Visas for the USA

Visa type and documentation requirements

Most foreign citizens require a visa to enter the United States. U.S. immigration rules and regulations are currently changing very frequently. For all types of travel, we recommend you consult with the US consulate in your country of residence to ensure you have the correct information.

Visas for the USA

There are two classifications of U.S. visas:

  • Non-immigrant visas are for people with permanent residence outside the U.S. entering the country on a temporary basis – for tourism, medical treatment, business, temporary work or study.
  • Immigrant visas are for people who intend to take permanent residence in the U.S.

Documentation and waiting times

The United States has made many and frequent changes to visa and immigration procedures over the last six years. They now require additional application forms and security clearances. Visa applications take longer to process and are now subject to a greater degree of scrutiny than in the past. Applications should be completed at least 6 weeks before the planned departure date.

Warning: we have heard that some US diplomatic services in certain countries are taking longer. Please, check with the American Embassy or Consulate in your current country of residence for the current delays and the exact requirements in terms of documentation.

For a visa application, you will have to produce some or all of the following documents:

  • A valid passport showing at least six months validity from the date of travel
  • Correctly completed application form(s)
  • Two passport pictures, taken within the last six months
  • Proof of adequate financial support during your stay
  • Proof of medical insurance
  • Proof of purpose of visit and/or a hotel reservation and/or a return ticket
  • For a work visa: a letter from your prospective employer
  • For a study visa: a letter from the academic institution you are planning to study at

What type of visa do you need?

The purpose of entry into the U.S. determines the classification of the visa that you require.

To find out for what kind of visa you need to apply for or what possibilities you have to travel or immigrate to the U.S., see the list of visa types below and look at the other articles in this section for more detailed information on requirements and procedures.

Non-immigrant Visas

Non-immigrant visas are for individuals coming to the U.S. on a temporary basis. You can come for tourism, medical treatment, business, temporary work or study. Each case is individually examined according to American law and immigrations regulations in force.

  • Business Visa (B1)
  • Tourism Visa (B2)
  • Student Visas (F1, J1, M1)
  • Transit Visa (C1)
  • Visa Information Media Representative (I)
  • Visa Religious Worker (R)
  • Work Visas (H, L, O, P, Q)

For all non-immigrant visas and according to the Immigration and Naturalization Law you must be able to show the consular officer that you have strong ties to your country of residence. In addition, you must demonstrate that you intend to leave the U.S. after your temporary visit. To do so, you can present proof of your ties to your country, eg: work contract, income tax return, pay slips, marriage/birth certificates, bank statements, car documents, school statements, etc.

Immigrant Visas

  • Immigration based on a family relationship to an American citizen or resident
  • Immigration through employment

There are two classifications of U.S. visas:

  • Non-immigrant visas are for people with permanent residence outside the U.S. entering the country on a temporary basis – for tourism, medical treatment, business, temporary work or study.
  • Immigrant visas are for people who intend to take permanent residence in the U.S.

Documentation and waiting times

The United States has made many and frequent changes to visa and immigration procedures over the last six years. They now require additional application forms and security clearances. Visa applications take longer to process and are now subject to a greater degree of scrutiny than in the past. Applications should be completed at least 6 weeks before the planned departure date.

Warning: we have heard that some US diplomatic services in certain countries are taking longer. Please, check with the American Embassy or Consulate in your current country of residence for the current delays and the exact requirements in terms of documentation.

For a visa application, you will have to produce some or all of the following documents:

  • A valid passport showing at least six months validity from the date of travel
  • Correctly completed application form(s)
  • Two passport pictures, taken within the last six months
  • Proof of adequate financial support during your stay
  • Proof of medical insurance
  • Proof of purpose of visit and/or a hotel reservation and/or a return ticket
  • For a work visa: a letter from your prospective employer
  • For a study visa: a letter from the academic institution you are planning to study at

What type of visa do you need?

The purpose of entry into the U.S. determines the classification of the visa that you require.

To find out for what kind of visa you need to apply for or what possibilities you have to travel or immigrate to the U.S., see the list of visa types below and look at the other articles in this section for more detailed information on requirements and procedures.

Non-immigrant Visas

Non-immigrant visas are for individuals coming to the U.S. on a temporary basis. You can come for tourism, medical treatment, business, temporary work or study. Each case is individually examined according to American law and immigrations regulations in force.

  • Business Visa (B1)
  • Tourism Visa (B2)
  • Student Visas (F1, J1, M1)
  • Transit Visa (C1)
  • Visa Information Media Representative (I)
  • Visa Religious Worker (R)
  • Work Visas (H, L, O, P, Q)

For all non-immigrant visas and according to the Immigration and Naturalization Law you must be able to show the consular officer that you have strong ties to your country of residence. In addition, you must demonstrate that you intend to leave the U.S. after your temporary visit. To do so, you can present proof of your ties to your country, eg: work contract, income tax return, pay slips, marriage/birth certificates, bank statements, car documents, school statements, etc.

Immigrant Visas

  • Immigration based on a family relationship to an American citizen or resident
  • Immigration through employment

This article is an extract from Living and Working in America. Click here to get a copy now.

Does this article help?

Do you have any comments, updates or questions on this topic? Ask them here: