Visas for Entering the USA
Generally, a citizen of a foreign country who wishes to enter the USA must first obtain a nonimmigrant visa for a temporary stay. The visa allows you to travel to the USA port of entry and request permission of the USA immigration inspector to enter the country. For general information about applying for a visitor visa, including documentation and fee requirements, please visit travel.state.gov. For information on arrival procedures in the USA, including customs requirements, please visit cbp.gov.
Note: As of July 27, the Department of State has made continued progress on restoring our system to full functionality. As we restore our ability to print visas, we are prioritizing immigrant cases, including adoptions visas. System engineers are performing maintenance to address the problems we encountered. As system performance improves, we will continue to process visas at U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide. We are committed to resolving the problem as soon as possible. Additional updates will be posted to travel.state.gov as more information becomes available.
What is a visa? A visa is permission to apply to enter the USA. A U.S. consular officer will issue a visa after determining that the applicant is eligible to travel to the USA under a particular visa classification.
Who needs a visa? A visitor (temporary) visa is required of all visitors seeking to enter the USA with the exception of nationals of Canada and countries that are part of the Visa Waiver Programme. Currently, 36 countries participate in the Visa Waiver Programme. For a list of participating countries and additional information on the Visa Waiver Programme, visit travel.state.gov.
Applying for a visitor visa Applicants for visitor visas generally should apply at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate in the country where they live. As part of the visa application process, an interview at the embassy or consulate consular section is required for visa applicants from ages 14-79, with few exceptions. Persons age 13 and younger and age 80 and older do not require an interview, unless the embassy or consulate asks them to be interviewed.
You can complete a U.S. visa application online at travel.state.gov. Once you have completed the application, the next step is to make an appointment for a visa application interview. The wait time for an interview appointment for applicants can vary, so we strongly encourage you to apply as early as possible. Visa wait times for interview appointments and visa processing times for each U.S. embassy or consulate are available at travel.state.gov. To learn how to schedule an appointment for an interview, pay the application processing fee, review embassy specific instructions, and more, please visit the website of the U.S. embassy or consulate where you plan to apply. You can find a list of all U.S. embassy and consulate websites at usembassy.gov.
There are different categories of visas that correspond to your purpose of travel, and each one has its own application procedures. If you are travelling to the USA for a reason other than tourism or temporary business—for example, to study or for temporary employment—you will need the correct visa. You can find more information at travel.state.gov.
Further visa inquiries Questions on embassy-specific visa application procedures and questions on visa ineligibilities should be addressed to the U.S. embassy or consulate where you will be applying. Please be sure to check travel.state.gov, which has complete information about the U.S. visa process. Very often you will find the information you need.
Note: Beginning Wednesday, November 12, most business and tourist visas from China to the United States will be valid for 10 years. Previously valid for one year, Chinese travelers will now be able to make multiple entries for a decade without having to reapply for their visas. The validity period for student visas is also increased from one year to five years. For more information, visit http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/11/10/fact-sheet-supporting-american-job-growth-and-strengthening-ties-extendi.
Arriving in the USA
Enhanced Ebola screening is now occurring at five U.S. airports with a new tracking program for all people entering the U.S. from Ebola-affected Countries
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs & Border Protection (CBP) are screening for Ebola at five U.S. airports that receive over 94 percent of international travelers, including the Ebola affected nations of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Passengers arriving in the United States whose travel originates in Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Guinea are required to fly into JFK International Airport in New York, Newark Airport in New Jersey, Washington-Dulles, Chicago-O’Hare, or Atlanta International Airport, where enhanced entry screening will occur.
For more information please visit: http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/
On Sunday, November 16, 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) added Mali to the list of Ebola-affected nations for which enhanced screening and monitoring measures will be taken. Click (http://www.dhs.gov/news/2014/11/16/enhanced-airport-entry-screening-begin-travelers-united-states-mali) for more information.
Travel Advisory: The USA has updated entrance requirements and electronic devices may be screened. Please be advised that powerless electronic devices will not be permitted onboard aircraft bound to the USA. Click here to read the TSA’s press release and the statement issued by Homeland Security.
Your airline will give you documents to complete while en route to the USA. All travellers are required to complete Customs Declaration Form 6059B. Those travellers who are non–U.S. citizens and are requesting admission to the USA with a visa will also be handed Form I-94 (white), Arrival/Departure Record.
You must go through U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), for immigration and customs processing. CBP must approve your entry upon your first airport landing in the USA.
At Passport Control, most foreign travellers need go through the US-VISIT process. A CBP officer takes your electronic fingerprints and a photograph as part of your travel record. US-VISIT uses biometrics—such as fingerprints—to establish and verify your identity and identification materials and to check you against a watch list of known or suspected terrorists, criminals and immigration violators. You may be asked questions such as what you do for a living, whether you have enough money for your visit (a credit card is a smart precaution), and when and how you will be leaving the country (bring a copy of your itinerary). It is advisable that single parents and guardians travelling with a minor should have proof of legal custody.
After Passport Control, gather any baggage and enter Customs.