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Apply for Nonimmigrant Visas to the U.S

Nonimmigrant visitor visas are available to those who wish to temporarily enter the country for tourism (visa category B-2), business (visa category B-1), or a mix of both (B-1/B-2).

USA Visit Visas - Visit the USA as a Non Immigrant

USA Visit Visa Types, Requirements and Application Guidelines

For good reason, a trip to the United States of America is at the top of most people’s travel wish lists. Every year, over 77 million tourists visit the country, making it one of the most visited in the globe. It’s easy to state that America is unlike any other country in the world because it has everything from amusement parks to historical landmarks.

If you are a citizen of a foreign country and wish to enter the United States temporarily, you will need to get a visa. There are two kinds of visas, a nonimmigrant visa for a temporary stay and an immigrant visa for permanent residency.

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USA visit visa overview

The following are some examples of what you can do while visiting on a visitor visa:

  • Consult with business partners
  • Conferences and conventions in science, education, business, or professional fields
  • Settle an estate
  • Contract negotiation
  • Tourism
  • Vacation (holiday)
  • Spend time with family and friends
  • Medical treatment
  • As a member of a fraternal, social, or service organization, you are invited to participate in social events
  • Participation by amateurs in musical, sporting, or similar events or contests, especially if they are not compensated for doing so
  • Short recreational courses of study (for instance, a two-day cooking class while on vacation, not for credit)

Listed below are some activities that require different types of visas and cannot be carried out while on a visitor visa.

  • Study
  • Employment
  • Performances for a fee, or any professional performance
  • Arrival as a crewmember of a ship or aircraft
  • Work as a foreign correspondent, radio, or film journalist, print journalist, or a journalist for another media outlet
  • Permanent residence in the United States

A visitor visa will not be issued for birth tourism (the act of travelling to the United States primarily to give birth to a child to obtain U.S. citizenship for the child).

How to apply for the USA visit visa

The process of applying for a visa involves several steps. You may have to complete the application steps differently, depending on the U.S. visa office. Consult an immigration consultant for instructions and assistance in completing your application.
Complete the Visa Application

  • Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160- You must complete the visa application and print the application form confirmation page to bring to your interview.
  • When filling out form DS-160, you will be asked to upload your photo and biometric information. You must submit your photo in the format described in the photograph requirements.

There are certain limited exceptions to the general requirement for visa applicants to undergo interviews. 

In general, an interview is not required if you are 13 or younger. As a general rule, the ages 14-79 require a visa interview with some exceptions for renewals, whereas ages 80 and older do not require an interview

The US Embassy or Consulate in your country should schedule your visa interview. It is possible to schedule your interview at another American Embassy or Consulate. 

Visa interview wait times vary by location, season, and visa category, so apply early. Find out how long it takes for an interview to be scheduled at the location where you intend to apply.

Get an estimate of the wait time for a nonimmigrant visa interview appointment at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Some embassies and consulates waive the in-person interview requirement for visa-specific cases. Generally, those cases have shorter wait times.

Fees – If necessary, make sure you have the non-refundable visa application fee paid before your interview.
If your visa application is accepted, you may also be required to pay a visa issuance fee.

Before your visa interview, gather and prepare the following documents:

  • Valid passport required for travel to the United States – Your passport must be valid for at least six months after your stay in the United States (unless exempt by country-specific agreements). Every individual who needs a visa must apply separately, including any family members listed in your passport
  • Form DS-160 confirmation page for nonimmigrant visa applications
  • The receipt for your application fee payment if you have to pay before your interview
  • While completing Form DS-160, you will upload your photo. You must bring one printed photo in the format described in the Photograph Requirements if the photo upload fails

There may be a need for additional documentation
To determine if you are qualified, additional documents may be required. Additional documents may include, for example, evidence of:

  • The purpose of your trip
  • Your intent to depart the United States after your trip, and/or
  • Your ability to pay all costs of the trip

Evidence of your employment or family ties may suffice to prove the purpose of your trip and your intention to return home. You may be able to show evidence that another person will cover some or all your trip costs if you cannot cover all of them.

Rather than relying on assurances from family and friends in the United States, visa applicants should be considered for admission based on their residence and ties abroad. There is no need to submit a letter of invitation or an affidavit of support when applying for a visitor visa. Suppose you decide to bring a letter of invitation or affidavit of support to your interview. In that case, you should be aware that it will not be used as one of the factors to decide whether to grant or deny your visa application.

A consular officer will interview you to determine whether you are eligible for a visitor visa. A visa can only be granted if you meet the requirements outlined by U.S. law. During the application process, digital fingerprint scans are taken using ink-free technology. Usually, they are taken during your interview, but it varies by location.

The consular officer may determine that your application needs further administrative processing after your visa interview.  If this is required, the consular officer will inform you. Following the approval of your visa, you may have to pay a visa issuance fee (depending on your nationality) and arrange to have your passport and visa returned to you. 

Entering the United States

By obtaining a visa, a foreign citizen can travel to a port of entry in the United States (generally an airport) and apply for permission to enter the country. It is important to note that a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. It is the responsibility of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials at the port of entry to have the authority to permit or deny admission into the United States of America. You will receive an admission stamp or a paper Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record, from the CBP official if you are allowed to enter the United States.

Extending your stay in the United States

If you do not depart the United States on time, you will lose your status. If an individual is out of status, their visa is automatically cancelled (Section 222(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act).  It is important to note that any multiple entry visa that was voided for being out of status will not be valid for future entry into the United States.
It is also possible that you may not be able to obtain a visa in the future if you fail to depart the United States on time.

Change of status

During your stay in the United States, if your plans change (for example, you marry a U.S. citizen or receive a job offer), you may be able to change your nonimmigrant status to another category through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). 
You do not need to apply for a new visa if you receive a change of status from USCIS while you are in the country.  If you depart the United States, you will need to apply for a new visa at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy in the appropriate category relating to your travel.

Additional information

  • In the United States, visitors with a visa (B1/B2) cannot accept employment or work
  • Until you have a visa, do not make final travel plans, or buy tickets. Visas are not guaranteed
  • The validity of a U.S. visa in an expired passport does not change. Visas are valid until their expiration date unless they have been cancelled or revoked. Please do not remove your valid visa from your expired passport if you have a valid visa in your expired passport. You can travel to the United States with a valid visa in your expired passport along with a new valid passport if you have a valid visa in your expired passport

The consular officer may ask for further documents at your visa interview if you are seeking medical treatment in the United States, such as:

  • Your local physician must diagnose the illness and explain why you need treatment in the United States
  • The letter should be written by a doctor or medical facility in the United States that they are willing to treat your specific ailment and details the projected length and cost of treatment (including the doctor’s fees, hospitalization fees, as well as all medically related expenses)
  • You must provide proof that you will be able to cover your transportation, medical, and living expenses in the United States. An income/savings statement from your bank or other institution, or a certified copy of your income tax return (whether it is from you or the person or organization who pays for your treatment) are acceptable forms of documentation

In certain circumstances, you may apply for a B-1 visitor visa to work in the United States as a personal or domestic employee for your employer. A visitor visa allows you to work in the United States if your employer is:

A citizen of the United States who has a permanent place of residence or is stationed in a foreign country, but is visiting or assigned to the United States temporarily or a foreign national with one of the following nonimmigrant visa categories:  B, E, F, H, I, J, L, M, O, P, or Q.

When applying to renew your visa or apply for a new one, you will use the same application process. Fill out the contact form to get started. 
Visa holders in certain visa classes may qualify for the Interview Waiver (IW), allowing them to apply for visa renewals without being interviewed in person by a U.S. consular officer. 

Maritime workers from certain countries can obtain a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) once they arrive in the U.S.
If you are part of the maritime industry and intend to perform services in secure port areas, your visa must be annotated with “TWIC Letter Received.” Workers whose visas are not annotated will not be allowed by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to apply for a TWIC.
An employer’s letter explaining the need for a TWIC and that you are a potential applicant for one is required for your visa to be annotated. When applying for a B-1 visa, you must present this letter. A B-1 visa requires you to meet all other eligibility requirements. 

The willful misrepresentation of a material fact, or fraud, may lead to the permanent refusal of a visa or denial of entry.

To visit, travel for tourism, or conduct temporary business in the United States, Canadians and Bermudans do not need a visa.

According to the agreement signed by the United States and China to extend visa validity beginning November 29, 2016, Chinese citizens with a 10-year B1, B2 visa in a People’s Republic of China passport, will be required to update their biographic and other information every two years as part of the agreement. Upon receiving a new passport or B1/B2 visa, whichever occurs first.  This system is known as the Electronic Visa Update System (EVUS).

Nonimmigrant visas or Border Crossing Cards (also called Laser Visas) are required of Mexican citizens and permanent residents. A single document (DSP-151) combines the B-1/B-2 and Border Crossing Card for more convenient travel.

Questions? You’re covered

In the United States, a nonimmigrant visa allows you to travel to a Port of Entry (airport/seaport). Upon arrival at your destination Port of Entry, the Customs and Border Protection officer who processes your entry will determine the length of time you may remain in the country before leaving. You may travel to the Port of Entry until and including the last day of the validity period of your nonimmigrant visa. Upon arrival in the country, a Customs and Border Protection officer determines how long you can remain in the United States, not the duration of your visa.

Visit your child with your B-1/B-2 visa (or travel under the Visa Waiver Program, if eligible), but you cannot live with them without your immigrant, work, or student visa.

It is strongly recommended that applicants wait until they receive their passport and new visa before booking their travel. If you wait until you receive your visa before booking your tickets, you will not have to worry about buying an airplane ticket only to discover that your visa has been denied or having to change your tickets after you have purchased them.

Unless you qualify for the Visa Waiver Program, you will still need a visa to travel to the United States. A Business Travelers Card (ABTC) issued by the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) does not change visa requirements, visa status, or visa processing.

Yes, if circumstances regarding your application have changed.

An expedited visa interview appointment might be possible if you have an Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Business Travelers Card (ABTC).

USA Visit Visa Eligibility Check

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