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Visa Information for Travelers to the United States of America

This page is intended to provide general information to individuals planning to visit the United States temporarily. The purpose of the visit determines what type of visa will be needed. Visitors planning to visit or attend a meeting most likely will apply for a B-1 visa.  For comprehensive B-1 Visa information please visit the US State Department’s Visitor Visa Website.
Visa Waiver Program
Foreign citizens traveling for visitor visa purposes only, from certain eligible countries may be able to visit the U.S. without a visa, through the Visa Waiver Program if they meet requirements, including having a valid Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) approval.

Citizens of Mexico traveling to the US have the option to secure a Border Crossing Card rather than a B-1 visa. Additionally, citizens of Canada and Bermuda traveling for visitor visa purposes do not need a visa, with some exceptions.
Currently, 36 countries participate in the Visa Waiver Program, as shown below:

Andorra

Hungary

New Zealand

Australia

Iceland

Norway

Austria

Ireland

Portugal

Belgium

Italy

San Marino

Brunei

Japan

Singapore

Czech Republic

Latvia

Slovakia

Denmark

Liechtenstein

Slovenia

Estonia

Lithuania

South Korea

Finland

Luxembourg

Spain

France

Malta

Sweden

Germany

Monaco

Switzerland

Greece

the Netherlands

United Kingdom

Applying for a US Visa
Applicants for visitor visas should generally apply the U.S. Embassy or Consulate with jurisdiction over their place of permanent residence. Although visa applicants may apply at any U.S. consular office abroad, it may be more difficult to qualify for the visa outside the country of permanent residence. Visa applications are now subject to a greater degree of review than in the past so it is important to apply for your visa well in advance of your travel departure date.

As part of the visa application process, an interview at the embassy consular section is required for visa applicants from age 14 through 79, with few exceptions. Persons age 13 and younger, and age 80 and older, generally do not require an interview, unless requested by embassy or consulate. Making your appointment for an interview is the first step in the visa application process. The waiting time for an interview appointment for applicants can vary, so early visa application is strongly encouraged. Visa wait times for interview appointments and visa processing time information for each U.S. Embassy or Consulate worldwide is available on our website at Visa Wait Times , and on most embassy websites. Learn how to schedule an appointment for an interview, pay the application processing fee, review embassy specific instructions, and much more by visiting the U.S. Embassy or Consulate website where you will apply.

During the visa application process, usually at the interview, an ink-free, digital fingerprint scan will be quickly taken. Some visa applications require further administrative processing , which takes additional time after the visa applicant’s interview by a Consular Officer.

Required Documentation
Each applicant for a visitor visa must submit these forms and documentation as explained below:

  • Online Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application, Form DS-160. Visit our DS-160 webpage to learn more about the DS-160 online process.
  • A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a valid date at least six months beyond the applicant's intended period of stay in the United States (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions). If more than one person is included in the passport, each person desiring a visa must make an application;
  • One (1) 2x2 photograph. See the required photo format explained in Nonimmigrant Photograph Requirements.

Tips for Successful Visa Applications

  • Visa applicants are expected to provide evidence that they are intending to return to their country of residence. Therefore, applicants should provide proof of “binding” or sufficient ties to their residence abroad. This includes documentation of:
         - family ties in home country or country of legal permanent residence
         - property ownership
         - bank accounts
         - employment contract or statement from employer showing that position will continue
             after the visit to the United States.
  • Visa applications are more likely to be successful if done in a visitor’s home country than in a third country;
  • Applicants should present their entire trip itinerary, including travel to any countries other than the United States, at the time of their visa application;
  • Include a letter of invitation from the meeting organizer or the U.S. host, specifying the subject, location and dates of the activity.
    Click Here to Request a Letter of Invitation for ACES Ecosystem Markets 2012 
  • Provide specifics on how travel and local expenses will be covered.
  • If completion of travel plans is contingent upon early approval of the visa application, specify this at the time of the application;
  • Provide proof of professional scientific and/or educational status (students should provide a university transcript);

Required Visa Fees

  • Nonimmigrant visa application processing fee - For current fees for Department of State government services click here. You will need to provide a receipt showing the visa application processing fee has been paid, when you come for your visa interview.
  • Visa issuance fee – Additionally, if the visa is issued, there will be an additional visa issuance reciprocity fee, if applicable. Please consult the Visa Reciprocity Tables to find out if you must pay a visa issuance reciprocity fee and what the fee amount is.

Visa Denials
If the consular officer should find it necessary to deny the issuance of a visitor visa, the applicant may apply again if there is new evidence to overcome the basis for the refusal. For additional information, click here to learn more. In the absence of new evidence, consular officers are not obliged to re-examine such cases.

Entering the U.S. - Port of Entry
A visa allows a foreign citizen coming from abroad, to travel to the United States port-of entry and request permission to enter the U.S. Applicants should be aware that a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. The Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have authority to permit or deny admission to the United States. If you are allowed to enter the U.S., the CBP official will determine the length of your visit on the Arrival-Departure Record (Form I-94). Since Form I-94 documents your authorized stay in the U.S., it’s very important to keep in your passport. In advance of travel, prospective travelers should review important information about Admissions/Entry requirements, as well as information related to restrictions about bringing food, agricultural products or other restricted/prohibited goods explained on the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection website. Upon arrival (at an international airport, seaport or land border crossing), you will be enrolled in the US-VISIT entry-exit program. In addition, some travelers will also need to register their entry into and their departure from the U.S. with the National Security Exit Entry Registration System (NSEERS), also referred to as Special Registration program. 1

Additional Information

Health Insurance. Medical care in the United States can be very expensive. All visitors should carry adequate health insurance valid for the duration of their stay in the United States.

Driving in the United States. Visitors who wish to rent cars must have a major credit card and a valid driver’s license from their own country. In some cases, an international driver’s license may be required. Contact the car rental company directly for specific information.

Required Change of Address Notice. Visitors staying in the United States longer than six months must notify the U.S. government of any change in their residential address within ten 10) days or face serious consequences. Address notification should be made directly to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) using their required form.

Registration. Federal law requires that all non-U.S. citizens carry evidence of their lawful status with them at all times. This is especially important for all travel, international or domestic. It is advisable to keep copies of all pages of the passport, visa, I-94 Arrival-Departure card, and supporting documents such as DS-2019 forms, in a safe place in case of loss of the original documents.

 
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