You may be eligible for the new Interview Waiver Program. Click here for details.
The U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides several categories of nonimmigrant visas for those who want to visit or work temporarily in the United States.
You can find out more about each type of visa from the travel.state.gov website, or by clicking on the Visa Types below. To Apply for a Visa, follow the steps above.
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. Visitor visas are nonimmigrant visas for persons who want to enter the United States temporarily for business (visa category B-1), tourism, pleasure or visiting (visa category B-2), or a combination of both purposes (B-1/B-2).
Here are some examples of activities permitted with a visitor visa:
- vacation (holiday)
- visit with friends or relatives
- medical treatment
- participation in social events hosted by fraternal, social, or service organizations
- participation by amateurs in musical, sports, or similar events or contests, if not being paid for participating
- enrollment in a short recreational course of study, not for credit toward a degree (for example, a two-day cooking class while on vacation)
You may use VWP if you meet the following criteria:
- Plan to travel to the U.S. for 90 days or less;
- Starting January 12, 2009, have an approved Electronic Travel Authorization (ESTA). ESTA is an automated system that determines the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP); note that multiple ESTA applications can be submitted at the same time for persons traveling in groups.
- Are traveling for tourism or business;
- Carry a machine-readable passport which, in most cases, must be valid for at least six months after your expected departure from the U.S.;
- Have a return ticket or onward ticket to most non U.S. destinations;
You will need a visa, and may not use VWP, if you any of these criteria apply to you:
- Want to remain in the United States for longer than 90 days;
- Have a criminal record; NOTE for drink driving convictions, according to USCBP applicants with a single DIC/DUI conviction is NOT grounds to deny entry into the U.S; however, multiple DIC/DUI convictions or a DIC/DUI conviction in combination with other misdemeanor offenses can make a person inadmissible and require a waiver prior to entering the United States.
- Intend to travel by private/charter aircraft or sea carriers;
- Want to work or study in the United States, including working as a foreign journalist. This includes attending secondary or tertiary school, and paid or unpaid employment (including au-pairs, interns, working journalists, and government representatives on official business.)
- Have been deported or refused admission to the U.S. before, or failed to comply with a previous VWP admission or visa. This includes overstaying a previous admission by even one day.
Travelers With Criminal Records
- Convictions for certain crimes may make you ineligible to travel to the U.S. The only way to know for sure if your criminal record makes you ineligible is to apply for a visa. Only a consular officer can determine your visa eligibility.
- You need to bring a copy of your Criminal History Report with you to the visa interview.
- Even if your conviction makes you ineligible to travel to the U.S., you may be able to obtain a temporary waiver of this ineligibility. You should discuss this with the consular officer at the time of the interview. Waiver processing can take 6 – 8 months, so if you think you may require a waiver, please apply early. We always recommend you do not make any financial commitments for travel until you have received a visa.
- A special note about applicants with DRINK DRIVING convictions: According to USCBP applicants with a single DIC/DUI conviction is NOT grounds to deny entry into the U.S; however, multiple DIC/DUI convictions or a DIC/DUI conviction in combination with other misdemeanor offenses can make a person inadmissible and require a waiver prior to entering the United States.
- If you have had any minor traffic offenses which did not result in an arrest or conviction, you may use the VWP, provided you are otherwise qualified. If the traffic offense occurred while you were in the United States, and you have an outstanding fine against you or you did not attend your court hearing, it is possible there may be a warrant out for your arrest. You should resolve these issues before traveling by contacting the court where you were to appear. If you do not know the address of the court, information is available on the U.S. Courts website.
How to Apply
Step 1. Check the Validity of Your Passport
Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your period of stay in the United States, unless exempt by country-specific agreements (PDF, 57 KB). If more than one person is included in your passport, each person who needs a visa must submit a separate application.
Step 2. Complete the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160
Please note that you must answer EVERY question on the application forms. If the answer to a question is “none,” please write “none”(Do not leave it blank). Incomplete/incorrect forms will be returned and will require you to schedule a new interview appointment.
Important! Many of our visa applicants are completing the DS-160 incorrectly, causing us to postpone their planned visa interview dates.
