is a legal document letting you legally enter the United States to live,
work, and/or visit.
A visa cannot be applied for within U.S. borders. You must apply for
a visa from the U.S. consulate in your home country. However,
you may apply for a non-immigrant or immigrant status
within the U.S.
main categories of visas are:
Visas (e.g. "green cards", refugee "white"
you stay in the U.S. permanently, work in the U.S. and travel in and
out of the U.S. as often as you like.
("Temporary") Visas let you work and or visit the U.S.
for a specific period of time, with the assumption that you will return
to your home country when the visa expires. Examples
include (links to immigration law website, Immigralaw.com):
professional work visas
visas executive transfer visas
and B-2 business travel and tourist visitor visas
and M-1 student visas
exchange visitor visas
religious worker visas
For a complete list of visa types and application
information for them, click here.
visa application process is normally a two-step process, including:
- by a sponsoring U.S. employer or U.S. citizen or green-card holding
long does it take to get a visa? Length of application processing
varies widely among visas, from as soon as one day for certain travel
visas to five to ten years for immigrant visa applicants from certain
countries like China and the Philippines, which are subject to quotas.
Processes the Applications? The U.S.
Department of State processes applications and issues visas.
US Citizenship and Immigration Services
(USCIS) is the regulatory body for U.S. immigration laws and
to Visa Requirements:
Visa Waiver Pilot Program (VWPP) lets citizens of certain countries
travel to the U.S. for short periods of time (up to 90 days, no extensions)
without a visa.
Countries: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei,
Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan,
Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway,
Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland,
United Kingdom, and Uruguay
TN status for Certain Classes of Canadian Workers:
allows the worker to avoid the visa application process by proceeding
directly to a US port of entry and presenting some or all of the following
of Canadian citizenship
proof of your occupation
some cases, copies of diplomas or licenses
of the profession listed under approved positions under NAFTA
Alternative Status for Certain Classes of Mexican workers:
status allows the worker to bypass the second step of the visa process,
the application, and proceed to a US port of entry. However, a labor
certification and approved visa petition are required. Proof of
Mexican citizenship, professional qualifications and job offer letter
from U.S. employer must be presented at the U.S. border
have a firm job offer with a U.S. company
be engaged in a profession requiring a college degree or its equivalent
are attempting to change from one status to another, usually from a
temporary to a permanent resident status, certain limitations will apply
both to your application and to your travel in and out of the U.S. For
example, you may need to apply for "advanced parole" ahead
of your travel date.
Card Lottery ("Diversity Visa Lottery Program"):
the Immigration and Naturalization Service holds a lottery allowing
around 55,000 randomly chosen applicants from around the world to obtain
a visa. The lottery costs a nominal application fee. In order to qualify,
you must be born in a qualifying country and hold a high school diploma
or at least two years of job experience. Winners are notified by mail.
information on applying for the green card lottery, click here.
also call the State Department's Visa Lottery Information Center at
(202) 331-7199 for more information on application deadlines. Please
note: There is a charge for each call. You may also contact your nearest
U.S. Embassy or Consulate. A listing of U.S. Embassies and Consulates
can be found at the U.S. State
ten years after you receive your immigrant visa, you may apply to become
a naturalized citizen, granting you all the rights and privileges of
a U.S. citizen, including the right to vote. (The one exception: you
may not be elected President or Vice-President of the U.S.) To receive
your citizenship, you must take a test featuring questions about U.S.
history, government and laws. For eligibility requirements and sample
test questions, click here to the USCIS
number of U.S. visas allotted per country per year. Some types of visas
don't have quotas. For a list of quotas and waiting periods for different
types of visas, visit the quota
page on the Immigralaw.com
immigration law website.
are illegally in the U.S. or are convicted of a crime while holding
a visa, your legal immigrant status may be taken away and you may be
sent back to your home country.
a status if you have applied for and received permission to live or
work in the U.S. from a local immigration office within U.S. borders.
A status does not grant you a visa, which allows you to exit and re-enter
the U.S. However, if your application is approved for permanent residency
("green card") status you will be allowed to travel outside
the US and return as often as you like.