In 2019, there were 79.26 million international visitors to the U.S. This figure includes visitors from overseas, Mexico, and Canada. Many people visit the U.S. for pleasure, whereas others have ties to businesses in the country. A foreign national that wants to go to the U.S. for business or pleasure must obtain a U.S. visa. The process is done through the Department of State at the consular office. A foreign national that needs a visa must first obtain a passport from their home country. The consular would need a valid passport to place the visa.
Travelers are required to obtain a visa at the local consulate to travel to the United States. However, some foreign travelers are eligible to travel without a visa if the country is part of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Travelers that want to travel to the United States for business would obtain a temporary visa under category B-1. Travelers that want to travel to the United States for pleasure would obtain a temporary visa under the category B2. Sometimes they may obtain a combination of both B1/B2 depending on the purpose of the trip. If you want to travel to the United States for other purposes, you must obtain a visa under the appropriate visa category. For example, if you want to come to the U.S. to study, you must obtain an F1, or if you wish to come to work temporarily, you may use the H1b program.
A visa is a license to enter the U.S. Think of the Department of State, permitting you to visit the U.S. Every time you are traveling to the U.S., you are asking for permission to enter. You must be found admissible. This means that you have not broken the condition of your visa, such as overstaying or working while in the U.S., or have gotten into legal trouble. At the time of entry, the officer will ask you several questions and review your background. Based on the investigation at the time of entry, the officer has the discretion to let you into the U.S. or not.
Visitor Visa for Business:
When you are visiting the U.S. for business purposes, you are restricted to the business activities that you can do. For example, you can consult with business associates; attend a scientific, educational, professional, or business convention or conference; Settle an estate, and Negotiate a contract. You cannot work for hire.
Visitors for Tourism:
When you are visiting the U.S. for tourism purposes, you are restricted to the activities that you can do. For example, you can do tourism, vacation for holidays; visit your friends and family; obtain medical treatment; attend to social; participate in amateurs musical, sports, or similar events or contests as long as you are not being paid. You are not allowed to work for hire. If you want to work in the U.S., you will need a different type of visa. Otherwise, you are in violation of the terms and conditions of your visa. You are allowed, however, to enroll in a short recreational course of study that would not be counted for credit towards a degree. For example, a dancing class, a cooking class, etc. Otherwise, you would need a student visa.
The following activities are prohibited while you are in the U.S. with a visitor’s visa, and you will be required to change visa status and obtain a different kind of visa:
- To study for credit or degree;
- To obtain Employment and work for pay while in the U.S.;
- To perform for hire or do any professional work in which you are being paid;
- To arrive as a crew member on a ship or aircraft;
- To Work as foreign press, in radio, film, print journalism, or other information media; and
- To stay permanent residence in the United States.
I want to go to visit friends in the U.S. What documents do you need for a U.S. Visitor Visa?
To obtain a visitor’s visa, you need to prove that you have good moral character; that you are not planning to stay in the U.S., and you are visiting on a temporary basis for a limited period of time such as pleasure, business, or medical treatment; that you have the financial means to pay for your expenses while in the U.S.; and that have sufficient ties to your home country.
- A passport that is valid within six months after your travel date to the U.S.
- You need passport photos.
- DS160 US Visa application confirmation page stamped at the Visa Application Center (VAC).
- Proof of fee payment, which is a valid receipt.
- Printout of U.S. Interview appointment letter.
In addition to the above documents, you will need the following to support the purpose of your visit to the United States:
- Travel itinerary of all the places that you intend to visit
- Financial documents as evidence you plan to cover your costs while in the U.S., such as bank statements, proof of cash
- Letter from employer showing that you have a stable job and you intend to return
- Business cards
- If you are visiting relatives, a letter of invitation
- If you are attending an event, an invitation, brochure, or ticket to that even
- Evidence of social and economic ties to your home country.
If I want to go to the U. S for medical treatment, what supporting documents I need?
In addition to presenting the documents mentioned prior for a visa, you must show proof of the need for medical treatment in the United States. You may be required to submit the following documents:
- Medical documentation from your physician detailing your medical condition and the reason why the treatment is needed in the U.S. For example, you may need treatment that is only available in the U.S. and not in your home country.
- Medical documentation from a doctor or hospital in the United States stating their willingness to treat your medical condition. The letter must detail the type of treatment, the length of the treatment, and a detailed cost of the treatment, such as doctors and hospitalization fees, and all other medical-related expenses.
- Financial statement of the person or organization that will be paying for the medical treatments. The person or organization must provide supporting documents of their ability to cover the medical costs. Must provide documents such as bank statements, proof of income, and officially certified copies of their taxes.
How do I apply for a visa?
To apply for a visa, you must do it through the embassy or consulate of your home country or the country you reside in. It is preferred that you schedule your interview in your home country. Our office can assist you in applying for a visitor’s visa.
- Complete the Online Visa Application Form DS-160. Once you complete the application, you must print the confirmation and bring it to the interview.
- Upload your photo to the online application system.
- Schedule an Interview.
How long can I stay in the U.S. with a visa?
Typically, you are given an entry for up to 6 months. If you have a compelling reason as to why you need to stay longer, you may apply for an extension of stay. The government may grant you up to another six months. You must apply for an extension at least 45 days prior to your expiration of stay. If you are in the U.S and want to apply for an extension, give us a call.
Can I change status while I am in the U.S. for another visa?
While you are in the U.S. you can apply to change status. You can apply to another non-immigrant status such as an F1 visa or a lawful permanent resident if you are married to a USC or sponsored through your employer. You should contact our office to evaluate your case if you are thinking about changing status.
Visa Waiver Program
Foreign nationals of participating countries can travel to the U.S. for 90 days under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Travelers can travel for business or tourism without having to go through consular processing. It only requires that the applicant is registered and approved on the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). Once the travelers have authorization and meet all the requirements, travelers can visit the U.S.
What are the requirements for the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)?
The main requirement is that you are a citizen or a national of a participating country of the Visa Waiver Program. The following countries are participating in the VWP: