US Visa

Information about U.S. immigrant and nonimmigrant visas and the requirements to apply for each.

US Visa 2019-08-30T16:16:38+00:00

Millions of people enter and leave the United States every year. It is a popular tourism and immigration destination. However, if you are not a resident of the United States, you will most likely need a visa to enter the country.

A US visa is a stamp that you get on your travel document, more specifically your passport, which means that you are eligible to enter the United States. Having a US Visa does not necessarily mean that you will enter the US, as this is at the discretion of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Customs and Borders Protection (CPB) Inspectors.

Who Needs to Apply for a US Visa?

Citizens of Visa Waiver Countries and citizens of Bermuda and Canada do not need a visa to visit the United States. The Visa Waiver Program allows citizens of 38 countries to visit the US for business or travel purposes for 90 days. Anyone who wants to visit the United States for longer periods of time needs to obtain a US visa.

US Visa Application

The US visa application follows a similar and straightforward procedure for all types of visas. However, there are differences depending on the visa category and type you want to get. To apply for an American visa you must apply online to schedule an appointment with the US embassy or consulate in your home country.

Filing the application form to schedule the interview

To begin your US visa application you can fill the online application form through:
  • the Consular Electronic Application Center, or
  • by using the services of a third party company such as TravelAssist.

Why do we advise to apply through TravelAssist?

  • TravelAssist’s staff will fill in the form DS-160 to book your appointment with the US Embassy/Consulate.
  • They will provide you with a complete list of required documents and will check your prepared application file to make sure your application has the highest possible prospect of success.
  • The staff of TravelAssist will offer 24/7 online support regarding your application.
  • If your application is successful TravelAssist will get you your visa quickly.
  • In the event of denied entry to the US, they offer Travel Protection that will cover your financial expenses.
  • TravelAssist is a specialized company in processing US visa applications and has helped over 65,000 people enter the United States. They provide end-to-end visa assistance to help you successfully enter the United States.

For a detailed overview of the steps that you need to follow in order to get a US Visa, you can visit the article.

Paying the visa fees

After submitting the online form, you need to pay the US visa fees. To learn more about US visa fees, visit the article.

Collecting the required documents

After you have decided about the type of USA visa that you should apply for, you must find out what the required documents for a USA visa are and start gathering the documents that are required. There are some standard documents that the embassy or consulate of the USA requires regardless of the type of visa you wish to obtain and there are some other documents that are specific only to the particular type of visa that you are applying for.

Attending the interview

All US visa applicants need to attend an interview to be able to obtain a visa. For more details on the US visa appointment and the interview, visit the article.

Applying from different countries

To learn the specifics of applying for a US visa from different world countries, you can visit the respective guides:

US Visa Types

There are about 185 types of US visas, grouped into two main categories:
  • Nonimmigrant visas. Issued for temporary visits to the United States such as for tourism, business, employment, family visit, and studying.
  • Immigrant visas. Issued to people who will move permanently to the United States under immigrant investor schemes or family reunion.

USA Non-immigrant Visas


The US visitor visas are issued to those who want to go to the United States to visit for a maximum of six months.



The F and M visas are for academic and vocational purposes. Depending on your school and your field of study, you will have to get either the F1 or the M1 visa.


These are the categories of these visas:

  • F1 visa – visa for students.
  • F2 visa – dependents of F1 visa holders.
  • M1 visa – visa for vocational purposes.


The exchange visitor visas are targeted to those who participate in exchange programs and some type of practical training and employment within the United States.



Categories of work visas


The E visas are called Treaty Trader and Treaty Investor visas respectively, are for those who have treaties of commerce and navigation in the US.


There are two types of this visa:

Categories of official and diplomatic visas

  • The A1 visa is for diplomats or foreign government officials who are travelling to the US on official duties or representing their government.
  • The A2 NATO1-6 visa is designed only for foreign military personnel who are about to serve or be stationed within the United States.
  • If you have been employed in an international organization in the United States, you will need to get a G-1 to G-5 visa. Those who will work for NATO, will get the NATO visa.



  • T visas are for victims of human trafficking who have severe trauma, but can also assist in investigating crimes related to human trafficking.
  • The U visa is for those who have been a victim of certain criminal activities and that can aid in the investigation or prosecution of those criminals.



  • The C Visa is a Transit Visa USA.
  • The D visa is for crew members who will work on a sea vessel or international airline.


US Immigrant Visas

  • The F2A and F2B visas are for the families of Lawful Permanent Residents, more specifically their spouses, minor children, or unmarried sons and daughters aged 21 and above.
  • IR-2 visa – for unmarried children under 21 years old
  • IR5 visa – for parents of US Citizens who are at least 21 years old
  • F1 – for unmarried sons and daughters and their minor children
  • F3 visa – for married sons and daughters and their minor children
  • F4 visa – for brothers and sisters of US Citizens, and their spouses and minor children.
  • The IR3, IH3, IR4, IH4 visas are for children from other countries who will be adopted by US citizen parent(s)
  • The SQ visa is for Iraqi or Afghan citizens who will be working for or on behalf of the US government and get Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs).


  • The Diversity Immigrant Visas are for persons who are deemed to be “diversity immigrants” meaning that they come from countries that have low immigration rates to the US.
  • The SB visa or Returning Resident Visa is for permanent US residents who for reasons beyond their control have remained outside the country for more than a year or their re-entry permit is not valid anymore. The SB visa grants them entry into the US again.

What is the Difference Between a Nonimmigrant Visa and an Immigrant Visa?

The main difference between nonimmigrant and immigrant visas is the length of time that the visa holder is allowed to stay in the US. Nonimmigrant visas are temporary, which means that they expire and the visa holder must return to their home country immediately.

Immigrant visas are otherwise known as Green Cards and they are permanent. Once the visa holder has an immigrant visa, they can move to the US and stay there as long as they want to without having a deadline to return to their home country.

How Long Can I Stay in the United States With a Visa?

Since US nonimmigrant visas are temporary, they have an expiration date. This date depends on the type of visa. There are visas which are valid for only 3 months, and some that are valid for 3 years.

You must check the type of visa you want to apply for and see how long it is valid once you get it. US immigrant visas do not have an expiration date so with such a visa, you can stay in the United States permanently.

What to do When my US Visa Expires?

If your US visa expires, you have the chance to renew it through a similar procedure to the initial US Visa application process. All US visas have a date of issue and a date when they will expire stamped on the passport. It is necessary to renew the US visa only if the expiration date of the visa has passed.

Can I Bring my Children to the US?

Almost all US visas allow parents to bring their children to the United States. The children must be minors though, so under 18 or 21 years old depending on the type of visa the parent has. Adult children are usually not allowed to get visas if their parents get one unless they are unable to take care of themselves and are dependent on their parents.

Can I Bring my Parents to the United States?

Most visas do not allow bringing parents to the United States since they are not considered immediate dependents. However, you must look through the Immediate Relative or Family Based Immigrant Visas which might allow you to sponsor your parents or siblings for an immigrant visa.

Does a Visa Guarantee Entry Into the US?

Possessing a valid US visa does not guarantee entry into the US. The border patrol at any US point of entry is responsible for anyone who enters the country.

That is why when you arrive in the United States, you will first have to go through immigration and customs who will check your documents and background and make a decision about whether they should grant you entry to the United States. Those officials have the authority to detain and question you, and they also have the right to stop you from going into the United States. They can also make arrangements for you to return to your home country.

There are various reasons that can be used to not allow you entry into the United States, but most of them are concerned with any threat to the security and safety that you might pose to US residents and other visitors.

What Happens if I Do Not Get a US Visa?

There are multiple reasons that USCIS or the US Embassy could deny your petition or visa application. You could be ineligible or you might have had a criminal past so you will not qualify to enter the USA.

If you do not get a visa, then you have two options: either appeal to USCIS or the US Embassy or apply for a new visa. It is usually recommended to apply for a new visa rather than appeal since the US Embassy will have a valid reason as to why they denied your visa and you could correct it when you reapply.

For more on this issue, visit the US Visa Denial article.

What Does a US Visa Look Like?

When you are granted a visa for USA, it will look at the picture below. You should check whether it has your correct information that matches the data in your passport, and all the parts that are in the sample visa. If it does not contain all the information, you should contact the US Embassy that has issued it.

what does a us visa look like

Can I Enter the US Without a Valid Visa?

Unfortunately, once your visa has expired and is not valid anymore, you will not be allowed to enter the United States. If you try to enter the United States with an expired visa, the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) will make you return to your home country.

You must get an extension of the visa you have had or apply for a new visa to be allowed to re-enter the United States.

How Do I Become a US Citizen With a US Visa?

Getting a United States citizenship is a long process. If you have a US nonimmigrant visa, then it is very difficult since you are not allowed to apply directly for the citizenship. You must first get a US immigrant visa. Some US nonimmigrant visas are dual intent ones which means that once you fulfill the requirements you can change your status and get the immigrant visa.

When you have an immigrant visa, then you must maintain it for 5 years to be allowed to apply for a United States citizenship. For details on how to get a US citizenship, visit the article here.

Travelling Abroad as a US Visa Holder

Travelling to Europe

Those who are living in the United States, might need a Schengen visa to travel to Europe.

Click here to learn how to apply for a Schengen Visa from the US.

Travelling to the UK

US visa or Green Card holders who wish to travel to the United Kingdom, will probably have to obtain a UK visa.

Click here for more details about applying for a UK visa from USA.

What is USCIS?

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the main immigration authority for US visas. They accept and process applications, as well as make decisions about giving petitions from US employers to hire foreign workers.

USCIS issues documents related to visas and keeps detailed records about all immigrants in the United States. USCIS is more relevant for nonimmigrant employment visas as well as all immigrant visa petitions which they process and adjudicate.