180-day period;
  •  Guatemala — 90 days; not applicable to all nationalities.
  •  Honduras — 90 days; not applicable to all nationalities.
  •  Jamaica — 30 days; not applicable to all nationalities.
  •  Mexico — 180 days;[100][101]
  •  Montenegro — 30 days;
  •  Nicaragua — 90 days; not applicable to all nationalities.
  •  Panama — 30/180 days; must hold a visa valid for at least 2 more entries.
  •  Peru — 180 days; for nationals of China only.
  •  Philippines — 7 days; for nationals of China and India only.
  •  Sao Tome and Principe — 15 days;
  •  Serbia — 90 days;
  •  Taiwan — certain nationalities can obtain an online travel authority if holding a valid US visa.
  •  Turkey — certain nationalities can obtain an electronic Turkish visa if holding a valid US visa.

C visa[edit]

C-1 visa is a transit visa issued to individuals who are travelling in "immediate and continuous transit through the United States enroute to another country". The only reason to enter the United States must be for transit purposes. A subtype C-2 visa is issued to diplomats transiting to and from the Headquarters of the United Nations and is limited to the vicinity of New York City. A subtype C-3 visa is issued to diplomats and their dependents transiting to and from their posted country. [102]

D visa[edit]

D visa is issued to crew members of sea-vessels and international airlines in the United States. This includes commercial airline pilots and flight attendants, captain, engineer, or deckhand of a sea vessel, service staff on a cruise ship and trainees on board a training vessel. Usually a combination of a C-1 visa and D visa is required.[103]

E visa[edit]

Main article: E visa

Treaty Trader (E-1 visa) and Treaty Investor (E-2 visa) visas are issued to citizens of countries that have signed treaties of commerce and navigation with the United States.[104] They are issued to individuals working in businesses engaged in substantial international trade or to investors (and their employees) who have made a 'substantial investment' in a business in the United States.[105] The variant visa issued only to citizens of Australia is the E-3 visa (E-3D visa is issued to spouse or child of E-3 visa holder and E-3R to a returning E-3 holder).[106]

EB visa[edit]

F visa[edit]

Main article: F visa

These visas are issued for foreign students enrolled at accredited US institutions. F-1 visas are for full-time students, F2 visas are for spouses and children of F-1 visa holders and F-3 visas are for "border commuters" who reside in their country of origin while attending school in the United States.[107] They are managed through SEVIS.[108]

G visa[edit]

Main article: G visa

The G visas are issued to diplomats, government officials, and employees who will work for international organizations in the United States. The international organization must be officially designated as such.[109] The G-1 visa is issued to permanent mission members, G-2 visa is issued to representatives of a recognized government traveling temporarily to attend meetings of a designated international organization, G-3 visa is issued to individuals representing non-recognized governments, G-4 visa is for those who are taking up an appointment and G-5 visa is issued to personal employees or domestic workers of G1-G4 visa holders.[110] G1-G4 visas are also issued to family members.[111]

Those working specifically for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization require a NATO visa. NATO–1 visa is issued to permanent representatives of NATO and their staff members, NATO-2 visa is issued to a representative of member state to NATO or its subsidiary bodies, advisor or technical expert of the NATO delegation visiting the United States, a member of the NATO military forces component or a staff member of the NATO representative, NATO-3 visa is issued to official clerical staff accompanying the representative of a NATO member state, NATO-4 visa is issued to foreign national recognized as a NATO official, NATO-5 visa is issued to a foreign national recognized as a NATO expert and NATO-6 visa is issued to a member of the civilian component of the NATO. All NATO visas are issued to immediate family members as well. NATO-7 visas are issued to personal employees or domestic workers of a NATO-1 – NATO-6 visa holders.[111]

H visa[edit]

H visas are issued to temporary workers in the United States.

Specialty Occupations, DOD Cooperative Research and Development Project Workers, and Fashion Models
Main article: H-1A and H-1C visas

The discontinued H-1A and H-1C visas existed during periods when the US experienced a shortage of nurses existed from 1989. The H-1A classification was created by the Nursing Relief Act of 1989 and ended in 1995. The H-1C visa was created by the Nursing Relief for Disadvantaged Area Act of 1999 and expired in 2005. Currently nurses must apply for H-1B visas.[112]

Main article: H-1B visa

The H-1B classification is for professional-level jobs that require a minimum of a bachelor's degree in a specific academic field. In addition, the employee must have the degree or the equivalence of such a degree through education and experience. There is a required wage, which is at least equal to the wage paid by the employer to similarly qualified workers or a prevailing wage for such positions in the geographic regions where the jobs are located. This visa also covers fashion models of distinguished merit and ability.[113][114] H-1B1 visa is the variant issued to citizens of Singapore and Chile.

Temporary Agricultural Workers
Main article: H-2A visa

The H-2A visa allows a foreign national entry into the US for temporary or seasonal agricultural work for eligible employers under certain conditions (seasonal job, no available US workers).[115]

Temporary Non-Agricultural Workers
Main article: H-2B visa

The H-2B visa allows a foreign national entry into the US for temporary or seasonal non-agricultural work for eligible employers under certain conditions (seasonal job, no available US workers).[116]

Nonimmigrant Trainee or Special Education Exchange Visitor
Main article: H-3 visa

The H-3 visa is available to those foreign nationals looking to "receive training in any field of endeavor, other than graduate medical education or training, that is not available in the foreign national’s home country" or " participate in a special education exchange visitor training program that provides for practical training and experience in the education of children with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities.".[117]

Family members
Main article: H-4 visa

H-4 visa is issued to immediate family members of H visa holders. They are also eligible for employment.[118]

I visa[edit]

Main article: I visa

The I-1 visa is issued to representatives of the foreign media, including members of the press, radio, film, and print industries travelling to temporarily work in the United States in the profession.[119]

J visa[edit]

Main article: J-1 visa
See also: J-2 visa

J-1 visa is issued to participants of work-and study-based exchange visitor programs.[120] The Exchange Visitor Program is carried out under the provisions of the Fulbright-Hays Act of 1961, officially known as the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961 (Pub.L. 87–256, 75 Stat. 527). The purpose of the Act is to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchanges. The Exchange Visitor Program is administered by the Office of Exchange Coordination and Designation in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. In carrying out the responsibilities of the Exchange Visitor Program, the Department designates public and private entities to act as exchange sponsors. Spouses and dependents of J-1 exchange visitors are issued a J-2 visa.[121]

Exchange visa categories are:

Exchange Visitor Pilot Programs exist for citizens of Australia,[136] Ireland,[137] New Zealand[138] and South Korea.[139]

K visa[edit]

Main article: K-1 visa

A K-1 visa is a visa issued to the fiancé or fiancée of a United States citizen to enter the United States. A K-1 visa requires a foreigner to marry his or her U.S. citizen petitioner within 90 days of entry, or depart the United States. Once the couple marries, the foreign citizen can adjust status to become a lawful permanent resident of the United States (Green Card holder).[140] K-2 visa is issued to unmarried children under the age of 21.[141] Foreign same-sex partners of United States citizens are currently recognized by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and accordingly can be sponsored for K-1 visas and for permanent resident status.[142]

K-3/K-4 visas are issued to foreign spouses and children of US citizens.[143]

L visa[edit]

Main article: L-1 visa
See also: L-2 visa

The L-1 classification is for international transferees who have worked for a related organization abroad for at least one continuous year in the past three years and who will be coming to the United States to work in an executive or managerial (L-1A) or specialized knowledge capacity (L-1B).[144] L-2 visa is issued to dependent spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age of qualified L-1 visa holders.

