Visas for Temporary Travel to the United States

Foreign nationals who want to travel in the United States need a visa, except in certain circumstances. A visa is a travel document that you request from the U.S. consulate or embassy in your home country. There are many types of temporary visas. The embassy or consulate will issue one that's appropriate for the type of trip you are planning.

A Visa Allows You to Travel to the United States

To get a visa, you must apply before your trip, provide requested documents, and attend an interview. If your request is granted, you may travel to the United States and present your visa to the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officer at the airport or land crossing. If you are granted entry, you will be given an arrival/departure form that shows the date you must leave the country. If you do not leave on or before the departure date, your visa will be revoked.

B-1 or B-2 Visa for a Temporary Visit

You need a B-1 or B-2 visa If you plan a temporary visit to the United States for business, pleasure, or medical treatment. The B-1 visa is for business purposes such as attending a conference, consulting, or settling an estate. The business visa is not intended for temporary workers. B-2 visas are appropriate for pleasure trips to visit family members, amateur sports competitions, vacations, and service activities, as well as for medical treatment. You may take a short class while traveling on a B-2 visa, but you'll need a student visa if you want to take classes for credit.

Some Visitors Don't Need a Visa

Two programs allow some visitors to travel to the United States without a visa. Citizens of Canada and Bermuda do not need a visa for visitor purposes. Also, the Visa Waiver Program allows citizens of 36 participating nations, including Australia, France, Japan, Denmark, Norway, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, Italy, and the United Kingdom to travel for up to 90 days in the United States without a visa. The travel must be for visitor tourism or business purposes.

Some Foreign Nationals Can't Get Visas

The Immigration and Nationality Act says that certain categories of foreign nationals are not eligible for visas. Criminals, suspected terrorists, and people with contagious diseases, for example, are ineligible for visas. Certain actions such as misrepresenting facts on your application or failing to provide enough documentation can make you ineligible. If you are ineligible, you may apply for a waiver.

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