Step 3. Collect any Supporting Documentation
Only a passport, DS-160 confirmation page, a 2 x 2 inch color photo not older than 6 months – with a light or white background, and the forms listed in Step 2 are required for the visa interview. Additional documents may be requested to establish if you are qualified. For example, additional requested documents may include 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.
Note: Visa applicants must qualify on the basis of the applicant’s residence and ties abroad, rather than assurances from U.S. family and friends. A letter of invitation or Affidavit of Support is not needed to apply for a nonimmigrant tourist visa. If you do choose to bring a letter of invitation or Affidavit of Support to your interview, please remember that it is not one of the factors that we use in determining whether to issue or deny a nonimmigrant tourist visa.
Step 4. Schedule an Interview Appointment
To schedule an appointment for a non-immigrant visa (NIV) interview, please consult the Embassy’s online NIV Appointment System. Please have your DS-160 Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form Confirmation Number handy. It is located on your DS-160 confirmation page, in bold print.
Step 5. Submit Your Passport and Visa Application Forms
Submit the completed DS-160 confirmation sheet, forms listed in Step 2, a 2 x 2 inch color photo not older than 6 months, and a valid passport, to the Consular Office one week before your scheduled interview date.
Step 6. Pay the MRV Fee
On the day of your interview, please pay the following nonrefundable visa application fees: $ 160 for B-1 (Business) and B-2 (Tourism & Visit) nonimmigrant visas; $ 190 for H, L, O, P, Q, and R visas; and $ 270 for E visas.
Step 7. Interview for your visa with the Consular Officer
During your visa interview, a consular officer will determine whether you are qualified to receive a visa, and if so, which visa category is appropriate based on your purpose of travel. You will need to establish that you meet the requirements under U.S. law to receive the category of visa for which you are applying.
Ink-free, digital fingerprint scans will be taken as part of your application process. They are usually taken during your interview, but this varies based on location.
Step 8. Pay the Visa Issuance Fee
If your visa is approved, you may also pay a visa issuance fee, depending on the type of visa issued. If you are issued a B-2 Tourism & Visit visa, you will need to pay an additional fee.
Step 9. Return to Collect Your Passport and Visa
If you are issued the visa, return the following workday to collect your passport and visa.
You can check the status of your visa application on ceac.state.gov.
Some visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the visa applicant’s interview by a consular officer. Applicants are advised of this requirement when they apply. Most administrative processing is resolved within 60 days of the visa interview. When administrative processing is required, the timing will vary based on the individual circumstances of each case.
If your visa has been denied, you may find useful information on Ineligibilities and Waivers on usvisas.state.gov.
After the Interview
Entering the United States
A visa allows a foreign citizen to travel to a U.S. port-of-entry (generally an airport) and request permission to enter the United States. A visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials at the port-of-entry have authority to permit or deny admission to the United States. If you are allowed to enter the United States, the CBP official will provide an admission stamp or a paper Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record. Learn more about admissions and entry requirements, restrictions about bringing food, agricultural products, and other restricted/prohibited goods, and more by reviewing the CBP website.
Extending Your Stay
See Extend Your Stay on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website to learn about requesting to extend your stay beyond the date indicated on your admission stamp or paper Form I-94.
You must depart the United States on or before the date indicated on your admission stamp or paper Form I-94, unless your request to extend your stay is approved by USCIS. Failure to depart the United States on time may also result in you being ineligible for visas you may apply for in the future. Review Visa Denials and Ineligibilities and Waivers: Laws to learn more.
Change of Status
While in the United States, you may be able to request that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) change your nonimmigrant status to another nonimmigrant category. See Change My Nonimmigrant Status on the USCIS website to learn more.
Requesting a change of status from USCIS while you are in the United States and before your authorized stay expires does not require that you apply for a new visa. However, if you cannot remain in the United States while USCIS processes your change of status request, you must apply for a visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
Visitors are not permitted to accept employment or work in the United States.
We cannot guarantee that you will be issued a visa. Do not make final travel plans or buy tickets until you have a visa.
Unless canceled or revoked, a visa is valid until its expiration date. Therefore, a valid U.S. visa in an expired passport is still valid. If you have a valid visa in your expired passport, do not remove it from your expired passport. You may use your valid visa in your expired passport along with a new valid passport for travel and admission to the United States.