M visa[edit]

Main article: M-1 visa

The M-1 visa is a type of student visa reserved for vocational and technical schools. Students in M-1 status may not work on or off campus while studying, and they may not change their status to F-1. The M-2 visa permits the spouse and minor children of an M-1 vocational student to accompany him or her to the United States.[107]

O visa[edit]

Main article: O visa

O visa is a classification of non-immigrant temporary worker visa granted to an alien "who possesses extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics (O-1A visa), or who has a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry and has been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements," (O-1B visa) and to certain assistants (O-2 visa) and immediate family members of such aliens (O-3 visa).[145]

P visa[edit]

Main article: P visa

P visas are issued to individuals or team athletes, or member of an entertainment group including persons providing essential support services (P-1 visa), artists or entertainers (individual or group) under a reciprocal exchange program (P-2 visa) and artists or entertainers (individual or group) visiting to perform, teach or coach under a program that is culturally unique.[146] P-4 visas are issued to spouses, or children under the age of 21, of a P-1, P-2, or P-3 alien and who is accompanying, or following to join.

Q visa[edit]

Q visa is issued to participants in an international cultural exchange program.[146]

R visa[edit]

Main article: R visa

R-1 visa is issued to temporary religious workers. They must have been a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the United States for at least 2 years.[147] R-2 visa is issued to dependent family members.[148]

S visa[edit]

Main article: S visa

S visas are nonimmigrant visas issued to individuals who have assisted law enforcement as a witness or informant. There is a limit of 200 S visas a year.[149] A law enforcement agency can then submit an application for resident alien status i.e., a green card on behalf of the witness or informant once the individual has completed the terms and conditions of his or her S visa.[150]

TN visa[edit]

Main article: TN status

NAFTA Professional (TN) visa allows citizens of Canada and Mexico whose profession is on the NAFTA list[151] and who must hold a bachelor's degree to work in the United States on a prearranged job. Canadian citizens usually do not require a visa to work under the TN status (unless they live outside Canada with non-Canadian family members) while Mexican citizens require a TN visa. Spouse and dependent children of a TN professional can be admitted into the United States in the TD status.[152]

U and T visas[edit]

U-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa which is set aside for victims of crimes (and their immediate family members) who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse and are willing to assist law enforcement and government officials in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity.[153] Subtypes of this visa are U-2 issued to spouses of U-1, U-3 issued to children of U-1, U-4 issued to parents of U-1 under the age of 21 and U-5 issued to unmarried siblings under the age of 18 of U-1 who is under 21.

T-1 visa is issued to victims of severe forms of human trafficking. Holders may adjust their status to permanent resident status.[154] Subtypes of this visa are T-2 issued to spouses of T-1, T-3 issued to children of T-1, T-4 issued to parents of T-1 under the age of 21 and T-5 issued to unmarried siblings under the age of 18 of T-1 who is under 21.

V visa[edit]

Main article: V visa

The V visa is a temporary visa available to spouses and minor children (unmarried, under 21) of U.S. lawful permanent residents (LPR, also known as green card holders). It allows permanent residents to achieve family unity with their spouses and children while the immigration process takes its course. It was created by the Legal Immigration Family Equity Act of 2000.[155] The Act is to relieve those who applied for immigrant visas on or before December 21, 2000. Practically, the V visa is currently not available to spouses and minor children of LPRs who have applied after December 21, 2000.[156]

List of US visa types[edit]

All US visa types and subtypes are listed below:[157][158]

Immigrant visas[edit]

Nonimmigrant visas[edit]

[160][161][162]

* Persons with H-1B visas, H-4 visas (as immediate family members of H-1B visa holders), K visas, L visas, and V visas are permitted to have dual intent under the Immigration and Nationality Act. Federal regulations also appear to recognize dual intent O visas, P visas, and E visas.

Visa denial[edit]

Section 221(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act defined several classes of aliens ineligible to receive visas.

Grounds for denial may include, but are not limited to:

  • Health grounds
  • Criminal history
  • Security fears
  • Public charge (charge means burden in this context)
  • Illegal entrants or immigration violators
  • Failure to produce requested documents
  • Ineligible for citizenship
  • Previously removed from the US
  • The spouse of a US Citizen is almost always denied a visitor's (B1/B2) visa on the grounds that the spouse might want to stay in the United States. However, the spouse of a USC[clarification needed] is able to immigrate to the US without much of a hurdle.

