Visa policy of the United States

A US visa specimen

The visa policy of the United States deals with the requirements which a foreign national wishing to enter the United States must meet to obtain a visa, which is a permit to travel to, enter, and remain in the United States. Visitors to the United States must obtain a visa from one of the United States diplomatic missions unless they come from one of the visa-exempt countries or Visa Waiver Program countries. The same rules apply to Puerto Rico, United States Virgin Islands, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, while different rules apply to American Samoa. Although the US visa policy applies to Guam and the CNMI, the two territories also have their own visa waiver program.[1]

As of 17 March 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, entry has been suspended for visitors who have been to Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom in 14 days prior to arrival to the United States. The restriction does not apply to permanent residents, immediate family members of US citizens and several special categories.[2][3][4]

Overview

Entry visas

A foreign national wishing to enter the U.S., must obtain a visa unless they satisfy one of the following conditions:

Mexican citizens may travel to the U.S. without a passport under limited circumstances if holding a Border Crossing Card and seeking to enter the U.S. for less than seventy-two hours while remaining in the "border zone".[5][6][7]

While there are about 185 different types of visas,[8] there are two main categories of U.S. visas:

  • Nonimmigrant visa: for temporary visits such as for tourism, business, work, visiting family, or studying.
  • Immigrant visa: for people to immigrate to the United States. At the port of entry, the immigrant visa holder is processed for a permanent resident card (I-551, often known as a 'green card'). Upon endorsement with a CBP admission stamp, it serves as temporary I-551 evidencing permanent residence for one year. A child with an IR-3 or IH-3 visa will automatically become a United States citizen upon admission to the United States and be processed for a certificate of citizenship (N-560).

In order to immigrate, one should either have an immigrant visa or have a dual intent visa, which is one that is compatible with making a concurrent application for permanent resident status, or having an intention to apply for permanent residence.

Entering the U.S. on an employment visa may be described as a three-step process in most cases. First, the employer files an application with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services requesting a particular type of category visa for a specific individual. If the employer's application is approved, it only authorizes the individual to apply for a visa; the approved application is not actually a visa. The individual then applies for a visa and is usually interviewed at a U.S. embassy or consulate in the native country. If the embassy or consulate grants the visa, the individual is then allowed to travel to the U.S. At the border crossing, airport, or other point of entry into the U.S., the individual speaks with an officer from U.S. Customs and Border Protection to request admission to the U.S. If approved, the individual may then enter the U.S.[8]

Contrary to a popular misconception, a U.S. visa does not authorize the alien's entry into the United States, nor does it authorize the alien's stay in the U.S. in a particular status. A U.S. visa only serves as a preliminary permission given to the alien to travel to the United States and to seek admission to the United States at a designated port of entry. The final admission to the United States in a particular status and for a particular period of time is made at the port of entry by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer. For aliens entering the U.S. in a nonimmigrant visa status, these details are recorded by the CBP officer on the alien's Form I-94 (Form I-94W for citizens of the Visa Waiver Program countries entering the U.S. for short visits), which serves as the official document authorizing the alien's stay in the United States in a particular non-immigrant visa status and for a particular period of time.[9] Fifty thousand additional visas (immigrant visas DV-1, DV-2, DV-3) are available each year under the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (also known as the green card lottery).

Exit visas

Exit visas are not required.

However, the U.S. government has required all foreign and U.S. nationals departing the US by air for Canada, Mexico, Bermuda or countries in the Caribbean other than the French West Indies to hold a valid passport (or certain specific passport-replacing documents) since October 1, 2007. Even though travelers might not require a passport to enter a certain country, they will require a valid passport booklet (booklet only, U.S. Passport Card not accepted) when attempting to depart the U.S. in order to satisfy the U.S. immigration authorities.[10] Exemptions to this requirement to hold a valid passport booklet include:

  • U.S. Permanent Resident/Resident Alien Card (Form I-551);
  • U.S. Military ID Cards when traveling on official orders;
  • U.S. Merchant Mariner Card;
  • NEXUS Card;
  • U.S. Travel Document:
    • Refugee Travel Document (Form I-571); or
    • Permit to Re-Enter (Form I-327)
  • Emergency Travel Document (e.g. Consular Letter) issued by a Foreign Embassy or Consulate specifically for the purpose of travel to the bearer's home country.
  • Nationals of Mexico holding one of the following documents:
    • (expired) Matricula Consular; or
    • Birth Certificate with consular registration; or
    • Certificate of Nationality issued by a Mexican consulate abroad; or
    • Certificate of Military Duty (Cartilla Militar); or
    • Voter's Certificate (Credencial IFE or Credencial para Votar).

Visa policy map

Visa exemption

General exemption

Four countries and Bermuda have visa exemption access to the United States, including three that are linked with Compacts of Free Association.[11] Citizens of these jurisdictions are generally not required to apply for visas or pre-approval registrations prior to arrival.

Citizens of Canada do not require a visa to visit the United States under most circumstances, and can work under special simplified procedure.[12] They may use a NEXUS Card instead of a passport to enter the country from Canada, or, if arriving by land or sea, an Enhanced Drivers License.[13][14][15]

Historically, Canadian citizens have never needed a visa to visit the United States.[16]

Citizens of British Overseas Territories with a connection to Bermuda can enter the United States visa-free under most circumstances if their intended stay is less than six months.[12] They can also enter visa-free in order to study in the United States.[17]

In order to qualify, they must present a Bermudian passport with "Government of Bermuda" printed on the cover; the passport must state the holder's nationality as either "British Overseas Territory Citizen" or "British Dependent Territories Citizen"; and the passport must contain an endorsement stamp of "Holder is registered as a Bermudian", "Holder Possesses Bermudian Status", or "Holder is deemed to possess Bermudian status".[17]

Citizens of the Republic of the Marshall Islands have not required a visa to enter, reside, study, and work indefinitely in the United States since * 21 October 1986.[18] These benefits are granted to citizens from birth or independence, and to naturalized citizens who have resided in the Marshall Islands for at least five years, excluding those who acquired citizenship by investment. Although citizens of the Marshall Islands do not need visas at point of entry to the United States, they may still be denied admission based on general immigration disqualifications such as criminal convictions.[18]

Citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia have not required a visa to enter, reside, study, and work indefinitely in the United States since 3 November 1986.[18] These benefits are granted to citizens from birth or independence, and to naturalized citizens who have resided in the Federated States of Micronesia for at least five years, excluding those who acquired citizenship by investment. Although citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia do not need visas at point of entry to the United States, they may still be denied admission based on general immigration disqualifications such as criminal convictions.[18]

Citizens of the Republic of Palau have not required a visa to enter, reside, study, and work indefinitely in the United States since 1 October 1994.[19] These benefits are granted to citizens from birth or independence, and to naturalized citizens who have resided in Palau for at least five years, excluding those who acquired citizenship by investment. Although citizens of Palau do not need visas at point of entry to the United States, they may still be denied admission based on general immigration disqualifications such as criminal convictions.[19]

Visa Waiver Program

Currently, 39 countries and territories have been selected by the US government for inclusion in the Visa Waiver Program and their citizens do not need to acquire a US visa. However, citizens of these countries are required to obtain an electronic authorization (ESTA) for arrivals by air and sea [20] in order to visit the United States; note: this also applies to Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, both of which also have their own visa exemptions, while American Samoa operates an entirely different visa policy.[21]

Notes
  1. ^ – Citizens with Taiwanese national ID number only.
  2. ^ – Only British citizens are eligible to participate in the VWP.[22]

Visitors may stay for 90 days in the United States which also includes the time spent in Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, or the islands in the Caribbean if the arrival was through the United States.

The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is not a visa. Rather, obtaining a travel authorization from ESTA is a prerequisite to traveling by air or sea to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program.[25] ESTA authorization, once obtained, is valid for two years unless during that time the person obtains a new passport or his/her answers to any of the eligibility questions change.[26] ESTA is not needed when entering the U.S. by land or by local ferries (from Canada). On the other hand, VWP does not apply at all if a person is arriving by air or sea on an unapproved carrier (e.g. a private ship or plane). Such persons need a standard visa. As of December 2018, the ESTA is no longer approved in real-time to qualifying passengers and passengers are required to apply no later than 72 hours before departure.[27]

The United States Department of Homeland Security extended the scope of the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act. As of August 2019, visa waivers do not apply where a person has previously traveled to Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011 or for those who remain nationals of Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Sudan and Syria in addition to the nationality that would otherwise entitle them to a visa waiver. Instead, they are now required to go through the process to obtain a visa.[28][29] Certain categories such as diplomats, military, journalists, humanitarian workers or legitimate businessmen may have their visa requirement waived by the Secretary of Homeland Security.[30]

Other arrangements

Citizens of the following country can travel without obtaining a visa for the United States only under certain conditions:

  •  Bahamas – Bahamian citizens do not require a visa to enter the United States if they apply for entry at one of the Preclearance Facilities located in Nassau or Freeport International Airports. Bahamian citizens must not have had a criminal conviction or ineligibility, violated U.S. immigration laws in the past and must be in possession of valid, unexpired Bahamian passport or a Bahamian Travel Document indicating that they have Bahamian citizenship. In addition to a passport, all applicants 14 years of age or older must present a police certificate issued by the Royal Bahamas Police Force within the past six months. All Bahamians applying for admission at a port-of-entry other than the pre-clearance facilities located in Nassau or Freeport International airports are required to be in possession of a valid visa to enter the United States.[31]

British Overseas Territories citizens (BOTCs) by virtue of their connection to one of the following territories may elect to travel with their British citizen passports with valid ESTA, or can alternatively use their BOTC passports to enter the U.S. in certain circumstances.

  •  British Virgin Islands – British Overseas Territories citizens by virtue of their connection to the British Virgin Islands may travel without a visa to the United States Virgin Islands with their British Virgin Islands passport. They may also continue travel to other parts of the United States if they present a Certificate of Good Conduct issued by the Royal Virgin Islands Police Department indicating no criminal record.[32][33]
  •  Cayman Islands – British Overseas Territories citizens with a connection to the Cayman Islands may travel without a visa to the U.S. To qualify, their Cayman Islands passports must confirm their British Overseas Territories citizenship and be endorsed by the Cayman Islands Passport and Corporate Services Office with a Cayman-U.S. visa waiver, issued at a cost of 25 Cayman Islands dollars and valid for one entry.[34][35] They must travel directly between the Cayman Islands and the United States and their Cayman Islands passport must also have a validity of at least six months beyond their intended departure date from the United States.[36] If Cayman Islanders elect to enter the U.S. using the Cayman-U.S. visa waiver, they are not required to apply for an ESTA online, since they are not entering under the VWP.
  •  Turks and Caicos Islands – British Overseas Territories Citizens by virtue of their connection to the Turks and Caicos Islands can enter the United States visa-free for short business and pleasure.[37] To qualify, they must not have had a criminal conviction or ineligibility, not violated U.S. immigration laws in the past and must arrive in the United States on a direct flight from the territory. In addition, they must present a Turks and Caicos Islands passport or a travel document which states that they are a British Overseas Territory citizen and have the right to abode in the Turks and Caicos Islands. In addition to a valid, unexpired passport, all travelers 14 years of age or older must present a police certificate issued by the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force within the past six months. All British Overseas Territories Citizens of the Turks and Caicos Islands who apply for admission at a port-of-entry that does not have direct air service to/from the territory, are required to be in possession of a valid visa to enter the United States.

Visa waiver programs of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands

Although the visa policy of the U.S. also applies to the U.S. territories of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands in general, both territories have additional visa waiver programs for certain nationalities. The Guam–CNMI Visa Waiver Program, first enacted in October 1988 and periodically amended, permits nationals from 12 countries in Asia, Europe and Oceania to enter Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands as tourists for up to 45 days without the need of obtaining a U.S. visa or an ESTA.[38] A parole policy also allows nationals of China visa-free access to the Northern Mariana Islands for up to 14 days.[39]

1 - Up to 14 days, for the Northern Mariana Islands only, under a separate parole policy.[39]
2 - Must present a valid Hong Kong Permanent Identity Card on arrival.
3 - For holders of Taiwanese passports with a National ID number. Must present a valid Taiwanese national identity card on arrival. Must travel on a nonstop flight from Taiwan.
4 - For holders of British Citizen and British National (Overseas) passports only. British Nationals (Overseas) must present a valid Hong Kong permanent identity card upon arrival in order to be eligible for the waiver.

Travelers with B-1/B-2 visa or ESTA are admitted to the territories in accordance with the terms of ESTA or visa.

Travelers utilizing the program or the parole are required to complete an I-736 form (online as of February 2018[49][50]), hold a machine-readable passport and nonrefundable return ticket, and are not permitted to travel stateside. Because of special visa categories for the Northern Mariana Islands' foreign workers, traveling between Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands still requires a full immigration inspection, and all visitors departing Guam or Northern Mariana Islands are inspected regardless of final destination.[51]

American Samoa

American Samoa entry stamp

U.S. visa policy does not apply to the territory of American Samoa, as it has its own entry requirements and maintains control of its own borders. Hence, neither a U.S. visa nor an ESTA can be used to enter American Samoa. If required, an entry permit or electronic authorization must be obtained from the Department of Legal Affairs of American Samoa.[52]

U.S. nationals may remain indefinitely in American Samoa.[53] To enter, they must present a U.S. passport, or apply online for an electronic authorization providing a copy of their birth certificate, identification card, itinerary and a fee of US$50.[54]

Nationals of Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau and countries in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program[a] may visit for up to 30 days without an entry permit. However, if arriving by air, they must apply online for an electronic authorization called "OK to board" or "OK board", at least 48 hours before travel, providing a biometric passport and itinerary. They must also pay a fee of US$20, before travel or on arrival.[53][55]

Nationals of other countries need an entry permit. To apply, they must have a local sponsor, who must appear in person at the Immigration Office of the Department of Legal Affairs and provide either a deed of private land or signatures of the sponsor's sa'o (head chief) and pulenu'u (village mayor). Travelers must also provide a copy of their passport and itinerary, clearances from the District Court of American Samoa and Lyndon B. Johnson Tropical Medical Center, consent for a background check by the Department of Homeland Security of American Samoa, police and health clearances from the country of origin, and a fee of US$40 (no fee for children under 5 years of age). The application for an entry permit must be made at least 30 days before travel, and the permit is valid for a stay of up to 30 days.[56] Business travelers may apply for a multiple-entry permit, for a fee of US$50 per month, up to one year.[57]

Nationals of Samoa may apply for group permits for a stay of up to 7 days (variable fee), or individual permits for a stay of up to 14 days (fee of US$10) or 30 days (fee of US$40, except for children under 5 years of age). Their application process requires fewer documents.[58][59][56]

Transit travelers of any nationality may apply for an electronic authorization free of charge, allowing a stay of up to 24 hours.[60]

  1. ^ The American Samoa Visitors Bureau does not list Poland,[53] while the Department of Legal Affairs of American Samoa does not list Ireland or Poland.[55]

Alaska

Residents of the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug in Russia who are members of the indigenous population do not require a visa to visit Alaska if they have relatives (blood relatives, members of the same tribe, native people who have similar language and cultural heritage) in Alaska. Entry points are in Gambell and Nome.

Individuals must be invited by a relative in Alaska, must notify local authorities at least ten days before traveling to Alaska, and must leave Alaska within 90 days.

The agreement establishing this policy was signed by Russia (then the Soviet Union) and the United States on September 23, 1989. The United States made it effective as of July 17, 2015.[61][62]

American Indians born in Canada

Members of certain indigenous peoples born in Canada may enter and remain in the United States indefinitely "for the purpose of employment, study, retirement, investing, and/or immigration" or any other reason by virtue of the Jay Treaty of 1794, as codified in Section 289 of the Immigration and Naturalization Act.[63]

In order to qualify, an individual must possess "at least 50 per centum blood of the American Indian Race".[63][64] Tribal membership alone does not qualify an individual.[63] The individual bears the burden of proof in establishing eligibility, typically by way of presenting identification based on reliable tribal records, birth certificates, and other documents establishing the percentage of Indian blood.[65] A Canadian Certificate of Indian Status is insufficient proof because it does not indicate the percentage of Indian blood.[65]

A qualifying American Indian's spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 do not have the same rights unless they qualify in their own right.[63][65][66] Because a qualifying American Indian residing in the United States is considered to be lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States, a qualifying American Indian residing in the United States may file a petition for a derivative for a spouse and dependent children, subject to statutory numerical limitations and a seven-year backlog of applications.[63][67][68]

Summary of visa exemptions

Country or territory States, District of Columbia
and Puerto Rico
U.S.
Virgin
Islands
Guam Northern
Mariana
Islands
American Samoa
Overland Air/cruise Cruise Air
 Canada Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes OK board
 Bermuda Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No
 Marshall Islands Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes OK board
 Micronesia Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes OK board
 Palau Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes OK board
 Australia Yes ESTA ESTA Yes Yes Yes OK board
 Brunei Yes ESTA ESTA Yes Yes Yes OK board
 Japan Yes ESTA ESTA Yes Yes Yes OK board
 New Zealand Yes ESTA ESTA Yes Yes Yes OK board
 Singapore Yes ESTA ESTA Yes Yes Yes OK board
 South Korea Yes ESTA ESTA Yes Yes Yes OK board
 Taiwan Yes[a] ESTA[a] ESTA[a] Yes[a][b] Yes[a][b] Yes OK board
 United Kingdom Yes[c] ESTA[c] ESTA[c] Yes[d] Yes[d] Yes[c] OK board[c]
 Andorra Yes ESTA ESTA ESTA ESTA Yes OK board
 Austria Yes ESTA ESTA ESTA ESTA Yes OK board
 Belgium Yes ESTA ESTA ESTA ESTA Yes OK board
 Chile Yes ESTA ESTA ESTA ESTA Yes OK board
 Czech Republic Yes ESTA ESTA ESTA ESTA Yes OK board
 Denmark Yes ESTA ESTA ESTA ESTA Yes OK board
 Estonia Yes ESTA ESTA ESTA ESTA Yes OK board
 Finland Yes ESTA ESTA ESTA ESTA Yes OK board
 France Yes ESTA ESTA ESTA ESTA Yes OK board
 Germany Yes ESTA ESTA ESTA ESTA Yes OK board
 Greece Yes ESTA ESTA ESTA ESTA Yes OK board
 Hungary Yes ESTA ESTA ESTA ESTA Yes OK board
 Iceland Yes ESTA ESTA ESTA ESTA Yes OK board
 Ireland Yes ESTA ESTA ESTA ESTA Yes[e] OK board[e]
 Italy Yes ESTA ESTA ESTA ESTA Yes OK board
 Latvia Yes ESTA ESTA ESTA ESTA Yes OK board
 Liechtenstein Yes ESTA ESTA ESTA ESTA Yes OK board
 Lithuania Yes ESTA ESTA ESTA ESTA Yes OK board
 Luxembourg Yes ESTA ESTA ESTA ESTA Yes OK board
 Malta Yes ESTA ESTA ESTA ESTA Yes OK board
 Monaco Yes ESTA ESTA ESTA ESTA Yes OK board
 Netherlands Yes ESTA ESTA ESTA ESTA Yes OK board
 Norway Yes ESTA ESTA ESTA ESTA Yes OK board
 Poland Yes ESTA ESTA ESTA ESTA No No
 Portugal Yes ESTA ESTA ESTA ESTA Yes OK board
 San Marino Yes ESTA ESTA ESTA ESTA Yes OK board
 Slovakia Yes ESTA ESTA ESTA ESTA Yes OK board
 Slovenia Yes ESTA ESTA ESTA ESTA Yes OK board
 Spain Yes ESTA ESTA ESTA ESTA Yes OK board
 Sweden Yes ESTA ESTA ESTA ESTA Yes OK board
  Switzerland Yes ESTA ESTA ESTA ESTA Yes OK board
 Bahamas No police certificate No No No No No
 British Virgin Islands No police certificate Yes No No No No
 Cayman Islands No police certificate No No No No No
 Turks and Caicos Islands No police certificate No No No No No
 Hong Kong No No No Yes[f] Yes[f] No No
 Malaysia No No No Yes Yes No No
 Nauru No No No Yes Yes No No
 Papua New Guinea No No No Yes Yes No No
 China No No No No Yes No No
 Israel No No No No No Yes OK board
  1. ^ a b c d e Holders of Taiwan passports containing a National ID number only.
  2. ^ a b Must also hold a National ID card or ESTA.
  3. ^ a b c d e British citizens only.
  4. ^ a b British citizens, and British Nationals (Overseas) holding a Hong Kong Permanent Identity Card.
  5. ^ a b According to the American Samoa Visitors Bureau, but not listed by the Department of Legal Affairs of American Samoa.
  6. ^ a b Must also hold a Hong Kong Permanent Identity Card.

Visa issuance restricted

Effective September 13, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security announced that the State Department would stop issuing certain visas at its consular offices in the following countries due to the lack of cooperation on removal matters:[69]

Effective July 9, 2018, similar sanctions were introduced for the following categories:[72]

  •  Laos – issuance of all B visas for current officials at the Director General level and above from the Ministry of Public Security as well as their immediate families and all A-3 and G-5 visas to individuals employed by government officials.
  •  Myanmar – issuance of all B visas for current officials at the Director General level and above from the Ministry of Labor, Immigration, and Population and Ministry of Home Affairs, and their immediate family members.

Effective January 24, 2020, B visas are not issued to individuals expected to give birth during their stay, unless they demonstrate that the primary purpose of their visit is not to obtain U.S. citizenship for the child.[73] In addition, B visa applicants seeking medical treatment in the United States must demonstrate their arrangements for the medical treatment and sufficiently establish their ability to pay for it.[73]

Outlying islands

Visits to the United States Minor Outlying IslandsBaker Island,[74][75] Howland Island,[76][77] Jarvis Island,[78][79] Johnston Atoll,[80][81] Kingman Reef,[82][83] Midway Atoll,[84][85] Palmyra Atoll,[86][87] Wake Island[88] and Navassa Island[89] – are severely restricted. Most of the islands are closed off, and prospective visitors require special permits, usually from the US Army.

Qualification process

The typical process for issuing a United States visa, possibly including a Visas Mantis check

Applicants for visitor visas must show that they qualify under provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The presumption in the law is that every nonimmigrant visa applicant (except certain employment-related applicants, who are exempt) is an intending immigrant unless otherwise proven. Therefore, applicants for most nonimmigrant visas must overcome this presumption by demonstrating that:

  • The purpose of their trip is to enter the U.S. for a specific, intended purpose;
  • They plan to remain for a specific, limited period; and
  • They have a residence outside the U.S. as well as other binding ties which will ensure their return at the end of their stay.

All visit, business, transit, student, and exchange visitor visa applicants must pay a US$160 application fee (up from $140 as of April 2012) to a US Consulate in order to be interviewed by a Consular Officer who will determine if the applicant is qualified to receive a visa to travel to the U.S (additionally, the officer may also ask the United States Department of State for a Security Advisory Opinion, which can take several weeks to resolve). The application fee is increased to $190 for most work visas (up from $150 as of April 2012) and can be even higher for certain categories. If the applicant is rejected, the application fee is not refunded. Amongst the items included in the qualification decision are financial independence, adequate employment, material assets and a lack of a criminal record in the applicant's native country.

Visitor visa statistics

  United States
  Visa-exempt nationalities
Issued B-1,2 visas in fiscal 2017:
Over 400 thousand Over 100 thousand Over 50 thousand Over 25 thousand Over 10 thousand Over 5 thousand Under 5 thousand

In fiscal 2017 most B-1,2 visas were issued to the nationals of the following countries (listed over 40,000 visas):[90]

In fiscal 2014 the most common reasons to refuse a visa were cited as "failure to establish entitlement to nonimmigrant status", "incompatible application" (most overcome), "unlawful presence", "misrepresentation", "criminal convictions", "smugglers" and "controlled substance violators". Smaller number of applications were rejected for "physical or mental disorder", "prostitution", "espionage", "terrorist activities", "falsely claiming citizenship" and other grounds for refusal including "presidential proclamation", "money laundering", "communicable disease" and "commission of acts of torture or extrajudicial killings".[94]

Admission statistics

  United States
Number of non-immigrant admissions for tourist and business purposes into the United States in fiscal year 2017:
Over 2 million Over 1 million Over 500 thousand Over 250 thousand Over 100 thousand Over 15 thousand Under 15 thousand

The highest number of non-immigrant admissions for tourists and for business purposes into the United States in fiscal year 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 was from the following countries (listed over 700,000 admissions):[95][96][97][98]

Country FY 2017 FY2016 FY2015 FY 2014
 Mexico Decrease 18,101,904 Decrease 18,420,891 Increase 19,175,345 Increase 18,889,281
 Canada Increase 11,616,347 Decrease 11,366,670 Increase 11,671,122 Increase 11,289,743
 United Kingdom[99] Decrease 4,786,421 Increase 4,930,593 Increase 4,691,874 Increase 4,549,934
 Japan Decrease 3,697,844 Decrease 3,717,029 Decrease 3,750,667 Decrease 3,933,941
 China[100] Increase 2,630,300 Increase 2,587,968 Increase 2,309,654 Increase 2,001,302
 South Korea Increase 2,324,707 Increase 2,001,417 Increase 1,742,422 Increase 1,576,328
 Germany Increase 2,228,358 Decrease 2,190,832 Decrease 2,208,145 Increase 2,283,086
 Brazil Increase 2,011,385 Decrease 1,866,261 Increase 2,383,822 Increase 2,275,588
 France[101] Increase 1,923,414 Decrease 1,897,398 Decrease 1,915,725 Increase 1,966,335
 Australia[102] Increase 1,463,908 Increase 1,423,898 Increase 1,399,615 Increase 1,389,358
 Italy Increase 1,282,989 Increase 1,262,691 Decrease 1,229,115 Increase 1,282,485
 India Increase 1,264,598 Increase 1,206,225 Increase 1,175,153 Increase 1,111,738
 Argentina Increase 1,085,461 Increase 943,224 Increase 765,576 Increase 730,089
 Spain Increase 1,037,798 Increase 1,012,133 Decrease 953,969 Increase 955,737
 Colombia Increase 926,855 Decrease 885,763 Increase 928,424 Increase 924,916
 Netherlands[103] Increase 796,945 Increase 766,691 Decrease 749,826 Increase 766,936
Total (worldwide) Increase 70,056,257 Increase 69,128,433 Increase 69,025,896 Increase 67,519,113

Classes of visas

Nonimmigrant visas

A visas are issued to representatives of a foreign government traveling to the United States to engage in official activities for that government. A visas are granted to foreign government ambassadors, ministers, diplomats, as well as other foreign government officials or employees traveling on official business (A-1 visa). Certain foreign officials require an A visa regardless of the purpose of their trip. The A visa is also granted to immediate family members of such foreign government officials, defined as "the principal applicant's spouse and unmarried sons and daughters of any age who are not members of some other household and who will reside regularly in the household of the principal alien" (A-2 Visa) and which "may also include close relatives of the principal alien or spouse who are related by blood, marriage, or adoption who are not members of some other household; who will reside regularly in the household of the principal alien; and who are recognized as dependents by the sending government (A-3 Visa).[107]

The most common non-immigrant visa is the multiple-purpose B-1/B-2 visa, also known as the "visa for temporary visitors for business or pleasure." Visa applicants sometimes receive either a B-1 (temporary visitor for business) or a B-2 (temporary visitor for pleasure) visa, if their reason for travel is specific enough that the consular officer does not feel they qualify for combined B-1/B-2 status.[108] Holders may also attend short non-credit courses. Mexican citizens are eligible for Border Crossing Cards.[109]

From November 29, 2016, all holders of Chinese passports who also hold 10-year B visas are required to enroll in the Electronic Visa Update System (EVUS) before traveling to the United States. This requirement may be extended to other nationalities in the future.[110][111]

  United States
US visa validity period (maximum available for B-1/B-2 type, per country): [112] [113]
10 years 5 years 2–4 years 1 year 3–6 months
  United States
  Visa-exempt countries
US B visa refusal rate in 2019, over:
Under 3% 3% 5% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50%

The Adjusted Refusal Rate is based on the refusal rate of B visa applications. B visas are adjudicated based on applicant interviews; the interviews generally last between 60 and 90 seconds.[114] Due to time constraints, adjudicators profile applicants.[114] Certain demographics, such as young adults who are single and unemployed, almost never receive visas, unless they articulate a compelling reason.[114] Adjudicators are evaluated on how fast they carry out interviews, not the quality of adjudication decisions.[115] The validity of B visa decisions is not evaluated.[115]

To qualify for the Visa Waiver Program, a country must have had a nonimmigrant visa refusal rate of less than 3% for the previous year or an average of no more than 2% over the past two fiscal years with neither year going above 2.5%.[116] In addition, the country must provide visa-free access to United States citizens and has to be either an independent country or a dependency of a VWP country (which has precluded Hong Kong and Macau from participating in the program). (Until April 4, 2016, Argentina charged $160 to U.S. citizens to enter.)

The Adjusted Visa Refusal Rates for B visas were as follows:

  1. ^ "Non-nationality based issuances" includes individuals presenting travel documents issued by a competent authority other than their country of nationality, including, for example, aliens traveling on a Laissez-Passer issued by the United Nations and refugees residing in another country.

A number of visitors overstay the maximum period of allowed stay on their B-1/B-2 status after entered the U.S. on their B-1/B-2 visas. The Department of Homeland Security publishes annual reports that list the number of violations by passengers who arrive via air and sea. The table below excludes statistics on persons who left the United States later than their allowed stay or legalized their status and shows only suspected overstays who remained in the country.

The top 20 nationalities by the number of suspected in-country B-1/B-2 overstays in 2016 and 2017 were:[124][125]

The top 10 nationalities by in-country B-1/B-2 visa overstay rate are:[124][125]

US tourist visas that are valid for further travel are accepted as substitute visas for national visas in the following territories:

  •  Albania – 90 days
  •  Antigua and Barbuda – 30 days; USD 100 visa waiver fee applies
  •  Argentina – 90 days; 71 countries
  •  Belize — 30 days; USD 50 visa waiver fee applies.
  •  Bosnia and Herzegovina — 30 days
  •  Canada — up to 6 months; only citizens of  Brazil may apply the Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) for visa-free visit or transit (arriving by air).
  •  Chile — 90 days; for nationals of China only.
  •  Colombia — 90 days; for nationals of China, India, Thailand, and Vietnam.
  •  Costa Rica — 30 days or less if the visa is about to expire; must hold a multiple-entry visa.
  •  Dominican Republic — 90 days;
  •  El Salvador — 90 days; not applicable to all nationalities.
  •  Georgia — 90 days within any 180-day period;
  •  Guatemala — 90 days; not applicable to all nationalities.
  •  Honduras — 90 days; not applicable to all nationalities.
  •  Jamaica — 30 days; not applicable to all nationalities.
  •  Mexico — 180 days;[126][127]
  •  Montenegro — 30 days;
  •  Nicaragua — 90 days; not applicable to all nationalities.
  •  North Macedonia — 15 days;
  •  Oman — Indian nationals can obtain a visa on arrival to Oman if holding a valid US visa.[128]
  •  Panama — 30/180 days; visa must be multiple-entry; visa must have a validity of at least 6 months after date of arrival in Panama; visa must have been used at least once prior to arriving in Panama.
  •  Peru — 180 days; for nationals of China and India only.[129]
  •  Philippines — 7 days for nationals of China and 14 days for nationals India only.
  •  Sao Tome and Principe — 15 days;
  •  Serbia — 90 days;
  •  Taiwan — certain nationalities can obtain an online travel authority if holding a valid US visa.
  •  Turkey — certain nationalities can obtain an electronic Turkish visa if holding a valid US visa.
  •  United Arab Emirates — Indian nationals can obtain a 14-day visit visa to UAE upon arrival if holding a US visa or green card that is valid for at least 6 months.[130]
  •  Qatar — citizens of all nationalities who hold valid USA visa can obtain an Electronic Travel Authorization for up to 30 days. The visa may be extended online for 30 additional days

The C-1 visa is a transit visa issued to individuals who are traveling in "immediate and continuous transit through the United States en-route to another country". The only reason to enter the United States must be for transit purposes. A subtype C-2 visa is issued to diplomats transiting to and from the Headquarters of the United Nations and is limited to the vicinity of New York City. A subtype C-3 visa is issued to diplomats and their dependents transiting to and from their posted country.[131]

D visa is issued to crew members of sea-vessels and international airlines in the United States. This includes commercial airline pilots and flight attendants, captain, engineer, or deckhand of a sea vessel, service staff on a cruise ship and trainees on board a training vessel. Usually a combination of a C-1 visa and D visa is required.[132]

Treaty Trader (E-1 visa) and Treaty Investor (E-2 visa) visas are issued to citizens of countries that have signed treaties of commerce and navigation with the United States.[133] They are issued to individuals working in businesses engaged in substantial international trade or to investors (and their employees) who have made a 'substantial investment' in a business in the United States.[134] The variant visa issued only to citizens of Australia is the E-3 visa (E-3D visa is issued to spouse or child of E-3 visa holder and E-3R to a returning E-3 holder).[135]

These visas are issued for foreign students enrolled at accredited US institutions. F-1 visas are for full-time students, F2 visas are for spouses and children of F-1 visa holders and F-3 visas are for "border commuters" who reside in their country of origin while attending school in the United States.[136] They are managed through SEVIS.[137]

G visas are issued to diplomats, government officials, and employees who will work for international organizations in the United States. The international organization must be officially designated as such.[138] The G-1 visa is issued to permanent mission members; the G-2 visa is issued to representatives of a recognized government traveling temporarily to attend meetings of a designated international organization; the G-3 visa is issued to persons who represent a non-recognized government; the G-4 visa is for those who are taking up an appointment; and the G-5 visa is issued to personal employees or domestic workers of G1–G4 visa holders.[139] G1–G4 visas are also issued to immediate family members of the principal visa holder, if they meet certain criteria.[139]

Officials who work for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization require a NATO visa. The NATO-1 visa is issued to permanent representatives of NATO and their staff members, NATO-2 visa is issued to a representative of member state to NATO or its subsidiary bodies, advisor or technical expert of the NATO delegation visiting the United States, a member of the NATO military forces component or a staff member of the NATO representative, NATO-3 visa is issued to official clerical staff accompanying the representative of a NATO member state, NATO-4 visa is issued to foreign national recognized as a NATO official, NATO-5 visa is issued to a foreign national recognized as a NATO expert and NATO-6 visa is issued to a member of the civilian component of the NATO. All NATO visas are issued to immediate family members as well. NATO-7 visas are issued to personal employees or domestic workers of a NATO-1 – NATO-6 visa holders.[139]

H visas are issued to temporary workers in the United States.

Specialty occupations, DOD Cooperative Research and Development Project Workers, and fashion models

The discontinued H-1A and H-1C visas existed during periods when the US experienced a shortage of nurses from 1989. The H-1A classification was created by the Nursing Relief Act of 1989 and ended in 1995. The H-1C visa was created by the Nursing Relief for Disadvantaged Area Act of 1999 and expired in 2005. Currently nurses must apply for H-1B visas.[140]

The H-1B classification is for professional-level jobs that require a minimum of a bachelor's degree in a specific academic field. In addition, the employee must have the degree or the equivalence of such a degree through education and experience. There is a required wage, which is at least equal to the wage paid by the employer to similarly qualified workers or a prevailing wage for such positions in the geographic regions where the jobs are located. This visa also covers fashion models of distinguished merit and ability.[141][142] The H-1B1 visa is the variant issued to citizens of Singapore and Chile.

Temporary agricultural workers

The H-2A visa allows a foreign national entry into the US for temporary or seasonal agricultural work for eligible employers under certain conditions (seasonal job, no available US workers).[143]

Temporary nonagricultural workers

The H-2B visa allows a foreign national entry into the US for temporary or seasonal non-agricultural work for eligible employers under certain conditions (seasonal job, no available US workers).[144]

Nonimmigrant trainee or special education exchange Visitor

The H-3 visa is available to those foreign nationals looking to "receive training in any field of endeavor, other than graduate medical education or training, that is not available in the foreign national's home country" or " participate in a special education exchange visitor training program that provides for practical training and experience in the education of children with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities".[145]

Family members

H-4 visa is issued to immediate family members of H visa holders. In some cases, they are eligible for employment.[146]

The I-1 visa is issued to representatives of the foreign media, including members of the press, radio, film, and print industries travelling to temporarily work in the United States in the profession.[147]

The J-1 visa is issued to participants of work-and study-based exchange visitor programs.[148] The Exchange Visitor Program is carried out under the provisions of the Fulbright-Hays Act of 1961, officially known as the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961 (Pub.L. 87–256, 75 Stat. 527). The purpose of the act is to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchanges. The Exchange Visitor Program is administered by the Office of Exchange Coordination and Designation in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. In carrying out the responsibilities of the Exchange Visitor Program, the Department designates public and private entities to act as exchange sponsors. Spouses and dependents of J-1 exchange visitors are issued a J-2 visa.[149]

Exchange visa categories are:

Exchange Visitor Pilot Programs exist for citizens of Australia,[164] Ireland,[165] New Zealand[166] and South Korea.[167]

A K-1 visa is a visa issued to the fiancé or fiancée of a United States citizen to enter the United States. A K-1 visa requires a foreigner to marry his or her U.S. citizen petitioner within 90 days of entry, or depart the United States. Once the couple marries, the foreign citizen can adjust status to become a lawful permanent resident of the United States (Green Card holder).[168] A K-2 visa is issued to unmarried children under the age of 21. Foreign same-sex partners of United States citizens are currently recognized by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and accordingly can be sponsored for K-1 visas and for permanent resident status.[169]

K-3/K-4 visas are issued to foreign spouses and children of US citizens.[170]

The L-1 classification is for international transferees who have worked for a related organization abroad for at least one continuous year in the past three years and who will be coming to the United States to work in an executive or managerial (L-1A) or specialized knowledge capacity (L-1B).[171][172][173] The L-2 visa is issued to dependent spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age of qualified L-1 visa holders.

The M-1 visa is a type of student visa reserved for vocational and technical schools. Students in M-1 status may not work on or off campus while studying, and they may not change their status to F-1. The M-2 visa permits the spouse and minor children of an M-1 vocational student to accompany him or her to the United States.[136]

The O visa is a classification of non-immigrant temporary worker visa granted to an alien "who possesses extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics (O-1A visa), or who has a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry and has been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements," (O-1B visa) and to certain assistants (O-2 visa) and immediate family members of such aliens (O-3 visa).[174]

P visas are issued to individuals or team athletes, or member of an entertainment group including persons providing essential support services (P-1 visa), artists or entertainers (individual or group) under a reciprocal exchange program (P-2 visa) and artists or entertainers (individual or group) visiting to perform, teach or coach under a program that is culturally unique (P-3 Visa).[175] P-4 visas are issued to spouses, or children under the age of 21, of a P-1, P-2, or P-3 alien and who is accompanying, or following to join.

The Q visa is issued to participants in an international cultural exchange program.[175]

The R-1 visa is issued to temporary religious workers. They must have been a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the United States for at least 2 years.[176] R-2 visa is issued to dependent family members.[177]

S visas are nonimmigrant visas issued to individuals who have assisted law enforcement as a witness or informant. There is a limit of 200 S visas a year.[178] A law enforcement agency can then submit an application for resident alien status, i.e. a green card on behalf of the witness or informant once the individual has completed the terms and conditions of his or her S visa.[179]

NAFTA Professional (TN) visa allows citizens of Canada and Mexico whose profession is on the NAFTA list[180] and who must hold a bachelor's degree to work in the United States on a prearranged job. Canadian citizens usually do not require a visa to work under the TN status (unless they live outside Canada with non-Canadian family members) while Mexican citizens require a TN visa. Spouse and dependent children of a TN professional can be admitted into the United States in the TD status.[181]

The U-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa which is set aside for victims of crimes (and their immediate family members) who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse and are willing to assist law enforcement and government officials in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity.[182] Subtypes of this visa are U-2 issued to spouses of U-1, U-3 issued to children of U-1, U-4 issued to parents of U-1 under the age of 21 and U-5 issued to unmarried siblings under the age of 18 of U-1 who is under 21.

The T-1 visa is issued to victims of severe forms of human trafficking. Holders may adjust their status to permanent resident status.[183] Subtypes of this visa are T-2 (issued to spouses of T-1), T-3 (issued to children of T-1), T-4 (issued to parents of T-1 under the age of 21), and T-5 (issued to unmarried siblings under the age of 18 of T-1 who is under 21).

The V visa is a temporary visa available to spouses and minor children (unmarried, under 21) of U.S. lawful permanent residents (LPR, also known as green card holders). It allows permanent residents to achieve family unity with their spouses and children while the immigration process takes its course. It was created by the Legal Immigration Family Equity Act of 2000.[184] The Act is to relieve those who applied for immigrant visas on or before December 21, 2000. Practically, the V visa is currently not available to spouses and minor children of LPRs who have applied after December 21, 2000.[185]

List of US visa types

All US visa types and subtypes are listed below:[186][187]

The Trump administration issued new rules on August 12, 2019, that will reject applicants for temporary or permanent visas for failing to meet income standards or for receiving public assistance such as welfare, food stamps, public housing or Medicaid.[188] Critics[who?] feared the new law, which was set to go into effect in October 2019, could negatively impact the lives of children who are U.S. citizens.[189]

[191][192][193]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y Persons with H-1B visas, H-4 visas (as immediate family members of H-1B visa holders), K visas, L visas, and V visas are permitted to have dual intent under the Immigration and Nationality Act. Federal regulations also appear to recognize dual intent O visas, P visas, and E visas.

The concept of the dual intent visa is to grant legal status to certain types of visa applicants when they are in the process of applying for a visa with the intent to obtain a permanent residency/green card. There are a certain number of U.S. visa categories that grant permission for dual intent, or to get a temporary visa status while having an intention to get a green card and stay permanently in the United States of America.[citation needed]

Most visas are named after the paragraph of the Code of Federal Regulations that established the visa.[194]

Visa denial

Section 221(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act defined several classes of aliens ineligible to receive visas.

Grounds for denial may include, but are not limited to:

  • Health grounds
  • Criminal history
  • Security fears
  • Public charge (charge means burden in this context)
  • Illegal entrants or immigration violators
  • Failure to produce requested documents
  • Ineligible for citizenship
  • Previously removed from the U.S.
  • The spouse of a U.S. Citizen is almost always denied a visitor's (B1/B2) visa on the grounds that the spouse might want to stay in the United States.[citation needed]

Section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (also cited as 8 United States Code § 1184(b))[195] states that most aliens must be presumed to be intending to remain in the U.S., until and unless they are able to show that they are entitled to non-immigrant status. This means there are two sides to a 214(b) denial. Either

  1. The applicant did not convince the consular officer that he / she did not intend to stay in the U.S. permanently, or
  2. The applicant did not convince the consular officer that he / she was qualified for the visa for which he / she had applied.

An example of a denial based upon the first ground would be an applicant for an F-1 student visa who the consular officer felt was secretly intending to remain in the U.S. permanently.

An example of a denial based upon the second ground would be an H-1B applicant who couldn't prove he possessed the equivalent of a U.S. bachelor's degree in a specialty field—such an equivalency being a requirement for obtaining an H-1B visa.

In order to thereafter obtain a visa applicants are recommended to objectively evaluate their situation, see in what way they fell short of the visa requirements, and then reapply.[196]

In 2005, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (then Chief Minister of Gujarat) was denied a diplomatic visa to the United States. The B-1/B-2 visa that had previously been granted to him was also revoked, under a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act which makes any foreign government official who was responsible or "directly carried out, at any time, particularly severe violations of religious freedom" ineligible for the visa.[197] Modi is the only person ever denied a visa to the U.S. under this provision.[198] In 2014, after Modi's BJP political party won the 2014 Indian general election, U.S. President Barack Obama ended the visa issue by calling Modi to congratulate him on his victory, and invited him to the White House. On June 8, 2016 Modi addressed a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress.[199]

Exceptions

There are cases when a U.S. visa has been granted to aliens who were technically ineligible. Japanese mafia (yakuza) leader Tadamasa Goto and three others were issued visas for travel between 2000 and 2004 to undergo liver transplant surgery at UCLA Medical Center.[200] The FBI had aided the men in the visa application process hoping that they would provide information regarding yakuza activities in the U.S.[200]

See also

References

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