What Is a US Visa?

A US Visa is a stamp placed inside your passport. It allows you to travel to a US port of entry, such as an airport or a land border. Your visa indicates that an officer at a U.S. Embassy abroad decided that you are eligible to request entry for the purpose of the visa.

Who Needs a US Visa?

Citizens of most countries in the world require a visa to travel temporarily to the United States. A visa is also needed to study, work or immigrate to the United States.

What Types of US Visas Are Available?

Two main categories of visas are available to foreign nationals.  They can select either a Non-immigrant visa (for temporary visits) or an Immigrant visa (to establish permanent residency). In total, there are about 185 types of visas across both categories.

US Visa Types

What Is a Non-Immigrant Visa?


A Non-immigrant visa allows you to temporarily work or travel within the United States. Therefore, you need a Non-immigrant visa to travel across the United States as a tourist. You also need one to visit on a cultural exchange program or to work in the country temporarily. Most foreigners visit the country on a Non-immigrant visa.

What Is a B-1 Visa?


A B-1 visa is a popular visitor visa for foreign nationals seeking to enter the United States temporarily for general business purposes. You can visit the United States to attend a conference or to complete business deals, although you are not permitted to become employed with a US company.

What Is a B-2 Visa?


A B-2 visa is one of the most popular visitor visas for those seeking to enter the United States temporarily for general tourism purposes. If you wish to travel to the United States to visit friends or family, for example, or to go sightseeing, you would have to apply for a B-2 visa.

Do All Foreigners Need a US Visa to Travel to the US?


Only citizens from certain countries require a visa to visit the United States. The Visa Waiver Program allows most citizens from the 38 participating countries to complete an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) application online. The ESTA application can be completed online in just a few minutes. It enables eligible foreign nationals from those 38 countries to request an authorization to travel without a visa.

Does a Visa Guarantee Entry to the United States?


Receiving a US Visa does not guarantee entry to the country. The visa only allows you to arrive at a US port of entry. Some foreigners finish the entire visa application process successfully but are denied entrance at the port of entry.The border officer questioning you at the port of entry decides whether or not you can enter the country.

What Is an Immigrant Visa?


Immigrant Visas are for foreign nationals that wish to live permanently in the US. It is the first step to become a lawful permanent resident, also known as green card holder. With an Immigrant Visa you can apply for US citizenship after five years living in the United States as a permanent resident.

 

What Is a Green Card?


A “green card” is another term for an Immigrant Visa. With an Immigrant Visa you are permitted to seek entry to the United States to establish permanent residence. Someone who is living in the United States with an Immigrant Visa is called a green card holder. As a green card holder, you have many of the same rights as a US citizen, although you cannot vote and you cannot get a US passport.

How Do I Get a Green Card?


Getting a green card can be either straightforward or complicated. It all depends on your country of origin and your unique situation. If you have family members who are US citizens or residents, they may be able to sponsor you for an Immigrant Visa. Some green cards are also awarded on a lottery basis. The Diversity Visa Lottery Program grants up to 50,000 Immigrant Visas annually to nationals of countries with low rate immigration to the United States.

Is It Hard to Get an Immigrant Visa?


The United States does not allow just anyone to immigrate to the country. Most Immigrant Visas are awarded for family or employment purposes. However, having family in the United States does not automatically mean you qualify for a US Visa. Only certain family members, including unmarried children under 21 and a spouse, may be allowed to enter the US.

 

How Many Immigrant Visas Does the US Grant Every Year?


The United States processes millions of visa applications every year. Of the 11 million visas granted annually by the United States, approximately 5% are Immigrant Visas (i.e. green cards). Most Immigrant Visa categories have strict limits on the number of visas available to be awarded each year. Non-Immigrant visas, on the other hand, do not have a limit typically.