Section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (also cited as 8 United States Code § 1184(b))[163] states that most aliens must be presumed to be intending to remain in the US, until and unless they are able to show that they are entitled to non-immigrant status. This means there are two sides to a 214(b) denial. Either

  1. The applicant didn’t convince the consular officer that he didn’t intend to stay in the US permanently, or
  2. The applicant didn’t convince the consular officer that he was qualified for the visa for which he had applied.

An example of a denial based upon the first ground would be an applicant for an F-1 student visa who the consular officer felt was secretly intending to remain in the US permanently.

An example of a denial based upon the second ground would be an H-1B applicant who couldn’t prove he possessed the equivalent of a US bachelor’s degree in a specialty field—such an equivalency being a requirement for obtaining an H-1B visa.

In order to thereafter obtain a visa applicants are recommended to objectively evaluate their situation, see in what way they fell short of the visa requirements, and then reapply.[164]

In 2005, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (then Chief Minister of Gujarat) was denied a diplomatic visa to the United States. In addition, the B-1/B-2 visa that had previously been granted to him was also revoked, under a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act which makes any foreign government official who was responsible or "directly carried out, at any time, particularly severe violations of religious freedom" ineligible for the visa.[165] Modi is the only person ever denied a visa to the U.S. under this provision.[166]

Exceptions[edit]

There are cases when a US visa has been granted to aliens who were technically ineligible. Japanese mafia (yakuza) leader Tadamasa Goto and three others were issued visas for travel between 2000 and 2004 to undergo liver transplant surgery at UCLA Medical Center.[167] The FBI had aided the men in the visa application process hoping that they would provide information regarding yakuza activities in the US.[167]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ Lewis, Loida; Madlansacay, Len (September 1998). How to Get a Green Card (3rd ed.). Nolo Press. p. 1/5. ISBN 0-87337-423-1. 
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  23. ^ Joined on July 29, 1993.
  24. ^ Joined on February 28, 2014.
  25. ^ a b c d e f g h Joined on November 17, 2008.
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  27. ^ Including  Åland Islands.
  28. ^ a b Joined on July 1, 1989.
  29. ^ a b Joined on July 15, 1989.
  30. ^ Joined on April 5, 2010.
  31. ^ Joined on April 1, 1995.
  32. ^ a b Joined on July 29, 1989.
  33. ^ Joined on December 15, 1988.
  34. ^ Joined on July 29, 1991.
  35. ^ Including  Aruba,  Bonaire,  Curaçao,  Saba,  Sint Eustatius and  Sint Maarten.
  36. ^ a b Joined on August 9, 1999.
  37. ^ Including  Azores and  Madeira.
  38. ^ Joined on September 30, 1997.
  39. ^ Joined on November 1, 2012.
  40. ^ Citizens with Taiwanese national ID number only.
  41. ^ Joined on July 1, 1988.
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  91. ^ Double entry
  92. ^ Mandatory EVUS registration required from November 29 2016
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  94. ^ Except Australia and Taiwan.
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  97. ^ Adjusted Refusal Rate 2015
  98. ^ Adjusted Refusal Rate 2016
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  121. ^ J-1 Visa: About the J-2 Visa | J-1 Visa Basics | J-1 Visa, accessdate: June 6, 2015
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  129. ^ J-1 Visa: Programs | Professor And Research Scholar | Programs | J-1 Visa, accessdate: June 6, 2015
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  144. ^ USCIS: L-1 Visa | USCIS, accessdate: June 6, 2015
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  150. ^ USCIS: Green Card for an Informant (S Nonimmigrant), accessdate: December 31, 2015
  151. ^ NAFSA: 8 CFR § 214.6, accessdate: June 6, 2015
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  167. ^ a b Charles Ornstein and John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times After livers, cash to UCLA May 31, 2008

External links[edit]