United states is the one of the five most visited countries all over the world, as well as a the country with the highest number of immigrants. Any foreign national wanting to visit or immigrate to the U.S. must apply US visa at one of the United States diplomatic missions.
A US Visa is a sticker visa affixed to the passport of a foreign national. A US visa does not guarantee a foreign national entry to the United States. It is subject to the discretion of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Customs and Borders Protection (CPB) Inspectors, when you present your visa.
The CBP Officer at the port-of-entry can conduct further examine and interview the foreign national to determine his/her eligibility for admission under U.S. immigration law.
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Who Needs to Apply US Visa?
Foreign nationals of 38 countries that are part of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) are eligible to travel to the United States for business or tourism for stays of up to 90 days without a visa. The Visa Waiver Program also requires those 38 countries to permit U.S. citizens and nationals to travel to their countries for a similar length of time without a visa for business or tourism purposes.
If your country is not on the list, you need to apply US visa.
US Immigrant Visa vs Non-Immigrant Visa
The rule of thumb is that non-immigrant visas are temporary, and Immigrant visas are not temporary.
1. Permanent visas fo foreigners intending to work and live in U.S., effectively giving them a way to immigrate legally.
2. Anyone with an immigrant visas may become a lawful permanent resident.
1. These visas expire after a limited period of time
2. The visa holder has to return to their home country once the visa expires, unless they are able to convert it to another visa or find a way to extend it.
What Are Different Types of US Visa?
There are 185 types of US visas for different purposes. The type of visa you can apply for, depends on its purpose and should be accompanied by the required documents.
Non-Immigrant US Visas
Here are all the non-immigrant US visas organized as per their purpose.
1. Visitor Visas
Visitor visas are nonimmigrant visas for foreign nationals who want to enter the United States temporarily for business or tourism or both.
- B-1 : For Business purpose
- B-2 : For Tourism or visiting
2. Transit Visas
Transit or C visas are nonimmigrant visas that allow the foreign nationals to travel in immediate and continuous transit through the United States en route to another country.
3. Au pair Visas/ Exchange visitor Visas
Exchange visitor or J visas are nonimmigrant visas, that a foreign national must possess in order to participate in exchange visitor programs in the United States. Some examples of these programs are : being an intern, an au pair, a camp counsellor.
The exchange visitor visas can be:
- J visa : For au pairs, teachers, scholars.
- Q visa : For international cultural exchange visitor.
4. Student Visas
A foreign national needs to possess a student visa to study in the United States. This applies to credit toward a degree or academic certificate.
You need to have either the F1 or the M1 visa, based on the type of your course. US student visas can be any of these two.
- F1 visa: For students in a university, high school, language training institute.
- M1 visa: For students of a Vocational or other recognized nonacademic institution, other than a language training program.
- F2 visa: For minor children or spouse of a student with F1 visa.
5. Crew Member Visas
Crewmember or D visas are nonimmigrant visas meant for foreign nationals working on international airlines or commercial sea vessels in the United States. They provide services and intend to depart the United States on the same vessel or any other vessel within 29 days of their arrival.
If you travel to the United States to join the vessel you will work on, you will need a transit or C Visa in addition to a D visa, or a combination of both.
6. Diplomatic and Official Visas.
Diplomatic visas are reserved for foreign diplomats and government officials traveling to the United States to perform official duties or activities on behalf of their country.
They can be one of these:
- A visa : It can be granted to heads of state, government ministers, ambassadors or consuls as well as their dependants as well as foreign military persons.
- G visa: It’s meant for employees of a designated international organization or NATO.
7. Treaty Trader and Investor Visas
Foreign nationals of certain countries can receive a Treaty Trader or investor visa provided that they will engage in trade in services or technology, or develop an enterprise in which they have invested substantial capital.
These can be either
- E-1 visa : treaty trader visa
- E-2 visa : treaty investor visa
8. Visas for Victims of Human Trafficking
Foreign nationals who are victims of huma trafficking, and their immediate family members are eligible to get a T visa to remain in the United States to assist in investigations or prosecutions of human trafficking violators.
9. Visas for Victims of Crime
Foreign nationals who are victims of certain criminal activities that either occurred in the United States or violated U.S. laws, as well as their family members maybe eligible to get a U visa to come to the United States and help in the investigation or prosecution of the said criminal activity.
10. Temporary Work Visas
United States issues several types of temporary work visas to foreign nationals based on the nature of their work and their nationality.
- CW Visa: A CW visa is for foreign (nonimmigrant) workers to be employed under employers in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), if they are ineligible to work under other nonimmigrant worker categories.
- E3 visa: Nationals of Australia who work in specialty occupations, as well as their spouse and children are eligible for E3 visa.
- H1B visa: Foreign nationals employed in highly specialized fields can obtain a H1B visa through their employer.
- H1B1 visa: Nationals of Singapore and Chile are eligible to apply for H1B1 visas to work in the service sector, in specialty occupations, on a temporary basis.
- H-2A visa: Temporary agricultural workers from certain countries can apply for H-2A visa for temporary or seasonal agricultural work.
- H-2B visa: citizens of certain designated countries are eligible for a H2-B visa to engage in temporary or seasonal non- agricultural work.
- H-3 visa: Foreign nationals who want to receive certain specialized or practical training, other than graduate medical or academic, may apply for a H-3 visa.
- I visa: Journalists or representatives of foreign media such as film, radio, print can apply for an I visa to work or engage in informational or educational media activities.
- L1 visa: Issued to intracompany managers or executives.
- O Visa : Foreign nationals with an extraordinary ability in Arts, Science, Business, Education, or Athletics and want to temporarily work in their field of expertise may apply for an O visa. There are three types of O visas:
|For persons with extraordinary abilities.
|For the assistants of O1 visa holders.
|For dependents of O1 visa holders.
- P visa: Sportspersons, artists and entertainers may apply for P visas. P Visas are divided into three subcategories.
|Athletes, or Members of an Entertainment Group
|Artists or entertainers, to perform under a reciprocal exchange program
|Artists or entertainers, to perform, teach or coach a culturally or traditionally unique program.
- TN/TD visa: Citizens of Canada or Mexico may apply for a nonimmigrant NAFTA Professional TN visa to to work in the United States in prearranged business activities for U.S. or foreign employers.
Immigrant US Visas
The types of immigrant visas vary as per their purpose as well.
- CR1 Visa : CR1 or Conditional Resident Spouse Visa allows a recently-married foreign-born spouse to move to the United States on an immigrant status with a Green Card on the condition that the couple stays married for at least 2 years.
- IR1 Visa: If a foreign-born citizen has been married with a US citizen for 2 years of marriage, the foreign spouse can apply for an IR1 or an Immediate Relative Spouse Visa.
2. Fiancé Visa
- K-1 Visa : A foreign citizen who is a the fiancé of a U.S. citizen can apply for a K-1 visa to travel to the United States and marry his or her U.S. citizen sponsor within 90 days of arrival.
- K-2 Visa : Children of the fiancé of a U.S. citizen who applies for a K-1 visa, may apply for K-2 visas based on the approval of Form I-129F for the fiancé.
- K-3 Visa : Foreign-born Spouses of U.S. citizens who are waiting for permanent immigration status in the United States. A foreign citizen who marries a U.S. citizen outside the U.S. must apply for the K-3 visa in the country where the marriage took place.
- K-4 Visa : Eligible children of K-3 visa applicants receive K-4 visas
3. Family-sponsored Visas
Family members of U.S. citizens can immigrate to the United States by applying any of the following visas.
|IR3, IH3, IR4, IH4
|Adopted Orphan Children by U.S. Citizens from a different country.
|Unmarried children under 21
|Parents of US Citizens who are at least 21
|Unmarried sons and daughters and their minor children
|Married sons and daughters and their minor children
|Brothers and sisters of US Citizens, and their spouses and minor children.
Family members of permanent residents of U.S. can immigrate to the United States by applying any of the following visas.
|Spouses or minor children of Green Card holders.
|Unmarried children( above 21 years old) of Green Card holders.
4. Employer Sponsored Visas
|EB1 or an employment first-preference visas are for foreign nationals who are outstanding professors or researchers, or are a certain multinational executive or manager
|EB2 or employment second preference visas are for members of the professions holding an advanced degree or its equivalent, as well as foreigners with extraordinary abilities.
|Skilled workers and professionals may apply for EB3 visas or employment third preference visas to immigrate to the U.S
|Special immigrants such as religious workers, Armed forces members, certain physicians are eligible to apply for EB4 or employment fourth preference visas.
|Investors can immigrate to the United States under EB5 visas by investing in a new commercial enterprise that will create at least 10 full-time positions .
5. Diversity Immigrant Visas
Every year, United States allows foreign nationals to immigrate to U.S. under a “diversity immigrants” program. These foreign nationals belong to countries that have low immigration rates to the U.S.
6. Returning Resident Visas
Green card holders who have remained outside of the U.S. for more than a year, for reasons beyond their control, are not allowed inside. The returning resident visa or SB visa grants them entry into the US again.
7. Religious Workers Visas
Religious workers who want to enter the United States to work temporarily in religious capacities may apply for a R1 visa.
8. Special Visas for Iraqis/Afghans
- SI visa: Iraqi and Afghan Translators or Interpreters who have worked with the US military and who meet certain requirements, may apply for a SI visa.
- SQ visa: Afghan or Iraqi citizens who will be working for or on behalf of the US government can get a SQ visa.
How to Read and Understand your US Visa?
After you apply US visa, if it’s approved, you will receive it as a sticker visa in your passport. When you do, check out all your personal information printed on the visa and make sure all the relevant info such as passport number and name is correct. If there is anything that doesn’t match up, or is incorrect, contact the issuing U.S. diplomatic mission right away.
How to Apply US Visa?
A US Visa application comprises of several steps. However, the order of these steps and how you complete them may vary by U.S. Embassy or Consulate. In any case, to apply US visa, you must fill out an application online and schedule an appointment with the US embassy or consulate in your home country.
Once you are sure about the purpose of your visa and its type, you need to fill out the application form, pay the visa fees, schedule the visa interview, gather the required documents and show up for the interview on the scheduled date.
After the visa is approved, you may need to pay a visa issuance fee (if applicable to your nationality), and make arrangements for the return of the passport and visa to you.
How Long Can I Stay in the US with a Visa?
The length of time that you can stay in the United States is determined by a CBP officer at the port of entry. The officer might give you the same duration as mentioned on the visa or give you a lower number of days, or in same cases higher as well. He/she will put a stamp with a date until which your visa is valid on your passport.
What Happens if I Overstay my US Visa or Visa-Free Entry?
Overstaying your US visa or the duration allowed on a visa-free entry is never a good idea.
- Overstay by 180 days to one year
If you overstay your US visa by 180 days or more (but less than one year), you will be barred for re-entry to the United States for three years from the date of departure.
- Overstay by more than one year
If you overstay your US visa by one year or more, you will be barred for re-entry to the United States for ten years from the date of departure.
Leaving the U.S. does not trigger any bars to reentry, neither do they put a stamp on the passport. That said, when you try to reenter, the CBP officer can see that you overstayed your visa on your previous stay. If you find yourself in a situation like this, you can contact an immigration lawyer to assist you.
Can I Extend my US Visa in USA?
In case a foreign national wants to extend his/her stay in the United States, he/she can do it by filing a request with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This request should on the Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status before the authorized stay expires.
When you can extend Stay?
- You have a valid non-immigrant US visa.
- You have a valid passport that will remain valid for your extension duration.
- You entered the United States lawfully and haven’t violated the conditions of your admission, or committed any crimes.
When you can’t extend Stay?
- You were admitted under the Visa Waiver Program.
- You have a Crew member (D Visa) or a transit visa (C Visa), or in transit through the United states without a visa.
- You are in the United states on a fiancé or K visa, or a dependant of a fiancé of a U.S. citizen.
- You are on a S Visa for Informant (and accompanying family) on terrorism or organized crime.
My Passport has Expired, but the US Visa in it is Still Valid. Do I Need to Apply US Visa Again?
No, you don’t need to apply for a new visa if your passport expires. The visa you hold must be valid and undamaged. You can simply travel with the expired passport and the new one in this case, as long as the purpose of your travel matches your current nonimmigrant visa.
Also, the name and other personal data on both the passports should match. For example, if you changed your last name after marriage, and your new passport without the visa has the changed last name, you might need to get in touch with the issuing US diplomatic mission.