A complete guide to US Visas

Who needs a US visa?

All people who intend to travel to the United States must apply for a  visa, excluding nationals of VWP (Visa Waiver Program) countries. Under the VWP, citizens of about 39 countries can travel to the US for up to 90 days for recreation or business without a visa. Otherwise, everyone will need an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa to enter the US. “Requirements of the US Visa Waiver Program” explains all you need to know about this visa exemption.

 

What are the requirements for applying for a US visa?

Once you have determined the type of your visa based on the purpose of the trip, you must prepare the requirements of US visas. The following must be provided for most US visas:

1. Online application form or DS-160: You can download this form here. DS-160 Form is an online application form that has many options regarding the purposes of people traveling to the US.

2. A valid passport: Your passport validity should be at least six months from the expiration date of your visa.

3. Applicant’s photo: The photo must be uploaded along with the online application form. It is recommended that you bring a photo with you on the day of the interview. the specifications of an acceptable photo are:

    • Its size should be two by two inches
    • In color
    • No shadows
    • Taken over the last six months
    • Both eyes should be open
    • Without any worn eyeglasses or electronic devices

For more information on visa photo specifications, refer to “What are the US Visa Photo Requirements?”.

4. Visa Application Fee Receipt: For most US visas, the applicant must pay $ 160 as a visa application fee. Your documents will not be processed without paying this fee. Keep in mind that this fee is non-refundable. “US Visa Application Fee for Immigrant and Nonimmigrant visas” explains how much to pay based on the type of visa.

5. Social Media Information: A list of social media you use, your account name, email address, and history of your activity within the last five years must be provided.

6. Previous US visas: If you have previously traveled to the United States, you must bring your old passport with you on the day of the interview.

7. Travel itinerary: This travel plan can include flight reservation documents, entry, and exit dates in the United States.

8. Invitation letter: The invitation letter is written by a US citizen or a person who has a legal residence permit in the US and shows that they are willing to accept you.

9. Sponsorship documents: If you intend to travel to the US and sponsored by another person,  the sponsor must provide the following documents:

    • Affidavit letter: This letter indicates that the sponsor can financially support you in the United States.
    • Employment letter: This letter shows the sponsor is employed and how much salary he receives.
    • Payslips: it shows the amount paid in the last three months.
    • Bank statement: The letter shows the open date of the account and the total amount of money deposited in the past year.

“USA Visa Sponsorship for employment” explains in detail all the requirements related to this process.

10. Property documents: Applicants for US immigrant visas must prove that they do not intend to reside permanently in the United States and return home. For this purpose, they can provide a list of the documents of their properties and assets.

11. Employment documents: Employees must provide the following documents:

    • If you retire, you must submit a pension book.
    • A letter of the employer about your job position, length of employment and your purpose for traveling to the United States
    • In the case of self-employment, the company registration certificate and income details must be provided.

12. Family documents: documents such as birth certificate, marriage certificate, close family photographs, adoption certificate, divorce certificate, spouse’s death certificate, etc.

13. Medical exam: Applicants for all types of US visas must go to a physician approved by the embassy in their home country for a medical examination.

14. Documents for student US visas: An educational institution (under the Student Exchange Visitor Program) must first admit people who want to study in the United States. They also pay for the SEVIS I-901.

15. Documents for employment US visa: Depending on the type of work visa, different documents must be provided. Some of the standard documents are:

  • Your CV
  • Job offer
  • Degrees such as bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees
  • A letter from a previous employer
  • Evidence of extraordinary abilities
  • Pay additional fees

 

Keep in mind that all your documents must be in English. If translated, the documents must be translated by a competent translator. The complete list of US visa requirements is explained in another section.

 

What is the US visa application process?

  1. In the process of applying for a variety of US visas, the online application form must first be completed. The visa application fee must also be paid.
  2. In the next step, you must prepare the necessary documents based on your visa type. We have explained some of the documents that are usually needed in the previous section.
  3. Participating in an interview is part of the pre-visa process. All US visa applicants between the ages of 14 and 79 must attend an interview at the embassy. “How to be prepared for an interview?” explains some of the frequently asked questions in most interviews.
  4. In the last step, you have to wait for the processing documents and the visa to be issued. “How long does it take to obtain a US visa?” describes the processing time for most US immigrant visas.

“US Visa Application Process” explains in detail all the information related to this process.

 

What is the difference between US immigrant and non-immigrant visas?

