Generally, a citizen
of a foreign country who wishes to enter the United States must first
obtain a visa, either a nonimmigrant visa for temporary stay, or an
immigrant visa for permanent residence. The "visitor" visa
is a nonimmigrant visa for persons desiring to enter the United States
temporarily for business (B-1) or for pleasure or medical treatment
(B-2). As examples, if the purpose for your planned travel is to consult
with business associates, travel for a scientific, educational, professional
or business convention, or conference on specific dates, settle an estate,
or negotiate a contract, then you would apply for a visitors visa. As
additional examples, if the purpose of your planned travel is recreational
in nature, including tourism, amusement, visits with friends or relatives,
rest, medical treatment, and activities of a fraternal, social, or service
nature, then you would apply for a vistors visa. The visa allows a foreign
citizen, to travel to the United States port-of entry and request permission
of the U.S. immigration inspector to enter the U.S.
Changes introduced shortly
after September 11, 2001 involve extensive and ongoing
review of visa issuing practices as they relate to our
national security. Visa applications are now subject to
a greater degree of scrutiny than in the past. So it is
important to apply for your visa well in advance of your
travel departure date. Foreign travelers who are
citizens from certain eligible countries, may also be able
to visit the U.S. without a visa on the Visa Waiver Program.
Review the information below about Visa Waiver.
Persons planning to travel to
the U.S. for a different purpose such as students, temporary
workers, crewmen, journalists, etc., must apply for a different
visa in the appropriate category.
Representatives of the foreign press, radio, film, journalists or
other information media, engaging in that vocation while in the
U.S., require a nonimmigrant Media (I) visa and cannot travel to
the U.S. using a visitor visa and cannot travel on the visa waiver
program, seeking admission by the DHS immigration inspector, at
the U.S. at the port of entry.
Visa Waiver Program
coming to the U.S. for tourism or business for 90 days or less from
qualified countries may be eligible to visit the U.S. without a visa
if they meet the visa waiver program requirements. Currently, 27 countries
participate in the Visa Waiver Program, as shown below:
Visa Waiver Program
- Participating Countries
Qualifying for a Visa
for visitor visas must show that they qualify under provisions
of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Applicants must demonstrate
that they are properly classifiable as visitors under U.S.
The presumption in the law is that every visitor visa applicant is an intending
immigrant. Therefore, applicants for visitor visas must overcome this presumption
by demonstrating that:
The purpose of their trip is
to enter the U.S. for business, pleasure, or medical treatment;
That they plan to remain for a specific, limited period;
Evidence of funds to cover expenses in the United States;
Evidence of compelling social and economic ties abroad; and
That they have a residence outside
the U.S. as well as other binding ties which will insure
their return abroad at the end of the visit.
Where Do I Apply for a Visitor
Applicants for visitor visas should generally
apply at the American Embassy or Consulate with jurisdiction
over their place of permanent residence. Although visa applicants
may apply at any U.S. consular office abroad, it may be more
difficult to qualify for the visa outside the country of
applicant for a visitor visa must submit these forms and
documentation, and submit fees as explained below:
An application, Nonimmigrant
Visa Application, Form DS-156, completed and signed. The
DS-156 must be the February 2003 date, either the electronic "e-form
application" or the non-electronic version. You may
also check with the Embassy Consular Section where you will
apply to determine if the hard-copy DS-156 blank form is
available, should you need it.
A Supplemental Nonimmigrant Visa Application , Form DS-157 provides additional
information about your travel plans. Submission of this completed form is required
for all male applicants between 16-45 years of age. It is also required for all
applicants from state sponsors of terrorism age 16 and over, irrespective of
gender, without exception. Seven countries are now designated as state sponsors
of terrorism, including North Korea, Cuba, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Iraq, and Libya.
You should know that a consular officer may require any nonimmigrant visa applicant
to complete this form. A passport valid for travel to the United States and with
a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant's intended period of
stay in the United States. If more than one person is included in the passport,
each person desiring a visa must make an application;
One (1) 2x2 photograph.
What are the Required Fees?
Nonimmigrant visa application
processing fee - Each applicant for a visitor visa must pay
a nonrefundable US $100 nonimmigrant visa application processing
Visa issuance fee ? Additionally,
if the visa is issued, there will be an additional visa issuance
reciprocity fee, if applicable.
is important that you refer to the Embassy Consular Section
web site to determine visa processing timeframes and instructions,
learn about interview scheduling, and find out if there are
any additional documentation items required. Applicants must
demonstrate that they are properly classifiable as visitors
under U.S. law by:
Evidence which shows the purpose
of the trip, intent to depart the United States, and arrangements
made to cover the costs of the trip may be provided. It is
impossible to specify the exact form the documentation should
take since applicants' circumstances vary greatly. Those
applicants who do not have sufficient funds to support themselves
while in the U.S. must present convincing evidence that an
interested person will provide support.
Depending on individual circumstances,
applicants may provide other documentation substantiating
the trip's purpose and specifying the nature of binding obligations,
such as family ties or employment, which would compel their
Documentation Needed - When
Seeking to Travel for Medical Treatment
In addition to all of the documentation requirements explained above, the following
documentation is also required, for persons seeking medical treatment in the
Persons desiring to travel to
the U.S. for medical treatment should be prepared to present
the following, in addition to any other documentation the
consular officer may require:
Medical diagnosis from a local physician, explaining the nature of the
ailment and the reason the applicant requires treatment in the United States.Letter
from a physician or medical facility in the United States, expressing a
willingness to treat this specific ailment and detailing the projected
length and cost of treatment (including doctors? fees, hospitalization
fees, and all medical-related expenses).Statement of financial responsibility
from the individuals or organization which will pay for the patient?s transportation,
medical and living expenses. The individuals guaranteeing payment of these
expenses must provide proof of ability to do so, often in the form of bank
or other statements of income/savings or certified copies of income tax
Persons traveling to the U.S. for medical treatment should have a statement
from a doctor or institution concerning proposed medical treatment.
Misrepresentation of a Material
Facts, or Fraud
Attempting to obtain a visa by the
willful misrepresentation of a material fact, or fraud, may
result in the permanent refusal of a visa or denial of entry
into the United States.
Visa Ineligibility/ Waiver
Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-156 list classes of
persons who are ineligible under U.S. law to receive visas.
In some instances an applicant who is ineligible, but who
is otherwise properly classifiable as a visitor, may apply
for a waiver of ineligibility and be issued a visa if the
waiver is approved.
are not permitted to accept employment during their stay
in the U.S. Unless previously canceled, a visa is valid until
its expiration date. Therefore, if the traveler has a valid
U.S. visitor visa in an expired passport, he or she may use
it along with a new valid passport for travel and admission
to the United States.
If the consular officer should find it necessary
to deny the issuance of a visitor visa, the applicant may apply again if there
is new evidence to overcome the basis for the refusal. For additional information,
select Denials to
learn more. In the absence of new evidence, consular officers are not obliged
to re-examine such cases.
Entering the U.S. - Port of Entry
should be aware that a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States.
The visa allows a foreign citizen coming from abroad, to travel to the United
States port-of entry and request permission to enter the U.S. The Department
of Homeland Security?s, Bureau of Transportation Security has authority to
permit or deny admission to the United States. Also, the period for which the
bearer of a visitor visa is authorized to remain in the U.S. is determined
by a U.S. immigration officer of the Bureau of Transportation Security, not
the consular officer. At the port of entry (an international airport, seaport
or land border crossing), a Bureau of Transportation Security, a U.S. immigration
official must determine whether you can enter and how long you can stay here,
on any particular visit. If you are allowed to enter, the U.S. immigration
official authorize the traveler's admission to the U.S. At that time, Form
I-94, Record of Arrival-Departure, which notes the length of stay permitted,
is validated by the immigration official. To find out more detailed information
about admissions and entry in the U.S., select Admissions / Entry to visit
the Department of Homeland Security?s, Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration
Services internet site.
How Do I Extend My Stay?
Those visitors who wish to stay
beyond the time indicated on their Form I-94 must contact the
Department of Homeland Security?s Bureau of Citizenship and
Immigration Services to request an application to extend status.
The decision to grant or deny a request for extension of stay
is made solely by the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration