Visa policy of the United States
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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, United States Virgin Islands, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, while different rules apply to American Samoa. Although the US visa policy applies to Guam and the CNMI, the two territories also have their own visa waiver program.
As of 17 March 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, entry has been suspended for visitors who have been to Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom in 14 days prior to arrival to the United States. The restriction does not apply to permanent residents, immediate family members of US citizens and several special categories.
A foreign national wishing to enter the U.S., must obtain a visa unless they satisfy one of the following conditions:
- a US Citizen or national (including dual citizens)
- a permanent resident of the U.S.
- a citizen of the Compact of Free Association states: Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau
- a citizen of Canada, including those applying for TN status at the border
- a British Overseas Territories citizen with a connection to Bermuda
- a citizen of one of the 39 countries that are part of the Visa Waiver Program
- a citizen of The Bahamas or a British Overseas Territories citizen with a connection to British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands or Turks and Caicos Islands, under certain conditions
- holding a Form I-512 ("Authorization for Parole of an Alien into the United States")
- holder of a I-551 stamp
Mexican citizens may travel to the U.S. without a passport under limited circumstances if holding a Border Crossing Card and seeking to enter the U.S. for less than seventy-two hours while remaining in the "border zone".
While there are about 185 different types of visas, there are two main categories of U.S. visas:
- Nonimmigrant visa: for temporary visits such as for tourism, business, work, visiting family, 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 with a CBP admission stamp, it serves as temporary I-551 evidencing permanent residence for one year. A child with an IR-3 or IH-3 visa will automatically become a United States citizen upon admission to the United States and be processed for a certificate of citizenship (N-560).
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. First, the employer files an application with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services requesting a particular type of category visa for a specific individual. 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. The individual then applies for a visa and is usually interviewed at a U.S. embassy or consulate in the native country. If the embassy or consulate grants the visa, the individual is then allowed to travel to the U.S. 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 request admission to the U.S. If approved, the individual may then enter the U.S.
Contrary to a popular misconception, a U.S. visa does not authorize the alien's entry into 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. 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. Fifty thousand additional visas (immigrant visas DV-1, DV-2, DV-3) are available each year under the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (also known as the green card lottery).
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. 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 policy map
Four countries and Bermuda have visa exemption access to the United States, including three that are linked with Compacts of Free Association. Citizens of these jurisdictions are generally not required to apply for visas or pre-approval registrations prior to arrival.
Citizens of Canada do not require a visa to visit the United States under most circumstances, and can work under special simplified procedure. They may use a NEXUS Card instead of a passport to enter the country from Canada, or, if arriving by land or sea, an Enhanced Drivers License.
Historically, Canadian citizens have never needed a visa to visit the United States.
Citizens of British Overseas Territories with a connection to Bermuda can enter the United States visa-free under most circumstances if their intended stay is less than six months. They can also enter visa-free in order to study in the United States.
In order to qualify, they must present a Bermudian passport with "Government of Bermuda" printed on the cover; the passport must state the holder's nationality as either "British Overseas Territory Citizen" or "British Dependent Territories Citizen"; and the passport must contain an endorsement stamp of "Holder is registered as a Bermudian", "Holder Possesses Bermudian Status", or "Holder is deemed to possess Bermudian status".
Citizens of the Republic of the Marshall Islands have not required a visa to enter, reside, study, and work indefinitely in the United States since * 21 October 1986. These benefits are granted to citizens from birth or independence, and to naturalized citizens who have resided in the Marshall Islands for at least five years, excluding those who acquired citizenship by investment. Although citizens of the Marshall Islands do not need visas at point of entry to the United States, they may still be denied admission based on general immigration disqualifications such as criminal convictions.
Citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia have not required a visa to enter, reside, study, and work indefinitely in the United States since 3 November 1986. These benefits are granted to citizens from birth or independence, and to naturalized citizens who have resided in the Federated States of Micronesia for at least five years, excluding those who acquired citizenship by investment. Although citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia do not need visas at point of entry to the United States, they may still be denied admission based on general immigration disqualifications such as criminal convictions.
Citizens of the Republic of Palau have not required a visa to enter, reside, study, and work indefinitely in the United States since 1 October 1994. These benefits are granted to citizens from birth or independence, and to naturalized citizens who have resided in Palau for at least five years, excluding those who acquired citizenship by investment. Although citizens of Palau do not need visas at point of entry to the United States, they may still be denied admission based on general immigration disqualifications such as criminal convictions.
Visa Waiver Program
Currently, 39 countries and territories have been selected by the US government for inclusion in the Visa Waiver Program and their citizens do not need to acquire a US visa. However, citizens of these countries are required to obtain an electronic authorization (ESTA) for arrivals by air and sea  in order to visit the United States; note: this also applies to Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, both of which also have their own visa exemptions, while American Samoa operates an entirely different visa policy.
- ^ – Citizens with Taiwanese national ID number only.
- ^ – Only British citizens are eligible to participate in the VWP.
|Date of visa changes|
The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is not a visa. Rather, obtaining a travel authorization from ESTA is a prerequisite to traveling by air or sea to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program. 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. ESTA is not needed when entering the U.S. by land or by local ferries (from Canada). On the other hand, VWP does not apply at all if a person is arriving by air or sea on an unapproved carrier (e.g. a private ship or plane). Such persons need a standard visa. As of December 2018, the ESTA is no longer approved in real-time to qualifying passengers and passengers are required to apply no later than 72 hours before departure.
The United States Department of Homeland Security extended the scope of the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act. As of August 2019[update], visa waivers do not apply where a person has previously traveled to Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011 or for those who remain nationals of Iran, Iraq, North Korea, 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 process to obtain a visa. Certain categories such as diplomats, military, journalists, humanitarian workers or legitimate businessmen may have their visa requirement waived by the Secretary of Homeland Security.