Types of US visas fall into two categories: immigrant and non-immigrant. The main difference between US immigrant and non-immigrant visas is the length of stay. Nonimmigrant US visas are temporary visas, and after expiration, the holder must return to his or her home country immediately.

Immigrant visas or US Green Cards do not need to be renewed and are permanent. Holders of these visas can live and work in the United States as long as they wish.

 

How to renew a US visa?

If your visa expires, you can renew it. The US visa renewal process is similar to the visa application process. The date of issuance and expiration of US visas will be stamped on your passport. The application process for a US visa extension is done in two steps:

  • First step: you need to make all necessary payments depending on your visa type. Further processing will not be done if you do not pay the fees.
  • Second step: the online application form DS-160 must be filled out. When the form is completed, a confirmation page and a number will appear that you must save.
  • Third step: you must provide all the requirements.
  • Fourth step: you have to schedule an interview appointment and attend it.

“An Instruction on How to Renew your US visa” described the visa extension process in detail.

 

Can the US visa holders bring their spouse, children, and parents to the United States?

All US visas allow you to bring your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 18 or 21.

Most US visas do not allow you to bring your parents to this country except holders of Immediate Relative or Family-Based Immigrant Visas visas. For more information on the terms of these visas, read, “All you need to know about the US family-based visa program”.

 

How do I get US citizenship?

The US citizenship application process is long. If you have a US nonimmigrant visa, it is a bit difficult to get permanent residency. You must first change your nonimmigrant visa to an immigrant visa. Some US nonimmigrant visas, such as the H1B, are dual intent. This means that you can change the status of your visa to an immigrant visa. You can apply for US citizenship five years after receiving your US immigration visa.

For information on dual intent visas such as the H1B, refer ” All You Need to Know About Employment H1B visa”.

 

What are the types of US visas?

The types of US visas are divided into the following two categories:

  • Non-immigrant visas
  • Immigration visas

 

US nonimmigrant visas include

1. Visas for visitors:

All persons seeking temporary residence in the US to engage in activities such as business negotiations must apply for these visas except those from the member countries of the Visa Waiver Program. The types of US visitor visas are:

  • B-1: for business visitors and people who want to participate in some conferences and events
  • B-2: for medical treatment, tourism, family meeting, and attendance at non-business events
  • Combination of B-1 and B-2: for those who want to do a combination of the mentioned activities

To learn more about the requirements of these visas please visit ” B visas (B1, B2, B1/B2) for foreign tourists”.

 

2. Student visas:

International students who intend to study in US educational institutions must apply for one of these visas:

 

  • F-1 visa: It covers university, college, high school, private elementary school, seminary, conservatory, and some academic institutions. If you receive admission from one of these institutions, you can apply for the F-1 visa. For information on the visa application process, you can read ” What is an F1 student visa, Requirements, Interview Questions & more”.
  • M-1 visa: This visa is issued to those who want to participate in vocational programs in the United States. “All the students need to know about the USA M1 Visa” explains the requirements and application process of this visa.

 

3. Visa for those looking for temporary work in the US:

Various visas are issued for this purpose in the US. Some of the most common temporary work visas in the United States are:

  • CW-1visa:  This visa is a temporary permit to work in the US from the Northern Mariana Islands. For more information on this visa, read “Comprehensive guidance about all types of CW visas.”
  • H1B visa: By this visa, companies can hire people who have a university degree for certain professions. Due to this, it is also known as a Person in Specialty Occupation Visa. In “All You Need to Know About Employment H1B visa”, you can find out more about the conditions of this visa.
  • H1B1 visa: In 2004, the US government joined the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Chile and Singapore. Under this agreement, Chile and Singapore citizens are qualified to apply for employment in the US by this visa. The application process and other details are explained: ” All you need to know about the US H1B1 visa”.
  • H1C visa: H1C is a type of nonimmigrant visa defined for foreign nurses entering the US. “Is there an H1C visa for nurses?”  answers your questions about the requirements of this visa.
  • H2A Visa: This visa is defined for workers who work temporarily or seasonally in agricultural jobs. Seasonal workers are those who farm only a certain period of the year. A complete guide to the latest H2A work visa status is provided to answer your questions about this work visa.
  • H2B visa: This visa is a kind of work permit for temporary workers in fields other than agriculture. The US government allows employers to hire foreign workers if they can demonstrate their temporary need for employment and if they cannot find the worker they want in the US. Requirements, Processing Time, Sponsors, and other details of H2B visa has been explained.
  • US H3 visa: This visa is dedicated to foreign nationals who intend to travel to the United States to take a training course. Refer to the “US H3 visa for trainees” for more information on the visa requirements.
  • L-1 visa: The US L1 visa is a temporary work permit for temporary intracompany transferees. This visa is issued to those who work in managerial positions or have specialized knowledge. Processing time, requirements, and other details regarding this visa have been explained.
  • O-1 visa: The US O1 visa is defined for those who have extraordinary abilities in science, art, education, business, athletics, television industry, and motion picture. ” Who is eligible for the US O1 visa” describes the requirements of this visa.
  • O-2 visa: This visa is issued to people accompanying the holders of the O-1 visa. Requirements, the application process, fees, renewal, and other issues related to this visa are described in “All you need to know about the US O2 Visa“.
  • P-1 visa: The visa is issued to athletes who intend to participate in sports programs in the United States to enhance their athletic performance. Entertainers can also apply for this visa. Application, processing time, and requirements of the P1 visa have been explained in another article.
  • P-2 visa: This is a visa for entertainers and artists coming to the US under a reciprocal exchange program. This program must be begun by an organization in the US or foreign governmental organization.  “How to Obtain a USA Artist Visa?” explains the application procedure of this visa.
  • P-3 visa: The P3 visa is for those coaching individuals or groups in a traditional or unique cultural performance. Requirements and information on this visa are explained in another article.
  • R-1 visa: This visa is for those who are religious workers in the US, and time validity is a maximum period of 5 years. “How To Obtain A USA R1 Visa For Religious Workers?” is provided to answer your questions about this work visa.
  • TN/TD visas: This visa is a kind of interim work authorization for citizens of Mexico and Canada working in NAFTA organization (The North American Free Trade Agreement). Requirements, the application process, fees, renewal, and other issues related to this visa are described in “Who qualifies for a US TN visa?”.
  • E-3 visa: The E-3 visa is dedicated to highly qualified Australian citizens who work in specialty professions. In 2005, the US and Australia joined the Australia – US Free Trade Agreement. Due to the agreement, 10500 E-3 visas are issued through the US to Australian citizens annually. “Requirements on how to apply for the US E visas” explains the details on the application process of this visa.
  • I visa: This visa is for people who work in the foreign media and come to the United States to participate in training courses or professional activities. “Overview of US I Visa for members of foreign media and Journalists” are provided to learn more details about this visa.

 

4. Exchange visitor visa:

  • J1 visa: This visa is specific to people who intend to attend exchange programs that are designed to boost the level of scientific investigations as well as particular proficiencies. Requirements, the application process, and other details regarding this visa have been explained in another article.
  • Q1 visa: This visa helps people to participate in employment and cultural programs held in the United States. Holders of this visa can attend training programs conducted by the employer in the United States. “US Q1 Visa For Participants in Cultural Exchange Programs” describes the requirements and application process of this visa.

 

5. Visa for diplomats and officials:

These visas are issued to foreign officials or people working in certain organizations:

  • A visas: The US diplomatic visa is granted to politicians, ambassadors, government officials as well as their accompanying delegation. “US Type A Visas for Government Officials and their families” explains the details of the categories of this visa.
  • G visas: Employees of international organizations in the US need a special visa called G to travel to this country. Those who work for The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) need to get a NATO visa.  “Employees of international organizations, NATO & their families” explains the details of the categories of this visa.

 

6. Transit visas:

A transit visa is a non-immigrant visa with short validity. You might need a US transit visa to go through the US on the way to another country. The types of US transit visas are:

 

  • C visa: The holder of this visa is permitted to go through the United States to reach his / her second destination country. People who have this visa cannot stay in the US as a tourist. Another permit must be issued for this purpose:
    • C-1: This visa is for ordinary people who want to reach their second destination through the US.
    • C-2 or UN headquarters transit visa: Non-Americans are arriving at the United Nations headquarters in New York or United Nations officials going through the US to reach a final destination.
    • C-3 or foreign government transit visa: Non-US government officials who go through the US to reach the destination country for doing their government-related missions.

“All requirements for US transit visa” explains everything you need to know about transit visas.

  • D visa: Individuals working in commercial sea vessels or international airlines require the US D for a temporary stay in the US. Requirements and the process of applying for this visa are explained in “How to apply for the US D visa?”

 

7. Visas for Treaty Trader and Investor:

The issuance of this visa facilitates the exchange of technology, capital, and trade between the US and some countries, which is divided into two categories:

  • E-1 (Treaty Trader Visa)
  • E-2 (Treaty Investor Visa)

“Requirements on how to apply for the US E visas” explains the details on the application process of this visa.

 

8. Visas for victims of human trafficking and crimes:

  • T visa: This visa is allocated to victims of human trafficking, whether children or adults. The visa holders can apply for some of their relatives, including spouse, offspring with an official birth certificate, parents (if the victim is under 21 years old), and unmarried siblings who must be under 18 years old. “US T Visa (T1 to T5) For Victims of Human Trafficking & Their Family Members” is provided to answer your question regarding this visa.
  • U visa: This visa is similar to a T visa, although there are some differences. The permit is issued to victims of criminal activities who have been exposed to physical and mental trauma during their stay in the US. They can be considered as witnesses to discover the offenders. Everything you need to know about this visa has been explained: “A Complete Guidance on How To Obtain US U Visa?”.

 

9. Dependent visas for family members holding some US nonimmigrant visas:

The holders of US nonimmigrant visas can bring their spouses and unmarried children to the United States through these visas:

  • CW2 visa: This is defined for dependents of CNMI-Only transitional workers. For more information on this visa, read “Comprehensive guidance about all types of CW visas.”
  • F2 visa: Those who come to the US to study with an F-1 visa, can also bring their families to this country under this visa. For information on the visa application process, you can read ” USA F2 visa for dependents of student Visa Holders”.
  • H4 visa: H4 visa is assigned for the spouse and children of H visas holders. To learn more about this visa read “ A complete guide for families and dependent H Visa Holders”.
  • J2 visa: The consular officer issues the J2 nonimmigrant visa to the dependents of J1 exchange visitors. To find out more about the requirements of this visa, refer to “All you need to know about USA J2 Visa“.
  • M2 Visa: The US M2 visa is issued to the spouse and children of persons holding an M1 visa. So if your spouse or parents have an M1 visa, you are eligible for this visa. To learn more about the requirements of these visas please visit “A Complete Instruction for M2 Visa Applicants”.
  • L2 visa: If your spouse or parents have an L1 visa due to an intercompany transfer, you can join them by getting an L2 visa. For more information on this visa, refer “A Complete Instruction For USA L2 Visa Applicants”.
  • O3 visa: The O-3 visa is issued to dependents of people who have an O-1 visa. “US O3 Visa for the Family Members of O1 and O2 Visa Holders” explains the requirements of this visa.
  • P4 visa: People who have P1, P2, and P3 visas are qualified to bring their dependents to the US under a P4 visa. US P4 Visa Requirements and Application Process have been explained. 
  • R2 visa: Spouses and children of R1 visa holders can accompany them by receiving an R2 visa. “US R2 Visa For Spouse & Children of R1 Visa Holders” is provided to answer your question about this visa.

 

10. Family Visa:

  • V visa: If you have a Green Card and your family members have applied for immigration visas, you can bring your family members together under the US V visa. For more information on the requirements of this permission, please read “US V Visa For Family Unity“. 

US immigrant visas include:

1. Family-based immigrant visa:

To apply for this visa, applicants must have a sponsor of their family member who is at least 21 years old and has US citizenship or at least legal permanent residency in this country.  “All you need to know about the US family-based visa program” overviews all visas in this category. The family-based immigrant visa is divided into three main subgroups:

 

  • Immediate Relative:
    • IR1: This visa is issued to the spouse of a person who is a US citizen to obtain a spouse Green Card. All you need to know about this visa has been explained: “Latest Updates on the Marriage Green Card”.
    • IR2: This visa is for single children under 21 years old of legal US citizens. The “Children Green Card for Unmarried Minors Under 21 years old of US Citizens” explains the conditions of this visa.
    • IR3: This visa is for US citizenship holders who intend to adopt a child from another country. The requirements, application process and other details of this visa are described in another article.
    • IR4: This type of family-based immigrant visa is similar to the previous one, but there are some differences. In this type of visa, the adoption process is done in the US rather than in the child’s home country. In “How can parents get US IR4 Visa for their adopted children?” you can find out more about the requirements for obtaining this visa.
    • IR5: This visa is for the parents of persons who live in the United States as a citizen and helps them to reunite in the US. How to obtain the US Parent Visa?” explains all you need to know about this permission.  

