Visa policy of the United States

Last updated

A US visa specimen USA-wiza-anonymous.jpg
A US visa specimen

The visa policy of the United States deals with the requirements which a foreign national wishing to enter the United States must meet to obtain a visa, which is a permit to travel to, enter, and remain in the United States. Visitors to the United States must obtain a visa from one of the United States diplomatic missions unless they come from one of the visa-exempt countries or Visa Waiver Program countries. The same rules apply to Puerto Rico, United States Virgin Islands, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, while different rules apply to American Samoa. Although the US visa policy applies to Guam and the CNMI, the two territories also have their own visa waiver program. [1]

Contents

As of 17 March 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, entry has been suspended for visitors who have been to Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom in 14 days prior to arrival to the United States. The restriction does not apply to permanent residents, immediate family members of US citizens and several special categories. [2] [3] [4]

Overview

Entry visas

A foreign national wishing to enter the U.S., must obtain a visa unless they satisfy one of the following conditions:

Mexican citizens may travel to the U.S. without a passport under limited circumstances if holding a Border Crossing Card and seeking to enter the U.S. for less than seventy-two hours while remaining in the "border zone". [5] [6] [7]

While there are about 185 different types of visas, [8] there are two main categories of U.S. visas:

In order to immigrate, one should either have an immigrant visa or have a dual intent visa, which is one that is compatible with making a concurrent application for permanent resident status, or having an intention to apply for permanent residence.

Entering the U.S. on an employment visa may be described as a three-step process in most cases. First, the employer files an application with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services requesting a particular type of category visa for a specific individual. If the employer's application is approved, it only authorizes the individual to apply for a visa; the approved application is not actually a visa. The individual then applies for a visa and is usually interviewed at a U.S. embassy or consulate in the native country. If the embassy or consulate grants the visa, the individual is then allowed to travel to the U.S. At the border crossing, airport, or other point of entry into the U.S., the individual speaks with an officer from U.S. Customs and Border Protection to request admission to the U.S. If approved, the individual may then enter the U.S. [8]

Contrary to a popular misconception, a U.S. visa does not authorize the alien's entry into the United States, nor does it authorize the alien's stay in the U.S. in a particular status. A U.S. visa only serves as a preliminary permission given to the alien to travel to the United States and to seek admission to the United States at a designated port of entry. The final admission to the United States in a particular status and for a particular period of time is made at the port of entry by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer. For aliens entering the U.S. in a nonimmigrant visa status, these details are recorded by the CBP officer on the alien's Form I-94 (Form I-94W for citizens of the Visa Waiver Program countries entering the U.S. for short visits), which serves as the official document authorizing the alien's stay in the United States in a particular non-immigrant visa status and for a particular period of time. [9] Fifty thousand additional visas (immigrant visas DV-1, DV-2, DV-3) are available each year under the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (also known as the green card lottery).

Exit visas

Exit visas are not required.

However, the U.S. government has required all foreign and U.S. nationals departing the US by air for Canada, Mexico, Bermuda or countries in the Caribbean other than the French West Indies to hold a valid passport (or certain specific passport-replacing documents) since October 1, 2007. Even though travelers might not require a passport to enter a certain country, they will require a valid passport booklet (booklet only, U.S. Passport Card not accepted) when attempting to depart the U.S. in order to satisfy the U.S. immigration authorities. [10] Exemptions to this requirement to hold a valid passport booklet include:

Visa policy map

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The United States and its territories
Visa free countries
Visa Waiver Program countries
Visa required for entry to the US Visa policy of the USA.png
  The United States and its territories
  Visa free countries
  Visa Waiver Program countries
  Visa required for entry to the US

Visa exemption

General exemption

Four countries and Bermuda have visa exemption access to the United States, including three that are linked with Compacts of Free Association. [11] Citizens of these jurisdictions are generally not required to apply for visas or pre-approval registrations prior to arrival.

Canada

Citizens of Canada do not require a visa to visit the United States under most circumstances, and can work under special simplified procedure. [12] They may use a NEXUS Card instead of a passport to enter the country from Canada, or, if arriving by land or sea, an Enhanced Drivers License. [13] [14] [15]

Historically, Canadian citizens have never needed a visa to visit the United States. [16]

Bermuda

Citizens of British Overseas Territories with a connection to Bermuda can enter the United States visa-free under most circumstances if their intended stay is less than six months. [12] They can also enter visa-free in order to study in the United States. [17]

In order to qualify, they must present a Bermudian passport with "Government of Bermuda" printed on the cover; the passport must state the holder's nationality as either "British Overseas Territory Citizen" or "British Dependent Territories Citizen"; and the passport must contain an endorsement stamp of "Holder is registered as a Bermudian", "Holder Possesses Bermudian Status", or "Holder is deemed to possess Bermudian status". [17]

Marshall Islands

Citizens of the Republic of the Marshall Islands have not required a visa to enter, reside, study, and work indefinitely in the United States since * 21 October 1986. [18] These benefits are granted to citizens from birth or independence, and to naturalized citizens who have resided in the Marshall Islands for at least five years, excluding those who acquired citizenship by investment. Although citizens of the Marshall Islands do not need visas at point of entry to the United States, they may still be denied admission based on general immigration disqualifications such as criminal convictions. [18]

Micronesia

Citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia have not required a visa to enter, reside, study, and work indefinitely in the United States since 3 November 1986. [18] These benefits are granted to citizens from birth or independence, and to naturalized citizens who have resided in the Federated States of Micronesia for at least five years, excluding those who acquired citizenship by investment. Although citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia do not need visas at point of entry to the United States, they may still be denied admission based on general immigration disqualifications such as criminal convictions. [18]

Palau

Citizens of the Republic of Palau have not required a visa to enter, reside, study, and work indefinitely in the United States since 1 October 1994. [19] These benefits are granted to citizens from birth or independence, and to naturalized citizens who have resided in Palau for at least five years, excluding those who acquired citizenship by investment. Although citizens of Palau do not need visas at point of entry to the United States, they may still be denied admission based on general immigration disqualifications such as criminal convictions. [19]

Visa Waiver Program

Currently, 39 countries and territories have been selected by the US government for inclusion in the Visa Waiver Program and their citizens do not need to acquire a US visa. However, citizens of these countries are required to obtain an electronic authorization (ESTA) for arrivals by air and sea [20] in order to visit the United States; note: this also applies to Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, both of which also have their own visa exemptions, while American Samoa operates an entirely different visa policy. [21]

Notes
  1. ^ – Citizens with Taiwanese national ID number only.
  2. ^ – Only British citizens are eligible to participate in the VWP. [22]

Visitors may stay for 90 days in the United States which also includes the time spent in Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, or the islands in the Caribbean if the arrival was through the United States.

The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is not a visa. Rather, obtaining a travel authorization from ESTA is a prerequisite to traveling by air or sea to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program. [25] ESTA authorization, once obtained, is valid for two years unless during that time the person obtains a new passport or his/her answers to any of the eligibility questions change. [26] ESTA is not needed when entering the U.S. by land or by local ferries (from Canada). On the other hand, VWP does not apply at all if a person is arriving by air or sea on an unapproved carrier (e.g. a private ship or plane). Such persons need a standard visa. As of December 2018, the ESTA is no longer approved in real-time to qualifying passengers and passengers are required to apply no later than 72 hours before departure. [27]

The United States Department of Homeland Security extended the scope of the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act. As of August 2019, visa waivers do not apply where a person has previously traveled to Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011 or for those who remain nationals of Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Sudan and Syria in addition to the nationality that would otherwise entitle them to a visa waiver. Instead, they are now required to go through the process to obtain a visa. [28] [29] Certain categories such as diplomats, military, journalists, humanitarian workers or legitimate businessmen may have their visa requirement waived by the Secretary of Homeland Security. [30]

Other arrangements

Citizens of the following country can travel without obtaining a visa for the United States only under certain conditions:

British Overseas Territories citizens (BOTCs) by virtue of their connection to one of the following territories may elect to travel with their British citizen passports with valid ESTA, or can alternatively use their BOTC passports to enter the U.S. in certain circumstances.

Visa waiver programs of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands

Although the visa policy of the U.S. also applies to the U.S. territories of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands in general, both territories have additional visa waiver programs for certain nationalities. The Guam–CNMI Visa Waiver Program, first enacted in October 1988 and periodically amended, permits nationals from 12 countries in Asia, Europe and Oceania to enter Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands as tourists for up to 45 days without the need of obtaining a U.S. visa or an ESTA. [38] A parole policy also allows nationals of China visa-free access to the Northern Mariana Islands for up to 14 days. [39]

1 - Up to 14 days, for the Northern Mariana Islands only, under a separate parole policy. [39]
2 - Must present a valid Hong Kong Permanent Identity Card on arrival.
3 - For holders of Taiwanese passports with a National ID number. Must present a valid Taiwanese national identity card on arrival. Must travel on a nonstop flight from Taiwan.
4 - For holders of British Citizen and British National (Overseas) passports only. British Nationals (Overseas) must present a valid Hong Kong permanent identity card upon arrival in order to be eligible for the waiver.

Travelers with B-1/B-2 visa or ESTA are admitted to the territories in accordance with the terms of ESTA or visa.

Travelers utilizing the program or the parole are required to complete an I-736 form (online as of February 2018 [49] [50] ), hold a machine-readable passport and nonrefundable return ticket, and are not permitted to travel stateside. Because of special visa categories for the Northern Mariana Islands' foreign workers, traveling between Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands still requires a full immigration inspection, and all visitors departing Guam or Northern Mariana Islands are inspected regardless of final destination. [51]

American Samoa

Coat of Arms of American Samoa.svg
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
American Samoa
American Samoa entry stamp American Samoa Entry Stamp.tif
American Samoa entry stamp

U.S. visa policy does not apply to the territory of American Samoa, as it has its own entry requirements and maintains control of its own borders. Hence, neither a U.S. visa nor an ESTA can be used to enter American Samoa. If required, an entry permit or electronic authorization must be obtained from the Department of Legal Affairs of American Samoa. [52]

U.S. nationals may remain indefinitely in American Samoa. [53] To enter, they must present a U.S. passport, or apply online for an electronic authorization providing a copy of their birth certificate, identification card, itinerary and a fee of US$50. [54]

Nationals of Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau and countries in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program [lower-alpha 1] may visit for up to 30 days without an entry permit. However, if arriving by air, they must apply online for an electronic authorization called "OK to board" or "OK board", at least 48 hours before travel, providing a biometric passport and itinerary. They must also pay a fee of US$20, before travel or on arrival. [53] [55]

Nationals of other countries need an entry permit. To apply, they must have a local sponsor, who must appear in person at the Immigration Office of the Department of Legal Affairs and provide either a deed of private land or signatures of the sponsor's sa'o (head chief) and pulenu'u (village mayor). Travelers must also provide a copy of their passport and itinerary, clearances from the District Court of American Samoa and Lyndon B. Johnson Tropical Medical Center, consent for a background check by the Department of Homeland Security of American Samoa, police and health clearances from the country of origin, and a fee of US$40 (no fee for children under 5 years of age). The application for an entry permit must be made at least 30 days before travel, and the permit is valid for a stay of up to 30 days. [56] Business travelers may apply for a multiple-entry permit, for a fee of US$50 per month, up to one year. [57]

Nationals of Samoa may apply for group permits for a stay of up to 7 days (variable fee), or individual permits for a stay of up to 14 days (fee of US$10) or 30 days (fee of US$40, except for children under 5 years of age). Their application process requires fewer documents. [58] [59] [56]

Transit travelers of any nationality may apply for an electronic authorization free of charge, allowing a stay of up to 24 hours. [60]

  1. The American Samoa Visitors Bureau does not list Poland, [53] while the Department of Legal Affairs of American Samoa does not list Ireland or Poland. [55]

Alaska

Residents of the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug in Russia who are members of the indigenous population do not require a visa to visit Alaska if they have relatives (blood relatives, members of the same tribe, native people who have similar language and cultural heritage) in Alaska. Entry points are in Gambell and Nome.

Individuals must be invited by a relative in Alaska, must notify local authorities at least ten days before traveling to Alaska, and must leave Alaska within 90 days.

The agreement establishing this policy was signed by Russia (then the Soviet Union) and the United States on September 23, 1989. The United States made it effective as of July 17, 2015. [61] [62]

American Indians born in Canada

Members of certain indigenous peoples born in Canada may enter and remain in the United States indefinitely "for the purpose of employment, study, retirement, investing, and/or immigration" or any other reason by virtue of the Jay Treaty of 1794, as codified in Section 289 of the Immigration and Naturalization Act. [63]

In order to qualify, an individual must possess "at least 50 per centum blood of the American Indian Race". [63] [64] Tribal membership alone does not qualify an individual. [63] The individual bears the burden of proof in establishing eligibility, typically by way of presenting identification based on reliable tribal records, birth certificates, and other documents establishing the percentage of Indian blood. [65] A Canadian Certificate of Indian Status is insufficient proof because it does not indicate the percentage of Indian blood. [65]

A qualifying American Indian's spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 do not have the same rights unless they qualify in their own right. [63] [65] [66] Because a qualifying American Indian residing in the United States is considered to be lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States, a qualifying American Indian residing in the United States may file a petition for a derivative for a spouse and dependent children, subject to statutory numerical limitations and a seven-year backlog of applications. [63] [67] [68]

Summary of visa exemptions

Country or territory States, District of Columbia
and Puerto Rico
U.S.
Virgin
Islands
Guam Northern
Mariana
Islands
American Samoa
OverlandAir/cruiseCruiseAir
Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada YesYesYesYesYesYesOK board
Flag of Bermuda.svg  Bermuda YesYesYesYesYesNoNo
Flag of the Marshall Islands.svg  Marshall Islands YesYesYesYesYesYesOK board
Flag of Federated States of Micronesia.svg  Micronesia YesYesYesYesYesYesOK board
Flag of Palau.svg  Palau YesYesYesYesYesYesOK board
Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia Yes ESTA ESTAYesYesYesOK board
Flag of Brunei.svg  Brunei YesESTAESTAYesYesYesOK board
Flag of Japan.svg  Japan YesESTAESTAYesYesYesOK board
Flag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand YesESTAESTAYesYesYesOK board
Flag of Singapore.svg  Singapore YesESTAESTAYesYesYesOK board
Flag of South Korea.svg  South Korea YesESTAESTAYesYesYesOK board
Flag of the Republic of China.svg  Taiwan Yes [lower-alpha 1] ESTA [lower-alpha 1] ESTA [lower-alpha 1] Yes [lower-alpha 1] [lower-alpha 2] Yes [lower-alpha 1] [lower-alpha 2] YesOK board
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom Yes [lower-alpha 3] ESTA [lower-alpha 3] ESTA [lower-alpha 3] Yes [lower-alpha 4] Yes [lower-alpha 4] Yes [lower-alpha 3] OK board [lower-alpha 3]
Flag of Andorra.svg  Andorra YesESTAESTAESTAESTAYesOK board
Flag of Austria.svg  Austria YesESTAESTAESTAESTAYesOK board
Flag of Belgium (civil).svg  Belgium YesESTAESTAESTAESTAYesOK board
Flag of Chile.svg  Chile YesESTAESTAESTAESTAYesOK board
Flag of the Czech Republic.svg  Czech Republic YesESTAESTAESTAESTAYesOK board
Flag of Denmark.svg  Denmark YesESTAESTAESTAESTAYesOK board
Flag of Estonia.svg  Estonia YesESTAESTAESTAESTAYesOK board
Flag of Finland.svg  Finland YesESTAESTAESTAESTAYesOK board
Flag of France.svg  France YesESTAESTAESTAESTAYesOK board
Flag of Germany.svg  Germany YesESTAESTAESTAESTAYesOK board
Flag of Greece.svg  Greece YesESTAESTAESTAESTAYesOK board
Flag of Hungary.svg  Hungary YesESTAESTAESTAESTAYesOK board
Flag of Iceland.svg  Iceland YesESTAESTAESTAESTAYesOK board
Flag of Ireland.svg  Ireland YesESTAESTAESTAESTAYes [lower-alpha 5] OK board [lower-alpha 5]
Flag of Italy.svg  Italy YesESTAESTAESTAESTAYesOK board
Flag of Latvia.svg  Latvia YesESTAESTAESTAESTAYesOK board
Flag of Liechtenstein.svg  Liechtenstein YesESTAESTAESTAESTAYesOK board
Flag of Lithuania.svg  Lithuania YesESTAESTAESTAESTAYesOK board
Flag of Luxembourg.svg  Luxembourg YesESTAESTAESTAESTAYesOK board
Flag of Malta.svg  Malta YesESTAESTAESTAESTAYesOK board
Flag of Monaco.svg  Monaco YesESTAESTAESTAESTAYesOK board
Flag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands YesESTAESTAESTAESTAYesOK board
Flag of Norway.svg  Norway YesESTAESTAESTAESTAYesOK board
Flag of Poland.svg  Poland YesESTAESTAESTAESTANoNo
Flag of Portugal.svg  Portugal YesESTAESTAESTAESTAYesOK board
Flag of San Marino.svg  San Marino YesESTAESTAESTAESTAYesOK board
Flag of Slovakia.svg  Slovakia YesESTAESTAESTAESTAYesOK board
Flag of Slovenia.svg  Slovenia YesESTAESTAESTAESTAYesOK board
Flag of Spain.svg  Spain YesESTAESTAESTAESTAYesOK board
Flag of Sweden.svg  Sweden YesESTAESTAESTAESTAYesOK board
Flag of Switzerland.svg   Switzerland YesESTAESTAESTAESTAYesOK board
Flag of the Bahamas.svg  Bahamas Nopolice certificateNoNoNoNoNo
Flag of the British Virgin Islands.svg  British Virgin Islands Nopolice certificateYesNoNoNoNo
Flag of the Cayman Islands.svg  Cayman Islands Nopolice certificateNoNoNoNoNo
Flag of the Turks and Caicos Islands.svg  Turks and Caicos Islands Nopolice certificateNoNoNoNoNo
Flag of Hong Kong.svg  Hong Kong NoNoNoYes [lower-alpha 6] Yes [lower-alpha 6] NoNo
Flag of Malaysia.svg  Malaysia NoNoNoYesYesNoNo
Flag of Nauru.svg  Nauru NoNoNoYesYesNoNo
Flag of Papua New Guinea.svg  Papua New Guinea NoNoNoYesYesNoNo
Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg  China NoNoNoNoYesNoNo
Flag of Israel.svg  Israel NoNoNoNoNoYesOK board
  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Holders of Taiwan passports containing a National ID number only.
  2. 1 2 Must also hold a National ID card or ESTA.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 British citizens only.
  4. 1 2 British citizens, and British Nationals (Overseas) holding a Hong Kong Permanent Identity Card.
  5. 1 2 According to the American Samoa Visitors Bureau, but not listed by the Department of Legal Affairs of American Samoa.
  6. 1 2 Must also hold a Hong Kong Permanent Identity Card.

