What is a U.S. Visa?
A citizen of a foreign country who seeks to enter the United States generally must first obtain a U.S. visa, which is placed in the traveler’s passport, a travel document issued by the traveler’s country of citizenship.
Certain international travelers may be eligible to travel to the United States without a visa if they meet the requirements for visa-free travel. The Visa section of this website is all about U.S. visas for foreign citizens to travel to the United States.
(Note: U.S. citizens don’t need a U.S. visa for travel, but when planning travel abroad may need a visa issued by the embassy of the country they wish to visit. In this situation, when planning travel abroad, learn about visa requirements by country, see Country Specific Travel Information in the Passport section of this website.)
How Can I Use a Visa to Enter the United States?
Having a U.S. visa allows you to travel to a port of entry, airport or land border crossing, and request permission of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspector to enter the United States. While having a visa does not guarantee entry to the United States, it does indicate a consular officer at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad has determined you are eligible to seek entry for that specific purpose. DHS/CBP inspectors, guardians of the nation’s borders, are responsible for admission of travelers to the United States, for a specified status and period of time. DHS also has responsibility for immigration matters while you are present in the United States.
Reading and Understanding a Visa
A List of USA Visas
Most Canadian citizens and many citizens from Visa Waiver Program countries can come to the U.S. without a visa if they meet certain requirements, which you can read about here.
There are various types of nonimmigrant visas for temporary visitors to travel to the U.S., if you are not a U.S. citizen or U.S. lawful permanent resident. The purpose of your intended travel and other facts will determine what type of visa is required under U.S. immigration law. It's important to have information about the type of nonimmigrant visa you will need for travel, and the steps required to apply for the visa at a U.S. Embassy abroad.
Review the chart below to determine the type of visa you need. For more detailed information specific to each visa type, including how-to-apply information and more, select a link from the Visa Type column below.
|Purpose of Travel to U.S. and Nonimmigrant Visas||Visa Type|
|Athletes, amateur and professional (competing for prize money only)||B-1|
|Athletes, artists, entertainers||P|
|Australian worker - professional specialty||E-3|
|Border Crossing Card: Mexico||BCC|
|Crewmembers (serving aboard a sea vessel or aircraft in the U.S.)||D|
|Diplomats and foreign government officials||A|
|Domestic employees or nannies (must be accompanying a foreign national employer)||B-1|
|Employees of a designated international organization, and NATO||G1-G5, NATO|
|Exchange visitors - au pairs||J-1|
|Exchange visitors - children (under age 21) or spouse of a J-1 holder||J-2|
|Exchange visitors - professors, scholars, teachers||J-1|
|Exchange visitors - international cultural||J, Q|
|Foreign military personnel stationed in the U.S.||A-2, NATO1-6|
|Foreign nationals with extraordinary ability in sciences, arts, education, business or athletics||O-1|
|Free Trade Agreement (FTA) professionals: Chile||H-1B1|
|Free Trade Agreement (FTA) professionals: Singapore||H-1B1|
|Information media representative (media, journalists)||I|
|Medical treatment, visitors for||B-2|
|NAFTA professional workers: Mexico, Canada||TN/TD|
|Nurses traveling to areas short of health care professionals||H-1C|
|Specialty occupations in fields requiring highly specialized knowledge||H-1B|
|Students - academic and language students||F-1|
|Student dependents - dependent of an F-1 holder||F-2|
|Students - vocational||M-1|
|Student dependents - dependent of an M-1 holder||M-2|
|Temporary workers - seasonal agricultural||H-2A|
|Temporary workers - nonagricultural||H-2B|
|Tourism, vacation, pleasure visitors||B-2|
|Training in a program not primarily for employment||H-3|
|Transiting the United States||C|
|Victims of human trafficking||T-1|
|Visa renewals in the U.S. - A, G, and NATO||A1-2, G1-4, NATO1-6|