 

  • Family Preference:
    • First preference or  F-1: This family-based immigrant visa is for unmarried sons and daughters of US citizens and their young children.
    • Second preference or F-2: This visa is for spouse and children of legal permanent residents and is divided into two categories: F-2A and F-2B.
    • Third preference or F-3: This visa for married children of US citizens and their families (spouses and young children). How to apply for US F3 Visa?” provides some details in this regard.  
    • Fourth preference or F-4: This family-based immigrant visa is for sisters and brothers of American citizens and their families, including spouses and young children. The Complete Guide On USA F4 Visa” provides all you need to know about this permission. 

 

  • Spouse visas:
    • K-1: This visa is issued to people who are engaged to an American citizen.
    • K-2: The K-2 visa is granted to single children under 21 years old of K-1 visa holders.
    • K-3: This visa has been designed to reduce the period that the married couple is far from each other while they are waiting for their request to be approved.
    • K-4: This visa is granted to unmarried single children under 21 years old of K-3 visa holders.

 

2. Employment-based Immigrant Visas:

People who are permanently seeking work or living in the United States apply for this visa. the types of employment immigrant visas are:

 

  • First priority (Eb-1): This visa provides an opportunity for applicants to achieve academic progress and advanced training. Holders of this visa can apply for US citizenship after a specified period. In “Information on how to apply for US EB1 Visa?” you can find out more about the requirements for obtaining this visa.
  • Second priority (Eb-2): Having this type of employment-based immigrant visa means being allowed to work in the United States permanently. Requirements, Processing Time, Priority Date, and other detail of this visa have been explained in another article.
  • Third priority (Eb-3, EW-3): To get this visa, the applicant must have an occupation offer and meet the requirements needed for the occupation. “USA EB3 Visa for Skilled Workers & Professionals” explains all you need to know about this visa.
  • Fourth priority (Eb-4): This visa is issued to a wide range of workers in different fields. If they can find a permanent job position that is appropriate to their expertise, they can attain this visa. Information on Requirements, Processing time, and other details of this visa has been discussed.
  • Fifth priority (Eb-5): The last priority of the employment-based immigrant visa is assigned to foreign financiers. This visa is divided into five categories:
    • C5 for those who create job opportunities outside of the targeted areas
    • T5 for those who create job opportunities in high unemployment areas
    • R5 for those who are in the Investor Pilot Program not in the target areas
    • I5 for those who are in the Investor Pilot Program in the target areas

For more information on the EB5 visa, visit “US Investment Visa: Requirements, Processing Time, Cost & more”.

 

3. US Permanent Residence By Green Card Lottery:

The diversity visa program known as Green Card Lottery is another procedure of permanent immigration to the United States. This program allows nationals of countries with low immigration rates to the US to apply for residency in this country. US Permanent Residence By Green Card Lottery explains more details about this option.

 

4. US Returning Resident Visa:

This visa (SB visa) is for those who have an immigrant visa or a Green Card. Immigrant visa holders will be eligible for the visa if they travel temporarily to another country but are unable to return to the United States for some reasons beyond their control. If you need to know more read “How To Apply For US Returning Resident Visa?“.  

Comments (4)

  • mari Reply

    I must complete the DS-160 form to obtain a temporary travel visa to the US . Can you guide me to complete the form?

    December 6, 2020 at 12:10 pm
    • support Reply

      Response from Visa Library Support Team:
      Dear friend,
      To complete this form, you can consider the following:
      • Note that the answers you write in this form must match your answers on the interview day.
      • Information such as the date of arrival, departure, and address of your residence place in the United States is necessary to complete the form.
      • The security questions on this form are set in 5 sections. In this section, try to answer the questions as honestly as you can.
      We recommend that you visit this link for more detailed information:
      https://visalibrary.com/north-america/us-visa/us-visa-requirements/

      December 6, 2020 at 12:11 pm
  • justin Reply

    How to travel to the US under a visa waiver program?

    December 7, 2020 at 7:52 am
    • support Reply

      People going to the United States as part of a visa waiver program do not need a travel visa but must obtain an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). These people also need an e-passport. The e-passport is slightly different from the regular passport and has an electronic chip, and is machine-readable. Overall, the experience of traveling under the US Visa Waiver Program can be very pleasant.

      December 7, 2020 at 7:56 am

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