Visa or entry refused to nationals of certain countries

Visa and entry refused

Currently there are several restrictions in place regarding visa issuance as per Executive Order 13780, titled Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States. It was initially adopted on March 6, 2017, and revised by Presidential Proclamation 9645 on September 24, 2017 and Presidential Proclamation 9723 on April 10, 2018 and Presidential Proclamation on January 31, 2020. [69] However court rulings prohibited some of its key provisions from being enforced. The Supreme Court of the United States upheld the most recent version of the travel ban on June 26, 2018. [70] It superseded the previous Executive Order 13769.

CitationCountryRestrictionsStatus
2(a)(ii)Flag of Chad.svg  Chad
is suspended
Ban lifted on April 10, 2018 [71]
2(b)(ii)Flag of Iran.svg  Iran
  • Entry of all Iranian nationals is suspended, except F, M, and J visas [72]
Active
2(c)(ii)Flag of Libya.svg  Libya Active
2(d)(ii)Flag of North Korea.svg  North Korea
  • Entry of all North Korean nationals is suspended
Active
2(e)(ii)Flag of Syria.svg  Syria
  • Entry of all Syrian nationals, immigrant or non-immigrant, is suspended
Active
2(f)(ii)Flag of Venezuela.svg  Venezuela
  • Entry of officials of these Venezuelan government departments:
    • Ministry of Interior, Justice and Peace
    • Administrative Service of Identification, Migration, and Immigration
    • Scientific, Penal, and Criminal Investigation Service Corps
    • National Intelligence Service
    • Ministry of the Popular Power for Foreign Relations

and their immediate family members as non-immigrants on:

Active
2(g)(ii)Flag of Yemen.svg  Yemen Active
2(h)(ii)Flag of Somalia.svg  Somalia
  • Entry of all Somali nationals as immigrants is suspended
  • Decisions about entry and visa adjudications for Somali nationals as non-immigrants will be further scrutinized to see if the person is connected to terrorist groups
Active
Flag of Myanmar.svg  Myanmar
  • Entry of all Myanmar nationals as immigrants is suspended
  • Does not apply to Special Immigrants whose eligibility is based on having provided assistance to the United States Government.
Active
Flag of Eritrea.svg  Eritrea
  • Entry of all Eritrean nationals as immigrants is suspended
  • Does not apply to Special Immigrants whose eligibility is based on having provided assistance to the United States Government.
Active
Flag of Kyrgyzstan.svg  Kyrgyzstan
  • Entry of all Kyrgyzstani nationals as immigrants is suspended
  • Does not apply to Special Immigrants whose eligibility is based on having provided assistance to the United States Government.
Active
Flag of Nigeria.svg  Nigeria
  • Entry of Nigerian nationals as immigrants is suspended
  • Does not apply to Special Immigrants whose eligibility is based on having provided assistance to the United States Government.
Active
Flag of Sudan.svg  Sudan
  • Entry of Sudanese nationals as Diversity Immigrants is suspended
Active
Flag of Tanzania.svg  Tanzania
  • Entry of all Tanzanian nationals as Diversity Immigrants is suspended
Active

The order does not apply to international travelers from the named countries who are: [73]

CitationIndividual Exceptions listed in Executive Order 13780
3(a)(i)Any foreign national who is inside the United States on the effective date of this order.
3(a)(ii)Any foreign national who had a valid visa at 5:00 p.m., eastern standard time on January 27, 2017.
3(a)(iii)Any foreign national who had a valid visa on the effective date of this order.
3(b)(i)Any lawful permanent resident of the United States.
3(b)(ii)Any foreign national who is admitted to or paroled into the United States on or after the effective date of this order.
3(b)(iii)Any foreign national who has a document other than a visa, valid on the effective date of this order or issued on any date thereafter, that permits him or her to travel to the United States and seek entry or admission, such as an advance parole document.
3(b)(iv)Any dual national of a country designated under section 2 of this order when the individual is traveling on a passport issued by a non-designated country.
3(b)(v)Any foreign national traveling on a diplomatic or diplomatic-type visa, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visa, C-2 visa for travel to the United Nations, or G-1, G-2, G-3, or G-4 visa.
3(b)(vi)Any foreign national who has been granted asylum.
3(b)(vi)Any refugee who has already been admitted to the United States.
3(b)(vi)Any individual who has been granted withholding of removal, advance parole, or protection under the Convention Against Torture.

The order allows exceptions to the entry ban to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis for the DHS and the Department of State to issue waivers or approval of a visa for travelers from the countries of concern stated in the order. The order allows case-by-case waivers if: [73]

CitationCase-by-Case Exceptions listed in Executive Order 13780
3(c)(i)The foreign national has previously been admitted to the United States for a continuous period of work, study, or other long-term activity, is outside the United States on the effective date of this order, seeks to reenter the United States to resume that activity, and the denial of reentry during the suspension period would impair that activity.
3(c)(ii)The foreign national has previously established significant contacts with the United States but is outside the United States on the effective date of this order for work, study, or other lawful activity.
3(c)(iii)The foreign national seeks to enter the United States for significant business or professional obligations and the denial of entry during the suspension period would impair those obligations.
3(c)(iv)The foreign national seeks to enter the United States to visit or reside with a close family member (e.g., a spouse, child, or parent) who is a United States citizen, lawful permanent resident, or alien lawfully admitted on a valid nonimmigrant visa, and the denial of entry during the suspension period would cause undue hardship.
3(c)(v)The foreign national is an infant, a young child or adoptee, an individual needing urgent medical care, or someone whose entry is otherwise justified by the special circumstances of the case.
3(c)(vi)The foreign national has been employed by, or on behalf of, the United States Government (or is an eligible dependent of such an employee) and the employee can document that he or she has provided faithful and valuable service to the United States Government.
3(c)(vii)The foreign national is traveling for purposes related to an international organization designated under the International Organizations Immunities Act (IOIA), 22 U.S.C.   § 288, traveling for purposes of conducting meetings or business with the United States Government, or traveling to conduct business on behalf of an international organization not designated under the IOIA.
3(c)(viii)The foreign national is a landed immigrant of Canada who applies for a visa at a location within Canada.
3(c)(ix)The foreign national is traveling as a United States Government-sponsored exchange visitor.

Visa issuance restricted

Effective September 13, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security announced that the State Department would stop issuing certain visas at its consular offices in the following countries due to the lack of cooperation on removal matters: [74]

Effective July 9, 2018, similar sanctions were introduced for the following categories: [77]

Effective January 24, 2020, B visas will not be issued to individuals who intend to visit the United States for the purpose of giving birth. [78] It is permissible for a B-visa applicant to intend to visit the United States in order to obtain other medical treatment as long as the applicant demonstrates their arrangements for medical treatment and sufficiently establishes their ability to pay for the medical treatment. [78]

Lifted restrictions

Effective January 31, 2019 similar sanctions were introduced regarding issuance of all non-immigrant visas to domestic employees (A-3 and G-5) of Ghanaian diplomats posted in the United States and the validity period and number of entries on new tourist and business visas for all Ghanaian executive and legislative branch employees, their spouses, and their children under 21 to one-month, single-entry visas. [79] These restrictions ended on January 17, 2020. [80]

Outlying islands

Visits to the United States Minor Outlying IslandsBaker Island, [81] [82] Howland Island, [83] [84] Jarvis Island, [85] [86] Johnston Atoll, [87] [88] Kingman Reef, [89] [90] Midway Atoll, [91] [92] Palmyra Atoll, [93] [94] Wake Island [95] and Navassa Island [96] – are severely restricted. Most of the islands are closed off, and prospective visitors require special permits, usually from the US Army.

Qualification process

The typical process for issuing a United States visa, possibly including a Visas Mantis check Visas Mantis.png
The typical process for issuing a United States visa, possibly including a Visas Mantis check

Applicants for visitor visas must show that they qualify under provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The presumption in the law is that every nonimmigrant visa applicant (except certain employment-related applicants, who are exempt) is an intending immigrant unless otherwise proven. Therefore, applicants for most nonimmigrant visas must overcome this presumption by demonstrating that:

All visit, business, transit, student, and exchange visitor visa applicants must pay a US$160 application fee (up from $140 as of April 2012) to a US Consulate in order to be interviewed by a Consular Officer who will determine if the applicant is qualified to receive a visa to travel to the U.S (additionally, the officer may also ask the United States Department of State for a Security Advisory Opinion, which can take several weeks to resolve). The application fee is increased to $190 for most work visas (up from $150 as of April 2012) and can be even higher for certain categories. If the applicant is rejected, the application fee is not refunded. Amongst the items included in the qualification decision are financial independence, adequate employment, material assets and a lack of a criminal record in the applicant's native country.

Visitor visa statistics

United States
Visa-exempt nationalities
Issued B-1,2 visas in fiscal 2017:
Over 400 thousand
Over 100 thousand
Over 50 thousand
Over 25 thousand
Over 10 thousand
Over 5 thousand
Under 5 thousand Issued B-1,2 visas.png
  United States
  Visa-exempt nationalities
Issued B-1,2 visas in fiscal 2017:
Over 400 thousandOver 100 thousandOver 50 thousandOver 25 thousandOver 10 thousandOver 5 thousandUnder 5 thousand

In fiscal 2017 most B-1,2 visas were issued to the nationals of the following countries (listed over 40,000 visas): [97]

