Planning to visit the US? Let us understand the various US Visa types and their categories. Under US immigration rules, Your eligibility for the US Visa will vary depending on the purpose of your intended travel and other factors.
As a visa applicant, you must establish that you meet all the requirements for the visa category, you want to apply for.
When you apply at a U.S. embassy or consulate, a consular officer will assess your eligibility as per the laws, and decide the visa category appropriate for you.
Please Note: Once you get the visa, check whether it has the correct information that matches the details in your passport. If any of the information on your visa does not match the information in your passport or is incorrect, contact the nonimmigrant visa section at the embassy or consulate that issued your visa.
Let’s get acquainted with the US visa categories, Understand in detail the various visa type, and narrow down where to apply.
There are different types of US visas, grouped into two main visa categories.
In general, a Foreign Citizen wishing to enter the United States must first get a visa, either a
Let’s get into more details.
Nonimmigrant visas are issued to foreign nationals for temporary visits to the U.S. such as for tourism, business, employment, family visit, and education. This can be issued for less than one year or more than 5 years depending on the purpose of the travel.
Transit visas are not common, Transit C visa classification is for foreign nationals traveling through the U.S. to another country and stopping briefly in the U.S. as part of their travel to the next foreign destination.
These are issued to the individual who will move to the U.S. and become a lawful permanent resident. An immigrant visa can be family-based, employment-based, etc.
A US visa is a stamp you get on your travel documents, more specifically your passport (a travel document issued by your country of citizenship). The stamp confirms your eligibility to enter the United States.
All visas must go hand in hand with your passport, thus your passport serves as your ‘visa-holder’.
If you are not a U.S. citizen, you will need a visa to enter the country.
A visa is an essential travel document that enables you to enter and exit a country.
Even if you hold a valid visa, you still have to get through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Customs and Border Protection (CPB) Inspectors to enter the U.S.
Travelers from certain countries may be eligible to travel to the U.S. without a visa if they meet the criteria for visa-free travel (Visa Waiver Program)
Note: US citizens do not require a U.S. visa for travel. But for traveling to another country, they need a visa issued by the embassy of the country they are traveling to. Visit the Country Specific Travel Information in the Passport section to learn more about visa requirements by country.
Canadian citizens, citizens of Bermuda, and citizens of Visa Waiver Countries can enter the U.S. for temporary stays of 90 days or less without a visa for the purpose of tourism or business.
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) is administered by the Department of Homeland Security and presently 40 countries are part of the VWP.
If you can meet the necessary criteria and you are a citizen of the one of VWP countries, you will not need to apply for a visa.
You can instead get an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) from the US Customs and Borders Protections. Visit its website and fill in your personal information and wait for their response that will confirm whether you qualify for the Visa Waiver or not.
The length of the visa holder’s stay in the U.S. is the main difference between a nonimmigrant visa and an immigrant visa. Nonimmigrant visas are temporary, which implies that they have limited validity.
Nonimmigrant visas are issued to foreign nationals who seek to visit the United States temporarily for tourist, medical treatment, business, temporary job, research, or other similar reasons.
Immigrant visas otherwise known as Green Cards is issued to a foreign national who plans to reside and work in the United States permanently.
No, a visa does not ensure entry to the U.S. You are only permitted to travel up until the port of entry (airport or land border). Once there, you must seek approval from US Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Homeland Security (CBP). These officials have the authority to accept or deny your entry.
The US immigration officer will give you an admission stamp or paper Form I-94, arrival/departure record in your passport. It is important to keep this document in your passport during your stay in the U.S., as it verifies your status as a legal immigrant.
You will have to apply for a US visa at a US Consulate or US Embassy in your country of residence. The application process is similar and straightforward for all visa types, however, there are differences depending on the visa category and type of visa you want to apply for and the country you are applying from.
The actual visa application is applied online, but almost every applicant must go to the consulate in person for a visa interview. In the case of some work visas, you may need to mail extensive files to the U.S. authorities in the U.S. before the consular application procedure.
Depending on the category, the visa application fees will differ significantly depending on the visa categories and are subject to recurring increases and decreases, as well as changes in exchange rates. The fees are non-refundable and non-transferable.
If you are applying from India, the most common nonimmigrant visa issuance fee is $160 for B1/B2 visas, student visas, and exchange visitor visa categories. For work visas and religious visas, it cost $190. The fees will always be determined by the visa categories.
It is difficult to give a straightforward answer on the visa processing time. The durations are subject to change depending on several factors. An immigrant visa that provides the status of a lawful permanent resident may take several years to be approved, and a temporary non immigrant visa might take several months.
If your US visa expires, you have the option to renew it through a process similar to applying for a new US Visa. Every US visa has an issue date and an expiration date that is stamped on the passport. Only if the visa’s expiration date has passed is a renewal of the US visa required.
The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the main immigration agency providing US visas. They accept and process applications, as well as decide whether to grant petitions from US employers seeking to hire workers from a foreign country.
USCIS issues visa-related documents and maintain detailed records about all immigrants in the U.S. The USCIS processes and decides on all petitions for immigrant visas, making them more relevant for nonimmigrant work visas.
Many people with aspirations of living “the American dream” travel to the U.S. However, there are many barriers, and obtaining a visa is one of them. To make the application process easy, we recommend going through the information such as visa categories, how to apply, and other details provided on this website.
You will also find instructions on how to apply for a visa on the website of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate that is nearest to where you live.
Also, give yourself plenty of time to account for the visa application processing time and unexpected delays before traveling to the U.S.