Citizens of the following country can travel without obtaining a visa for the United States only under certain conditions:
- Bahamas – Bahamian 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 Bahamian 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.
British Overseas Territories citizens (BOTCs) by virtue of their connection to one of the following territories may elect to travel with their British citizen passports with valid ESTA, or can alternatively use their BOTC passports to enter the U.S. in certain circumstances.
- 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 with their British Virgin Islands passport. 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.
- Cayman Islands – British Overseas Territories citizens with a connection to the Cayman Islands may travel without a visa to the U.S. To qualify, 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. 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. 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. 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.
Visa waiver programs of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands
Although the visa policy of the U.S. also applies to the U.S. territories of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands in general, both territories have additional visa waiver programs for certain nationalities. The Guam–CNMI Visa Waiver Program, first enacted in October 1988 and periodically amended, permits nationals from 12 countries in Asia, Europe and Oceania to enter Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands as tourists for up to 45 days without the need of obtaining a U.S. visa or an ESTA. A parole policy also allows nationals of China visa-free access to the Northern Mariana Islands for up to 14 days.
1 - Up to 14 days, for the Northern Mariana Islands only, under a separate parole policy.
2 - Must present a valid Hong Kong Permanent Identity Card on arrival.
3 - For holders of Taiwanese passports with a National ID number. Must present a valid Taiwanese national identity card on arrival. Must travel on a nonstop flight from Taiwan.
4 - For holders of British Citizen and British National (Overseas) passports only. British Nationals (Overseas) must present a valid Hong Kong permanent identity card upon arrival in order to be eligible for the waiver.
|Date of visa changes|
Travelers with B-1/B-2 visa or ESTA are admitted to the territories in accordance with the terms of ESTA or visa.
Travelers utilizing the program or the parole are required to complete an I-736 form (online as of February 2018), hold a machine-readable passport and nonrefundable return ticket, and are not permitted to travel stateside. 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, and all visitors departing Guam or Northern Mariana Islands are inspected regardless of final destination.
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U.S. visa policy does not apply to the territory of American Samoa, as it has its own entry requirements and maintains control of its own borders. Hence, neither a U.S. visa nor an ESTA can be used to enter American Samoa. If required, an entry permit or electronic authorization must be obtained from the Department of Legal Affairs of American Samoa.
U.S. nationals may remain indefinitely in American Samoa. To enter, they must present a U.S. passport, or apply online for an electronic authorization providing a copy of their birth certificate, identification card, itinerary and a fee of US$50.
Nationals of Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau and countries in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program[a] may visit for up to 30 days without an entry permit. However, if arriving by air, they must apply online for an electronic authorization called "OK to board" or "OK board", at least 48 hours before travel, providing a biometric passport and itinerary. They must also pay a fee of US$20, before travel or on arrival.
Nationals of other countries need an entry permit. To apply, they must have a local sponsor, who must appear in person at the Immigration Office of the Department of Legal Affairs and provide either a deed of private land or signatures of the sponsor's sa'o (head chief) and pulenu'u (village mayor). Travelers must also provide a copy of their passport and itinerary, clearances from the District Court of American Samoa and Lyndon B. Johnson Tropical Medical Center, consent for a background check by the Department of Homeland Security of American Samoa, police and health clearances from the country of origin, and a fee of US$40 (no fee for children under 5 years of age). The application for an entry permit must be made at least 30 days before travel, and the permit is valid for a stay of up to 30 days. Business travelers may apply for a multiple-entry permit, for a fee of US$50 per month, up to one year.
Nationals of Samoa may apply for group permits for a stay of up to 7 days (variable fee), or individual permits for a stay of up to 14 days (fee of US$10) or 30 days (fee of US$40, except for children under 5 years of age). Their application process requires fewer documents.
Transit travelers of any nationality may apply for an electronic authorization free of charge, allowing a stay of up to 24 hours.
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.
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.
American Indians born in Canada
Members of certain indigenous peoples born in Canada may enter and remain in the United States indefinitely "for the purpose of employment, study, retirement, investing, and/or immigration" or any other reason by virtue of the Jay Treaty of 1794, as codified in Section 289 of the Immigration and Naturalization Act.
In order to qualify, an individual must possess "at least 50 per centum blood of the American Indian Race". Tribal membership alone does not qualify an individual. The individual bears the burden of proof in establishing eligibility, typically by way of presenting identification based on reliable tribal records, birth certificates, and other documents establishing the percentage of Indian blood. A Canadian Certificate of Indian Status is insufficient proof because it does not indicate the percentage of Indian blood.
A qualifying American Indian's spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 do not have the same rights unless they qualify in their own right. Because a qualifying American Indian residing in the United States is considered to be lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States, a qualifying American Indian residing in the United States may file a petition for a derivative for a spouse and dependent children, subject to statutory numerical limitations and a seven-year backlog of applications.
Summary of visa exemptions
|Country or territory||States, District of Columbia
and Puerto Rico
|Marshall Islands||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||OK board|
|New Zealand||Yes||ESTA||ESTA||Yes||Yes||Yes||OK board|
|South Korea||Yes||ESTA||ESTA||Yes||Yes||Yes||OK board|
|United Kingdom||Yes[c]||ESTA[c]||ESTA[c]||Yes[d]||Yes[d]||Yes[c]||OK board[c]|
|Czech Republic||Yes||ESTA||ESTA||ESTA||ESTA||Yes||OK board|
|San Marino||Yes||ESTA||ESTA||ESTA||ESTA||Yes||OK board|
|British Virgin Islands||No||police certificate||Yes||No||No||No||No|
|Cayman Islands||No||police certificate||No||No||No||No||No|
|Turks and Caicos Islands||No||police certificate||No||No||No||No||No|
|Papua New Guinea||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||No||No|
- Holders of Taiwan passports containing a National ID number only.