In fiscal 2014 the most common reasons to refuse a visa were cited as "failure to establish entitlement to nonimmigrant status", "incompatible application" (most overcome), "unlawful presence", "misrepresentation", "criminal convictions", "smugglers" and "controlled substance violators". Smaller number of applications were rejected for "physical or mental disorder", "prostitution", "espionage", "terrorist activities", "falsely claiming citizenship" and other grounds for refusal including "presidential proclamation", "money laundering", "communicable disease" and "commission of acts of torture or extrajudicial killings". [101]

Admission statistics

United States
Number of non-immigrant admissions for tourist and business purposes into the United States in fiscal year 2017:
Over 2 million
Over 1 million
Over 500 thousand
Over 250 thousand
Over 100 thousand
Over 15 thousand
Under 15 thousand Admission USA 2017.png
  United States
Number of non-immigrant admissions for tourist and business purposes into the United States in fiscal year 2017:
Over 2 millionOver 1 millionOver 500 thousandOver 250 thousandOver 100 thousandOver 15 thousandUnder 15 thousand

The highest number of non-immigrant admissions for tourists and for business purposes into the United States in fiscal year 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 was from the following countries (listed over 700,000 admissions): [102] [103] [104] [105]

CountryFY 2017FY2016FY2015FY 2014
Flag of Mexico.svg  Mexico
Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom [106]
Flag of Japan.svg  Japan
Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg  China [107]
Flag of South Korea.svg  South Korea
Flag of Germany.svg  Germany
Flag of Brazil.svg  Brazil
Flag of France.svg  France [108]
Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia [109]
Flag of Italy.svg  Italy
Flag of India.svg  India
Flag of Argentina.svg  Argentina
Flag of Spain.svg  Spain
Flag of Colombia.svg  Colombia
Flag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands [110]
Total (worldwide)

Classes of visas

Nonimmigrant visas

A visa

A visas are issued to representatives of a foreign government traveling to the United States to engage in official activities for that government. A visas are granted to foreign government ambassadors, ministers, diplomats, as well as other foreign government officials or employees traveling on official business (A-1 visa). Certain foreign officials require an A visa regardless of the purpose of their trip. The A visa is also granted to immediate family members of such foreign government officials, defined as "the principal applicant's spouse and unmarried sons and daughters of any age who are not members of some other household and who will reside regularly in the household of the principal alien" (A-2 Visa) and which "may also include close relatives of the principal alien or spouse who are related by blood, marriage, or adoption who are not members of some other household; who will reside regularly in the household of the principal alien; and who are recognized as dependents by the sending government (A-3 Visa). [114]

B-1 and B-2

The most common non-immigrant visa is the multiple-purpose B-1/B-2 visa, also known as the "visa for temporary visitors for business or pleasure." Visa applicants sometimes receive either a B-1 (temporary visitor for business) or a B-2 (temporary visitor for pleasure) visa, if their reason for travel is specific enough that the consular officer does not feel they qualify for combined B-1/B-2 status. [115] Holders may also attend short non-credit courses. Mexican citizens are eligible for Border Crossing Cards. [116]

From November 29, 2016, all holders of Chinese passports who also hold 10-year B visas are required to enroll in the Electronic Visa Update System (EVUS) before traveling to the United States. This requirement may be extended to other nationalities in the future. [117] [118]

Validity period
United States
US visa validity period (maximum available for B-1/B-2 type, per country):
10 years
5 years
2-4 years
1 year
3-6 months US visa validity period.png
  United States
US visa validity period (maximum available for B-1/B-2 type, per country):
10 years5 years2–4 years1 year3–6 months
Adjusted visa refusal rate
United States
Visa-exempt countries
US B visa refusal rate in 2019, over:
Under 3%
3%
5%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50% US visa refusal rate.png
  United States
  Visa-exempt countries
US B visa refusal rate in 2019, over:
Under 3%3%5%10%20%30%40%50%

The Adjusted Refusal Rate is based on the refusal rate of B visa applications. B visas are adjudicated based on applicant interviews; the interviews generally last between 60 and 90 seconds. [121] Due to time constraints, adjudicators profile applicants. [121] Certain demographics, such as young adults who are single and unemployed, almost never receive visas, unless they articulate a compelling reason. [121] Adjudicators are evaluated on how fast they carry out interviews, not the quality of adjudication decisions. [122] The validity of B visa decisions is not evaluated. [122]

To qualify for the Visa Waiver Program, a country must have had a nonimmigrant visa refusal rate of less than 3% for the previous year or an average of no more than 2% over the past two fiscal years with neither year going above 2.5%. [123] In addition, the country must provide visa-free access to United States citizens and has to be either an independent country or a dependency of a VWP country (which has precluded Hong Kong and Macau from participating in the program). (Until April 4, 2016, Argentina charged $160 to U.S. citizens to enter.)

The Adjusted Visa Refusal Rates for B visas were as follows:

  1. "Non-nationality based issuances" includes individuals presenting travel documents issued by a competent authority other than their country of nationality, including, for example, aliens traveling on a Laissez-Passer issued by the United Nations and refugees residing in another country.
Overstay rate

A number of visitors overstay the maximum period of allowed stay on their B-1/B-2 status after entered the U.S. on their B-1/B-2 visas. The Department of Homeland Security publishes annual reports that list the number of violations by passengers who arrive via air and sea. The table below excludes statistics on persons who left the United States later than their allowed stay or legalized their status and shows only suspected overstays who remained in the country.

The top 20 nationalities by the number of suspected in-country B-1/B-2 overstays in 2016 and 2017 were: [131] [132]

The top 10 nationalities by in-country B-1/B-2 visa overstay rate are: [131] [132]

Use for other countries

US tourist visas that are valid for further travel are accepted as substitute visas for national visas in the following territories:

  • Flag of Albania.svg  Albania – 90 days
  • Flag of Antigua and Barbuda.svg  Antigua and Barbuda – 30 days; USD 100 visa waiver fee applies
  • Flag of Argentina.svg  Argentina – 90 days; 71 countries
  • Flag of Belize.svg  Belize — 30 days; USD 50 visa waiver fee applies.
  • Flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina.svg  Bosnia and Herzegovina — 30 days
  • Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada — up to 6 months; only citizens of Flag of Brazil.svg  Brazil may apply the Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) for visa-free visit or transit (arriving by air).
  • Flag of Chile.svg  Chile — 90 days; for nationals of China only.
  • Flag of Colombia.svg  Colombia — 90 days; for nationals of China, India, Thailand, and Vietnam.
  • Flag of Costa Rica.svg  Costa Rica — 30 days or less if the visa is about to expire; must hold a multiple-entry visa.
  • Flag of the Dominican Republic.svg  Dominican Republic — 90 days;
  • Flag of El Salvador.svg  El Salvador — 90 days; not applicable to all nationalities.
  • Flag of Georgia.svg  Georgia — 90 days within any 180-day period;
  • Flag of Guatemala.svg  Guatemala — 90 days; not applicable to all nationalities.
  • Flag of Honduras (darker variant).svg  Honduras — 90 days; not applicable to all nationalities.
  • Flag of Jamaica.svg  Jamaica — 30 days; not applicable to all nationalities.
  • Flag of Mexico.svg  Mexico — 180 days; [133] [134]
  • Flag of Montenegro.svg  Montenegro — 30 days;
  • Flag of Nicaragua.svg  Nicaragua — 90 days; not applicable to all nationalities.
  • Flag of North Macedonia.svg  North Macedonia — 15 days;
  • Flag of Oman.svg  Oman — Indian nationals can obtain a visa on arrival to Oman if holding a valid US visa. [135]
  • Flag of Panama.svg  Panama — 30/180 days; visa must be multiple-entry; visa must have a validity of at least 6 months after date of arrival in Panama; visa must have been used at least once prior to arriving in Panama.
  • Flag of Peru.svg  Peru — 180 days; for nationals of China and India only. [136]
  • Flag of the Philippines.svg  Philippines — 7 days for nationals of China and 14 days for nationals India only.
  • Flag of Sao Tome and Principe.svg  Sao Tome and Principe — 15 days;
  • Flag of Serbia.svg  Serbia — 90 days;
  • Flag of the Republic of China.svg  Taiwan — certain nationalities can obtain an online travel authority if holding a valid US visa.
  • Flag of Turkey.svg  Turkey — certain nationalities can obtain an electronic Turkish visa if holding a valid US visa.
  • Flag of the United Arab Emirates.svg  United Arab Emirates — Indian nationals can obtain a 14-day visit visa to UAE upon arrival if holding a US visa or green card that is valid for at least 6 months. [137]
  • Flag of Qatar.svg  Qatar — citizens of all nationalities who hold valid USA visa can obtain an Electronic Travel Authorization for up to 30 days. The visa may be extended online for 30 additional days

C (visa)

The C-1 visa is a transit visa issued to individuals who are traveling in "immediate and continuous transit through the United States en-route to another country". The only reason to enter the United States must be for transit purposes. A subtype C-2 visa is issued to diplomats transiting to and from the Headquarters of the United Nations and is limited to the vicinity of New York City. A subtype C-3 visa is issued to diplomats and their dependents transiting to and from their posted country. [138]

D visa

D visa is issued to crew members of sea-vessels and international airlines in the United States. This includes commercial airline pilots and flight attendants, captain, engineer, or deckhand of a sea vessel, service staff on a cruise ship and trainees on board a training vessel. Usually a combination of a C-1 visa and D visa is required. [139]

E visa

Treaty Trader (E-1 visa) and Treaty Investor (E-2 visa) visas are issued to citizens of countries that have signed treaties of commerce and navigation with the United States.