Visitors and workers from other countries who want to travel to the United States need to obtain a temporary visa to do so lawfully. The type of visa you need will depend on the purpose for your travel. In some cases, you may be able to bring your family with you to the United States.
Immigrant Visas Require a Sponsor
If you want to move to the United States, you'll need a sponsor, such as an employer or a relative who is a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident. Categories include family visas, employment-sponsored visas, and special immigration visas for Iraqi and Afghan citizens who worked for the American government. To obtain an immigration visa, you must file a petition and undergo an interview.
Non-Immigrant Visas Allow Temporary Visits
If you want to enter the United States for a visit, there are at least 20 types of temporary non-immigrant visas available. Examples of non-immigrant visas include visas for tourism, cultural exchange, medical treatment, athletic competition, and studying abroad. The procedures and requirements vary according to the type of visa requested. In general, you'll need to contact the U.S. embassy or consulate in your country, file the appropriate documents, and attend an interview.
The Visa Doesn't Guarantee Entry
While a visa allows you to travel to the United States, you must still get permission from the Department of Homeland Security to enter the country. The inspector at the port of entry will review your visa and determine if should enter or not. If your request is granted, the official will give you a small card called Form I-94, Admission-Departure record, which you must keep in your passport while you are in the United States.
You May Request an Extension
If you need to stay longer than originally planned, you may request an extension of your visa. The procedure depends on the type of visa you have and on the facts you submit in support of your request. You must request the extension before your visa expires or your departure date passes. If you stay longer than allowed, your visa automatically expires and you must start the process over again.
Some Applicants Aren't Eligible for Temporary Visas
The Immigration and Nationality Act lists categories of foreign nationals who are ineligible for visas. Criminals, previously deported detainees, suspected terrorists, and individuals with contagious diseases are generally not eligible. Failing to provide complete documentation or misrepresenting information on your application might also make you ineligible.