- Must also hold a National ID card or ESTA.
- British citizens only.
- British citizens, and British Nationals (Overseas) holding a Hong Kong Permanent Identity Card.
- According to the American Samoa Visitors Bureau, but not listed by the Department of Legal Affairs of American Samoa.
- Must also hold a Hong Kong Permanent Identity Card.
Visa or entry refused to nationals of certain countries
Visa and entry refused
Currently there are several restrictions in place regarding visa issuance as per Executive Order 13780, titled Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States. It was initially adopted on March 6, 2017, and revised by Presidential Proclamation 9645 on September 24, 2017 and Presidential Proclamation 9723 on April 10, 2018 and Presidential Proclamation on January 31, 2020. However court rulings prohibited some of its key provisions from being enforced. The Supreme Court of the United States upheld the most recent version of the travel ban on June 26, 2018. It superseded the previous Executive Order 13769.
||Ban lifted on April 10, 2018|
and their immediate family members as non-immigrants on:
The order does not apply to international travelers from the named countries who are:
|Citation||Individual Exceptions listed in Executive Order 13780|
|3(a)(i)||Any foreign national who is inside the United States on the effective date of this order.|
|3(a)(ii)||Any foreign national who had a valid visa at 5:00 p.m., eastern standard time on January 27, 2017.|
|3(a)(iii)||Any foreign national who had a valid visa on the effective date of this order.|
|3(b)(i)||Any lawful permanent resident of the United States.|
|3(b)(ii)||Any foreign national who is admitted to or paroled into the United States on or after the effective date of this order.|
|3(b)(iii)||Any foreign national who has a document other than a visa, valid on the effective date of this order or issued on any date thereafter, that permits him or her to travel to the United States and seek entry or admission, such as an advance parole document.|
|3(b)(iv)||Any dual national of a country designated under section 2 of this order when the individual is traveling on a passport issued by a non-designated country.|
|3(b)(v)||Any foreign national traveling on a diplomatic or diplomatic-type visa, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visa, C-2 visa for travel to the United Nations, or G-1, G-2, G-3, or G-4 visa.|
|3(b)(vi)||Any foreign national who has been granted asylum.|
|3(b)(vi)||Any refugee who has already been admitted to the United States.|
|3(b)(vi)||Any individual who has been granted withholding of removal, advance parole, or protection under the Convention Against Torture.|
The order allows exceptions to the entry ban to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis for the DHS and the Department of State to issue waivers or approval of a visa for travelers from the countries of concern stated in the order. The order allows case-by-case waivers if:
|Citation||Case-by-Case Exceptions listed in Executive Order 13780|
|3(c)(i)||The foreign national has previously been admitted to the United States for a continuous period of work, study, or other long-term activity, is outside the United States on the effective date of this order, seeks to reenter the United States to resume that activity, and the denial of reentry during the suspension period would impair that activity.|
|3(c)(ii)||The foreign national has previously established significant contacts with the United States but is outside the United States on the effective date of this order for work, study, or other lawful activity.|
|3(c)(iii)||The foreign national seeks to enter the United States for significant business or professional obligations and the denial of entry during the suspension period would impair those obligations.|
|3(c)(iv)||The foreign national seeks to enter the United States to visit or reside with a close family member (e.g., a spouse, child, or parent) who is a United States citizen, lawful permanent resident, or alien lawfully admitted on a valid nonimmigrant visa, and the denial of entry during the suspension period would cause undue hardship.|
|3(c)(v)||The foreign national is an infant, a young child or adoptee, an individual needing urgent medical care, or someone whose entry is otherwise justified by the special circumstances of the case.|
|3(c)(vi)||The foreign national has been employed by, or on behalf of, the United States Government (or is an eligible dependent of such an employee) and the employee can document that he or she has provided faithful and valuable service to the United States Government.|
|3(c)(vii)||The foreign national is traveling for purposes related to an international organization designated under the International Organizations Immunities Act (IOIA), 22 U.S.C. § 288, traveling for purposes of conducting meetings or business with the United States Government, or traveling to conduct business on behalf of an international organization not designated under the IOIA.|
|3(c)(viii)||The foreign national is a landed immigrant of Canada who applies for a visa at a location within Canada.|
|3(c)(ix)||The foreign national is traveling as a United States Government-sponsored exchange visitor.|
Visa issuance restricted
Effective September 13, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security announced that the State Department would stop issuing certain visas at its consular offices in the following countries due to the lack of cooperation on removal matters:
- Cambodia – issuance of all B visas for Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs employees, with the rank of Director General and above, and their families.
- Eritrea – issuance of all B visas.
- Guinea – all B, F, J, and M visas to Guinean government officials and their immediate family members.
- Sierra Leone – all B visas to Sierra Leonean Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials and immigration officials.
- Cuba — On September 29, 2017, the U.S. halted processing of all visas except family reunification visas at its embassy in Havana, Cuba. However, nationals of Cuba may still apply for visas at other U.S. embassies or consulates.
Effective July 9, 2018, similar sanctions were introduced for the following categories:
- Laos – issuance of all B visas for current officials at the Director General level and above from the Ministry of Public Security as well as their immediate families and all A-3 and G-5 visas to individuals employed by government officials.
- Myanmar – issuance of all B visas for current officials at the Director General level and above from the Ministry of Labor, Immigration, and Population and Ministry of Home Affairs, and their immediate family members.
Effective January 24, 2020, B visas will not be issued to individuals who intend to visit the United States for the purpose of giving birth. It is permissible for a B-visa applicant to intend to visit the United States in order to obtain other medical treatment as long as the applicant demonstrates their arrangements for medical treatment and sufficiently establishes their ability to pay for the medical treatment.
Effective January 31, 2019 similar sanctions were introduced regarding issuance of all non-immigrant visas to domestic employees (A-3 and G-5) of Ghanaian diplomats posted in the United States and the validity period and number of entries on new tourist and business visas for all Ghanaian executive and legislative branch employees, their spouses, and their children under 21 to one-month, single-entry visas. These restrictions ended on January 17, 2020.
Visits to the United States Minor Outlying Islands – Baker 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.
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
In fiscal 2017 most B-1,2 visas were issued to the nationals of the following countries (listed over 40,000 visas):
|Nationality||Issued B-1,2 visas|
In fiscal 2014 the most common 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".
The highest number of non-immigrant admissions for tourists and for business purposes into the United States in fiscal year 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 was from the following countries (listed over 700,000 admissions):
|Country||FY 2017||FY2016||FY2015||FY 2014|
|Statistics of American Samoa|
|Statistics of Guam|
|Northern Mariana Islands||20,563||19,325||17,579||14,334||14,761|
|Statistics of Northern Mariana Islands|
Classes of visas
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).
B-1 and B-2
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. Holders may also attend short non-credit courses. Mexican citizens are eligible for Border Crossing Cards.
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 traveling to the United States. This requirement may be extended to other nationalities in the future.
|Country||Issuance fee (USD)||Entries||Validity|
|Antigua and Barbuda||0||multiple||10 years|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||0||multiple||10 years|
|Burkina Faso||0||multiple||5 years|
|Cape Verde||0||multiple||5 years|
|Central African Republic||40||multiple||1 year|
|Costa Rica||0||multiple||10 years|
|Czech Republic[a]||0||multiple||10 years|
|Democratic Republic of the Congo||150||multiple||1 month|
|Dominican Republic||0||multiple||10 years|
|East Timor||0||2||3 months|
|El Salvador||0||multiple||10 years|
|Equatorial Guinea||0||multiple||5 years|
|Hong Kong||0||multiple||10 years|
|Ivory Coast||0||multiple||1 year|
|Marshall Islands[c]||0||1||3 months|
|New Zealand[a]||0||multiple||10 years|
|North Korea||0||2||3 months|
|North Macedonia||0||multiple||10 years|
|Papua New Guinea||0||1||1 month|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||0||multiple||10 years|
|Saint Lucia||0||multiple||10 years|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||0||multiple||10 years|
|San Marino[a]||0||multiple||5 years|
|São Tomé and Príncipe||0||multiple||6 months|
|Saudi Arabia||0||multiple||5 years|
|Sierra Leone||0||multiple||3 years|
|Solomon Islands||0||multiple||5 years|
|South Africa||0||multiple||10 years|
|South Korea[a]||0||multiple||10 years|
|South Sudan||0||2||3 months|
|Sri Lanka||0||multiple||5 years|
|Trinidad and Tobago||0||multiple||10 years|
|United Arab Emirates||0||multiple||10 years|
|United Kingdom[m]||0||multiple||10 years|
|Vatican City||0||multiple||5 years|
Adjusted visa refusal rate
The Adjusted Refusal Rate is based on the refusal rate of B visa applications. B visas are adjudicated based on applicant interviews; the interviews generally last between 60 and 90 seconds. Due to time constraints, adjudicators profile applicants. Certain demographics, such as young adults who are single and unemployed, almost never receive visas, unless they articulate a compelling reason. Adjudicators are evaluated on how fast they carry out interviews, not the quality of adjudication decisions. The validity of B visa decisions is not evaluated.
To qualify for the Visa Waiver Program, a country must have had a nonimmigrant visa refusal rate of less than 3% for the previous year or an average of no more than 2% over the past two fiscal years with neither year going above 2.5%. In addition, the country must provide visa-free access to United States citizens and has to be either an independent country or a dependency of a VWP country (which has precluded Hong Kong and Macau from participating in the program). (Until April 4, 2016, Argentina charged $160 to U.S. citizens to enter.)
The Adjusted Visa Refusal Rates for B visas were as follows:
|Country/Region||Fiscal Year 2008||Fiscal Year 2014||Fiscal Year 2015||Fiscal Year 2016||Fiscal Year 2017||Fiscal Year 2018||Fiscal Year 2019|
|Antigua and Barbuda||21.70%||20.80%||20.17%||22.11%||20.50%||19.07%||15.25%|
|Central African Republic||39.60%||46.60%||32.43%||35.12%||44.24%||36.03%||37.45%|
|Democratic Republic of the Congo||36.20%||39.10%||45.62%||45.63%||49.94%||50.56%||53.80%|
|Non-nationality based issuances[a]||n/a||n/a||n/a||28.92%||35.61%||40.27%||43.16%|
|Papua New Guinea||3.40%||7.40%||5.14%||10.56%||9.34%||6.84%||1.74%|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||25.00%||27.50%||26.60%||28.31%||26.66%||24.98%||21.87%|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||26.40%||24.10%||27.15%||27.46%||20.38%||19.17%||14.55%|
|São Tomé and Príncipe||28.60%||10.70%||5.71%||24.14%||14.81%||26.09%||34.78%|
|Trinidad and Tobago||23.80%||21.20%||25.16%||22.70%||22.46%||19.28%||13.05%|
|United Arab Emirates||10.40%||4.80%||7.10%||4.02%||5.80%||3.75%||5.56%|
- "Non-nationality based issuances" includes individuals presenting travel documents issued by a competent authority other than their country of nationality, including, for example, aliens traveling on a Laissez-Passer issued by the United Nations and refugees residing in another country.
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 publishes annual reports that list the number of violations by passengers who arrive 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.
|Total (all nationalities)||280,559||1.91%||263,470||1.90%|
Use for other countries
US tourist visas that are valid for further travel are accepted as substitute visas for national visas in the following territories:
- Albania – 90 days
- Antigua and Barbuda – 30 days; USD 100 visa waiver fee applies
- Argentina – 90 days; 71 countries
- Belize — 30 days; USD 50 visa waiver fee applies.
- Bosnia and Herzegovina — 30 days
- Canada — up to 6 months; only citizens of Brazil may apply the Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) for visa-free visit or transit (arriving by air).
- 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;
- Montenegro — 30 days;
- Nicaragua — 90 days; not applicable to all nationalities.
- North Macedonia — 15 days;
- Oman — Indian nationals can obtain a visa on arrival to Oman if holding a valid US visa.
- Panama — 30/180 days; visa must be multiple-entry; visa must have a validity of at least 6 months after date of arrival in Panama; visa must have been used at least once prior to arriving in Panama.
- Peru — 180 days; for nationals of China and India only.
- Philippines — 7 days for nationals of China and 14 days for nationals 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.
- United Arab Emirates — Indian nationals can obtain a 14-day visit visa to UAE upon arrival if holding a US visa or green card that is valid for at least 6 months.
- Qatar — citizens of all nationalities who hold valid USA visa can obtain an Electronic Travel Authorization for up to 30 days. The visa may be extended online for 30 additional days
The C-1 visa is a transit visa issued to individuals who are traveling in "immediate and continuous transit through the United States en-route 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.
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.
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. 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. 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).
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. They are managed through SEVIS.
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. The G-1 visa is issued to permanent mission members; the G-2 visa is issued to representatives of a recognized government traveling temporarily to attend meetings of a designated international organization; the G-3 visa is issued to persons who represent a non-recognized government; the G-4 visa is for those who are taking up an appointment; and the G-5 visa is issued to personal employees or domestic workers of G1–G4 visa holders. G1–G4 visas are also issued to immediate family members of the principal visa holder, if they meet certain criteria.
Officials who work for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization require a NATO visa. The 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.
H visas are issued to temporary workers in the United States.
- Specialty occupations, DOD Cooperative Research and Development Project Workers, and fashion models
The discontinued H-1A and H-1C visas existed during periods when the US experienced a shortage of nurses 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.
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. The H-1B1 visa is the variant issued to citizens of Singapore and Chile.
- Temporary agricultural workers
- Temporary nonagricultural workers
- Nonimmigrant trainee or special education exchange Visitor
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".
- Family members
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.
The J-1 visa is issued to participants of work-and study-based exchange visitor programs. 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.
Exchange visa categories are:
- Au pair and EduCare
- Camp counselor
- College and university student
- Government visitor
- International visitor
- Professor and research scholar
- Secondary school student
- Short-term scholar
- Summer Work Travel Program participant
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). A K-2 visa is issued to unmarried children under the age of 21. 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.
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). The L-2 visa is issued to dependent spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age of qualified L-1 visa holders.
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.
The 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).
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 (P-3 Visa). 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.
The 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. R-2 visa is issued to dependent family members.
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. 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.
NAFTA Professional (TN) visa allows citizens of Canada and Mexico whose profession is on the NAFTA list 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.
U and T visas
The 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. 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.
The T-1 visa is issued to victims of severe forms of human trafficking. Holders may adjust their status to permanent resident status. 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).
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. 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.
List of US visa types
The Trump administration issued new rules on August 12, 2019, that will reject applicants for temporary or permanent visas for failing to meet income standards or for receiving public assistance such as welfare, food stamps, public housing or Medicaid. Critics[who?] feared the new law, which was set to go into effect in October 2019, could negatively impact the lives of children who are U.S. citizens.
|IR-1||Spouse of U.S. citizen|
|IR-2||Child of U.S. citizen|
|IR-3||Orphan from a non-Hague country (i.e., not a party to the Hague Adoption Convention) adopted abroad by U.S. citizen|
|IR-4||Orphan from a non-Hague country to be adopted in the United States by U.S. citizen|
|IR-5||Parent of U.S. citizen at least 21 years of age|
|IH-3||Orphan from a Hague country adopted abroad by U.S. citizen|
|IH-4||Orphan from a Hague country to be adopted in the United States by U.S. citizen|
|CR-1||Spouse of U.S. citizen (conditional status)|
|CR-2||Child of U.S. citizen (conditional status)|
|IW-1||Certain spouses of deceased U.S. citizens|
|IW-2||Child of IW-1 IB-1|
|IB-1||Self-petition spouse of U.S. citizen|
|IB-2||Self-petition child of U.S. citizen|
|IB-3||Child of IB-1|
|VI-5||Parent of U.S. citizen who acquired permanent resident status under the Virgin Islands Nonimmigrant Alien Adjustment Act|
|Vietnam Amerasian Immigrants|
|AM-1||Vietnam Amerasian principal|
|AM-2||Spouse/Child of AM-1|
|AM-3||Natural mother of AM-1 (and spouse or child of such mother), or person who has acted in effect as the mother, father, or next-of-kin of AM-1 (and spouse or child of such person)|
|SC-1||Certain persons who lost U.S. citizenship by marriage|
|SC-2||Certain persons who lost U.S. citizenship by serving in foreign armed forces|
|Family-Sponsored Immigrants: First Preference|
|F11||Unmarried son or daughter of U.S. citizen|
|F12||Child of F11|
|B11||Self-petition unmarried son or daughter of U.S. citizen|
|B12||Child of B11|
|Family-Sponsored Immigrants: Second Preference (Subject to Country Limitations)|
|F21||Spouse of permanent resident|
|F22||Child of permanent resident|
|F23||Child of F21 or F22|
|F24||Unmarried son/daughter of permanent resident|
|F25||Child of F24|
|B21||Self-petition spouse of permanent resident|
|B22||Self-petition child of permanent resident|
|B23||Child of B21 or B22|
|B24||Self-petition unmarried son/daughter of permanent resident|
|B25||Child of B24|
|Family-Sponsored Immigrants: Second Preference (Exempt from Country Limitations)|
|FX1||Spouse of permanent resident|
|FX2||Child of permanent resident|
|FX3||Child of FX1 or FX2|
|BX1||Self-petition spouse of permanent resident|
|BX2||Self-petition child of permanent resident|
|BX3||Child of BX1 or BX2|
|Family-Sponsored Immigrants: Third Preference|
|F31||Married son or daughter of U.S. citizen|
|F32||Spouse of F31|
|F33||Child of F31|
|B31||Self-petition married son or daughter of U.S. citizen B32|
|B32||Spouse of B31|
|B33||Child of B31|
|Family-Sponsored Immigrants: Fourth Preference|
|F41||Brother or sister of U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years of age|
|F42||Spouse of F41|
|F43||Child of F41|
|Employment-Based Immigrants: First Preference (Priority Workers)|
|E11||Person with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics|
|E12||Outstanding professor or researcher|
|E13||Multinational executive or manager|
|E14||Spouse of E11, E12, or E13|
|E15||Child of E11, E12, or E13|
|Employment-Based Immigrants: Second Preference (Professionals Holding Advanced Degrees or Persons of Exceptional Ability)|
|E21||Professional holding advanced degree or person of exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business|
|E22||Spouse of E21|
|E23||Child of E21|
|Employment-Based Immigrants: Third Preference (Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Other Workers)|
|E32||Professional holding baccalaureate degree|
|E34||Spouse of E31 or E32|
|E35||Child of E31 or E32|
(subgroup numerical limit)
|EW4||Spouse of EW3|
|EW5||Child of EW3|
|Employment-Based Immigrants: Fourth Preference (Certain Special Immigrants)|
|BC-1||Certain international broadcasters|
|BC-2||Spouse of BC-1|
|BC-3||Child of BC-1|
|SD-1||Minister of religion|
|SD-2||Spouse of SD-1|
|SD-3||Child of SD-1|
|SE-1||Certain employees or former employees of the U.S. Government abroad|
|SE-2||Spouse of SE-1|
|SE-3||Child of SE-1|
|SF-1||Certain former employees of the Panama Canal Company or Canal Zone Government|
|SF-2||Spouse or child of SF-1|
|SG-1||Certain former employees of the U.S. Government in the Panama Canal Zone SG-2|
|SH-2||Spouse or child of SH-1|
|SJ-2||Spouse or child of SJ-1 (certain foreign medical graduates)|
|SK-1||Certain retired international organization employees|
|SK-2||Spouse of SK-1 SK-3|
|SK-4||Certain surviving spouses of deceased international organization employees SL-1|
|SM-1||Person recruited outside the United States who has served, or is enlisted to serve, in the U.S. Armed Forces for 12 years (became eligible after October 1, 1991)|
|SM-2||Spouse of SM-1|
|SM-3||Child of SM-1|
|SM-4||Person recruited outside the United States who has served, or is enlisted to serve, in the U.S. Armed Forces for 12 years (eligible as of October 1, 1991)|
|SM-5||Spouse or child of SM-4|
|SN-1||Certain retired NATO-6 civilian employees|
|SN-2||Spouse of SN-1|
|SN-3||Certain unmarried sons or daughters of NATO-6 civilian employees|
|SN-4||Certain surviving spouses of deceased NATO-6 civilian employees|
|SR-1||Certain religious workers (subgroup numerical limit)|
|SR-2||Spouse of SR-1|
|SR-3||Child of SR-1|
|Employment-Based Immigrants: Fifth Preference (Employment Creation - Investors) (Conditional Status)|
|C51||Employment creation outside targeted area|
|C52||Spouse of C51|
|C53||Child of C51|
|T51||Employment creation in targeted rural/high unemployment area (subgroup numerical set-aside)|
|T52||Spouse of T51|
|T53||Child of T51|
|R51||Investor pilot program, not in targeted area|
|R52||Spouse of R51|
|R53||Child of R51|
|I51||Investor pilot program, in targeted area|
|I52||Spouse of I51|
|I53||Child of I51|
|Other Numerically Limited Categories: Diversity Immigrants|
|DV-2||Spouse of DV-1|
|DV-3||Child of DV-1|
|A-1||Head of state and immediate family, prime minister and immediate family, government minister, ambassador, career diplomat or consular officer, or immediate family|
|A-2||Minister of state, other foreign government official or employee, or immediate family|
|A-3||Attendant, servant, or personal employee of A-1 or A-2, and immediate family|
|B-1||Temporary visitor for business, domestic employees, academics, researchers and students|
|B-2||Temporary visitor for holiday, tourism, medical treatment|
|B1/B2||Temporary visitor for business & pleasure|
|C-1||Person in transit|
|C-1/D||Combined Transit and Crewmember (sea or air)|
|C-2||Person in transit to United Nations Headquarters district under Section 11 (3), (4), or (5) of the Headquarters Agreement|
|C-3||Foreign government official, immediate family, attendant, servant or personal employee, in transit|
|CW-1||Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands transitional worker|
|CW-2||Spouse or child of Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands transitional worker|
|D||Crewmember (sea or air)|
|E-1[a]||Treaty trader, spouse and children|
|E-2[a]||Treaty investor, spouse and children|
|E-2[a]||Treaty investor, spouse and children|
|E-2C[a]||Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands investor, spouse, or child|
|E-3[a]||Treaty traders and investors: Australian Free Trade Agreement|
|E-3D[a]||Spouse or child of E-3|
|F-1||Student (academic or language training program)|
|F-2||Spouse or child of F-1|
|F-3||Canadian or Mexican national commuter student in an academic or language training program|
|G-1||Principal resident representative of recognized foreign member government to international organization, staff, and immediate family|
|G-2||Other representative of recognized foreign member government to international organization, and immediate family|
|G-3||Representative of non-recognized or nonmember foreign government to international organization, and immediate family|
|G-4||International organization officer or employee, and immediate family|
|G-5||Attendant, servant, or personal employee of G-1 through G-4, and immediate family|
|GB||Temporary visitors: for business, visa waiver, Guam|
|GT||Temporary visitors: for pleasure, visa waiver, Guam|
|H-1B[a]||Alien in a specialty occupation (profession)|
|H1B1||Chilean or Singaporean national to work in a specialty occupation|
|H-1C||Nurse in health professional shortage area|
|H-2A||Temporary worker performing agricultural services unavailable in the United States|
|H-2B||Temporary worker performing other services unavailable in the United States|
|H-3||Temporary workers and trainees: industrial trainees|
|H-4[a]||Temporary workers and trainees: spouses and children of H-1B, H-1B1, H-2A, H-2B, or H-3|
|I||Representative of foreign information media, spouse and children|
|J-2||Spouse or child of exchange visitor|
|K-1[a]||Fiancé(e) of U.S. citizen|
|K-2[a]||Child of fiancé(e) of U.S. citizen|
|K-3[a]||Spouse of U.S. citizen awaiting availability of immigrant visa|
|K-4[a]||Child of K-3|
|L-1[a]||Intracompany transferee (executive, managerial, and specialized personnel continuing employment with international firm or corporation)|
|L-2[a]||Spouse or child of intracompany transferee|
|M-1||Vocational student or other nonacademic student|
|M-2||Spouse or child of M-1|
|M-3||Border commuter student (vocational or nonacademic)|
|N-8||Parent of SK-3 or SN-3 special immigrant|
|N-9||Child of N-8 or of SK-1, SK-2, SK-4, SN-1, SN-2, or SN-4 special immigrant|
|NATO-1||Principal permanent representative of member state to NATO (including any of its subsidiary bodies) resident in the U.S. and resident members of official staff; Secretary General, Assistant Secretaries General, and Executive Secretary of NATO; other permanent NATO officials of similar rank, and members of immediate family|
|NATO-2||Other representatives of member states to NATO (including any of its subsidiary bodies) including representatives, advisers, and technical experts of delegations, and members of immediate family; dependents of members of a force entering in accordance with the provisions of the NATO Status-of-Forces Agreement or in accordance with provisions of the "Protocol on the Status of International Military Headquarters"; members of such a force if issued visas|
|NATO-3||Official clerical staff accompanying a representative of member state to NATO (including any of its subsidiary bodies), and members of immediate family|
|NATO-4||Officials of NATO (other than those classifiable as NATO-1), and members of immediate family|
|NATO-5||Experts, other than officials classifiable as NATO-4, employed in missions on behalf of NATO, and their dependents|
|NATO-6||Members of a civilian component accompanying a force entering in accordance with the provisions of the NATO Status-of-Forces Agreement; members of a civilian component attached to or employed by an Allied Headquarters under the "Protocol on the Status of International Military Headquarters" set up pursuant to the North Atlantic Treaty; and their dependents|
|NATO-7||Attendant, servant, or personal employee of NATO-1 through NATO-6 classes, and immediate family|
|O-1[a]||Person with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics|
|O-2[a]||Person accompanying and assisting in the artistic or athletic performance by O-1|
|O-3[a]||Spouse or child of O-1 or O-2|
|P-1[a]||Internationally recognized athlete or member of an internationally recognized entertainment group|
|P-2[a]||Artist or entertainer in a reciprocal exchange program|
|P-3[a]||Artist or entertainer in a culturally unique program|
|P-4[a]||Spouse or child of P-1, P-2, or P-3|
|Q-1||Participant in an international cultural exchange program|
|R-1||Person in a religious occupation|
|R-2||Spouse or child of R-1|
|S-5||Informant possessing information on criminal activity|
|S-6||Informant possessing information on terrorism|
|S-7||Spouse, married or unmarried son or daughter, or parent of S-5 or S-6|
|SIJS||Special Immigrant Juvenile Status: Qualifying children present in the U.S. who are declared dependents of a juvenile court and who would be harmed if returned to their home country|
|T-1||Victim of a severe form of trafficking in persons|
|T-2||Spouse of T-1|
|T-3||Child of T-1|
|T-4||Parent of T-1 under 21 years of age|
|T-5||Under-18 unmarried sibling of T-1|
|T-6||Adult or minor child of a derivative beneficiary of a T-1|
|TD||Spouse or child of TN|
|U-1||Victim of criminal activity|
|U-2||Spouse of U-1|
|U-3||Child of U-1|
|U-4||Parent of U-1 under 21 years of age|
|U-5||Under-18 unmarried sibling of U-1 under 21 at time of filing|
|V-1[a]||Spouse of lawful permanent resident awaiting availability of immigrant visa|
|V-2[a]||Child of lawful permanent resident awaiting availability of immigrant visa|
|V-3[a]||Derivative child of V-1 and V-2|
|WB||Temporary visitors: visa waiver, business|
|WT||Temporary visitors: visa waiver, pleasure|
- 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.
The concept of the dual intent visa is to grant legal status to certain types of visa applicants when they are in the process of applying for a visa with the intent to obtain a permanent residency/green card. There are a certain number of U.S. visa categories that grant permission for dual intent, or to get a temporary visa status while having an intention to get a green card and stay permanently in the United States of America.
|Culture Workers, Artists and Entertainers|
|P-1||Athletes or members of team who take part in certain athletic competition for the purpose of entertainment|
|P-2||Entertainers and artists who visit the United States under a mutual exchange program between the U.S. and other organizations and their supporters (service workers or individuals)|
|P-3||Artists, individuals and service workers who come to the U.S. with the objective to teach, coach, develop and interpret traditional and cultural performances|
|P-4||Dependents of individuals who hold P-2 and P-3 visas|
|O-1A||Individuals who have unique talents or outstanding accomplishments in the spheres of education, business, science and mathematics|
|O-1B||Individuals who have unique talents or outstanding accomplishments in the spheres of education, business, science and mathematics|
|O-2 (A&B)||Individuals who provide O-1 holders with essential assistance|
|O-3||Dependents of individuals who hold O-1 and O-2 visas|
|H-1B||Professional athletes, coaches and coaching staff|
|P-1||Athletes with a high level of international performance and their supporters|
|O-1A||Individuals with unique talents and abilities in the field of sports|
|Entrepreneurs and Business Individuals|
|H-1B||Individuals who have a high level of professional knowledge in a particular niche|
|H-1B (Chile)||Chilean citizens specializing in a certain occupation who intend to start a niche-related business within the U.S.|
|H-1B (Singapore)||Singapore citizens specializing in a certain occupation who intend to start a niche-related business within the U.S.|
|L-1||Such qualified employers/intracompany transferees as executives, managers and specialty workers|
|E-2||Citizens of Treaty Countries who have an intention to invest in an American company|
|E-3||Australian citizens specializing in certain occupation who intend to start a niche-related business within the U.S.|
|O-1A||Individuals with outstanding talents and achievements that are internationally recognised|
|Family Members of LPRs|
|V||Individuals with family members who have the LPR ( Lawful Permanent Resident) status, live in the United States and have filed the Form I-130 before December 21, 2000|
|Fiancé(e)s and Spouses of United States Citizens|
|K-1||Foreign fiancé(e)s who are going to enter the United States with an intention to marry an American citizen|
|K-2||Individuals who are dependents of K-1 visa holders|
|K-3||Individuals who have already married U.S. citizens abroad and now have a right to enter the U.S.|
|H-4||Individuals who are dependents of H-1B visa holders|
|L-1A||Managers and executives who are transported to an office in the United States in order to carry out certain supervisory duties|
|L-1B||Individuals who have profound knowledge in company's inner processes, services and systems who are transported to an office in the United States|
|L-2||Individuals who are dependents of L-1 visa holders|
|Doctors and Physicians|
|H-1B||Foreign medical practitioners who have an appropriate degree and a license in their sphere and have completed the FLEX licensing examination|
|O-1A||Foreign medical practitioners with outstanding skills in the medical niche|
|E-2||Foreign medical practitioners who have an intention to invest in an American enterprise|
|Professional and Priority Workers|
|H-1B||Foreign citizens with a specialty occupation who have a sponsorship from an employer based in the United States|
|E-2||Treaty investors who are eligible to work in the United States for an American business if they invest more than $100,000 and if they are citizens of Treaty Countries|
|E-3||Australian citizens who have a sponsorship from an employer based in the United States|
|Software Engineers and Programmers|
|H-1B||Foreign citizens who have deep knowledge in the computer sphere and can provide strong evidence of their skills|
|L-1||Foreign citizens who hold the position of executive or manager in software companies and have to be transported to a branch based in the United States|
|E-1/E-2||Foreign citizens from Treaty Countries who possess unique IT skills|
|O-1A||Foreign citizens who have outstanding knowledge in computer science and software development|
|H-1B||Foreign citizens who are currently/expired nurses by occupation and who are going to come to the United States under the Nursing Relief Act|
|H-1B||Foreign citizens who specialize in spheres that are important for employers who are based in the United States|
|H-4||Individuals who are dependents of H-3 visa holders and applicants|
|Treaty Traders and Investors|
|E-1||Individuals who are officially investors and who are citizens of E-1 Treaty Countries|
|E-2||Foreign citizens who are going to work or travel and who have made an investment in the United States economy that they can control|
|Scientists, Professors, Scholars and Researchers|
|O-1A||Scholars and professors who show outstanding accomplishments in science|
|O-2 (A&B)||Accompanying individuals of O-1A visa holders or applicants whose help is indispensable to certain scientific researches|
|O-3||Individuals who are dependents O-1/O-2 visa holders|
|H-1B||Scientific researchers who will be employed by certain academic institutions in the United States|
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 U.S.
- The spouse of a U.S. 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.
Section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (also cited as 8 United States Code § 1184(b)) states that most aliens must be presumed to be intending to remain in the U.S., 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
- The applicant did not convince the consular officer that he / she did not intend to stay in the U.S. permanently, or
- The applicant did not convince the consular officer that he / she was qualified for the visa for which he / she 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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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.
In 2005, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (then Chief Minister of Gujarat) was denied a diplomatic visa to the United States. 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. Modi is the only person ever denied a visa to the U.S. under this provision. In 2014, after Modi's BJP political party won the 2014 Indian general election, U.S. President Barack Obama ended the visa issue by calling Modi to congratulate him on his victory, and invited him to the White House. On June 8, 2016 Modi addressed a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress.
There are cases when a U.S. 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. The FBI had aided the men in the visa application process hoping that they would provide information regarding yakuza activities in the U.S.
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- "Immigration Classifications and Visa Categories - ARCHIVE as of 2010-Jan-28. Page no longer available". United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Archived from the original on February 28, 2008. Retrieved January 28, 2010.
- "Types of Visas for Temporary Visitors". Retrieved September 11, 2011.
- "Types of Visas for Temporary Visitors". Retrieved September 11, 2011.
- "8 CFR 214.2 - Special requirements for admission, extension, and maintenance of status". Legal Information Institute. Cornell University Legal Law School. Retrieved May 17, 2017.
- "Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 USC Sec. 1158". House.gov. Retrieved April 21, 2019.
- "A 214(b) Denial: What It Means, What You Can Do". Usvisalawyers.co.uk.
- "No entry for Modi into US: visa denied". The Times of India. March 18, 2005. Retrieved February 3, 2012.
- Mann, James (May 2, 2014). "Why Narendra Modi Was Banned From the U.S." Retrieved June 3, 2014.
- Charles Ornstein and John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times After livers, cash to UCLA May 31, 2008
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