Generally, a citizen of a foreign country who wishes to enter the USA must first obtain a nonimmigrant visa for a temporary stay. The visa allows you to travel to the USA port of entry and request permission of the USA immigration inspector to enter the country. For general information about applying for a visitor visa, including documentation and fee requirements, please visit travel.state.gov. For information on arrival procedures in the USA, including customs requirements, please visit cbp.gov.
Note: As of July 27, the Department of State has made continued progress on restoring our system to full functionality. As we restore our ability to print visas, we are prioritizing immigrant cases, including adoptions visas. System engineers are performing maintenance to address the problems we encountered. As system performance improves, we will continue to process visas at U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide. We are committed to resolving the problem as soon as possible. Additional updates will be posted to travel.state.gov as more information becomes available.
What is a visa?
A visa is permission to apply to enter the USA. A U.S. consular officer will issue a visa after determining that the applicant is eligible to travel to the USA under a particular visa classification.
Who needs a visa?
A visitor (temporary) visa is required of all visitors seeking to enter the USA with the exception of nationals of Canada and countries that are part of the Visa Waiver Programme. Currently, 36 countries participate in the Visa Waiver Programme. For a list of participating countries and additional information on the Visa Waiver Programme, visit travel.state.gov
Applying for a visitor visa
Applicants for visitor visas generally should apply at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate in the country where they live. As part of the visa application process, an interview at the embassy or consulate consular section is required for visa applicants from ages 14-79, with few exceptions. Persons age 13 and younger and age 80 and older do not require an interview, unless the embassy or consulate asks them to be interviewed.
You can complete a U.S. visa application online at travel.state.gov. Once you have completed the application, the next step is to make an appointment for a visa application interview. The wait time for an interview appointment for applicants can vary, so we strongly encourage you to apply as early as possible. Visa wait times for interview appointments and visa processing times for each U.S. embassy or consulate are available at travel.state.gov. To learn how to schedule an appointment for an interview, pay the application processing fee, review embassy specific instructions, and more, please visit the website of the U.S. embassy or consulate where you plan to apply. You can find a list of all U.S. embassy and consulate websites at usembassy.gov
There are different categories of visas that correspond to your purpose of travel, and each one has its own application procedures. If you are travelling to the USA for a reason other than tourism or temporary business—for example, to study or for temporary employment—you will need the correct visa. You can find more information at travel.state.gov
Further visa inquiries
Questions on embassy-specific visa application procedures and questions on visa ineligibilities should be addressed to the U.S. embassy or consulate where you will be applying. Please be sure to check travel.state.gov
, which has complete information about the U.S. visa process. Very often you will find the information you need.
Note: Beginning Wednesday, November 12, most business and tourist visas from China to the United States will be valid for 10 years. Previously valid for one year, Chinese travelers will now be able to make multiple entries for a decade without having to reapply for their visas. The validity period for student visas is also increased from one year to five years. For more information, visit http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/11/10/fact-sheet-supporting-american-job-growth-and-strengthening-ties-extendi.