Visa to enter the United States

The United States is a very popular tourist destination. Millions of travelers enter or leave, or simply pass through the country each year. The country is also an immigration destination that dreams millions of citizens around the world. Some of these residents from the rest of the world are applying for an immigrant visa or are trying their luck at the Green Card Lottery.

Entry into the United States for all citizens of the world wishing to travel or immigrate requires a visa to enter the country.

In this article, we will review all the different authorizations available depending on whether it is a stay or rather an immigration process. First, let’s start from the beginning with the explanation of what a Visa is.

What is an American visa?

An American visa is an administrative authorization obtained beforehand to embark on your trip to the United States. It means that you have the right to enter US territory. Having this American visa does not necessarily mean that you will enter the United States, however, because the final decision is at the discretion of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the customs and protection inspectors. borders (CPB) when you arrive at the borders.

You can successfully obtain a visa for the United States, but if the inspectors of these departments do not find you fit to enter the country for any reason that belongs to them, you will not be able to enter the United States.

Who needs a US visa?

Citizens of visa-exempt countries, as well as citizens of Bermuda and Canada, do not need a visa to enter the United States. The visa waiver program allows citizens of countries to travel to the United States for business or tourism for 90 days by obtaining a single ESTA. To be able to travel the United States for more than 90 days, you absolutely must obtain an American visa.

To determine if you can travel to the United States under the visa waiver program, you need to understand whether you need a visa or an ESTA . You can consult our article on what are the ESTA requirements in order to verify your eligibility to obtain ESTA.

US visa photo

Here’s what an American visa looks like. It has been modified to delete the holder’s personal information.

Your photo ID must be less than six months old. She must respect the directives presented in the image in terms of face position and dimensions of the photo ID.

When applying for a visa on the CEAC US website, you will download the photo and it will be analyzed. The site will analyze the photo, if it suits you you will get the message: “Photo passed quality standards”.

US visa picture
Image of a US visa with photo ID requirements

American visas for non-immigrants

Obtaining a visa for the United States is a lengthy procedure and the type of visa you obtain depends on the reason for which you wish to enter the country. We will review the most common types of American visas so that you can understand what each involves.

In general, there are two types of visas for the United States:

In the context of this article, we are going to deepen and present you mainly non-immigrant visas.

Visas to enter the USA as non-immigrants are only used for temporary stays in the territory, they cannot be the means of entering the country if in the end the intention is to stay there permanently. Some of these visas allow you to work in the USA.

The following list is exhaustive and contains for each of the different non-immigrant American visas a short description allowing you to better understand the ones they concern:

A1 visa for ballast representatives of foreign governments

A1 visa is intended for diplomats or representatives of foreign governments who travel to the United States for official purposes or who represent their government in the United States. All diplomats must apply for an A1 visa to enter the United States, the only exception concerns the head of state or government of the country, such as the president or the prime minister, who does not does not need an A1 Visa to enter the United States.

A2 NATO Visa 1-6

The A2 NATO 1-6 visa specifically relates to foreign military personnel serving or stationed in the United States.

B1 visa business travelers

The B1 visa can be granted to those who wish to travel to the United States for business reasons, as can happen for athletes, professionals, domestic workers, if the stay corresponds to commercial activities such as:

B2 visa for tourists

B2 visas are allocated to travelers for the following specific reasons:

B1 and B2 visas have a very different use for travelers to the United States, check your eligibility for one or the other before applying to the United States administration.

C visa for transit

Visa C is a transit visa for the USA. This means that you are going to go through the United States, but that your final destination is located in another country. On the other hand, Visa C does not allow you to make a stop to see friends or your family, or to visit the country, you will need another appropriate visa in these cases.

People with a type B visa and those whose visa has been canceled are also allowed to transit through the United States.

D visa for crew members

D visa is for crew members who work on a ship at sea or an international airline in the United States. They need this visa to be able to operate in the United States.

E visas for traders and conventional investors

E visas are the result of existing trade treaties in certain sectors in the United States. There are two types of visa of this kind:

Student F Visas

F visas are intended for university and professional purposes. Depending on your school and your teaching sector, you will need to obtain the F1 visa or the M1 visa:

G visas for representatives of international organizations

To be able to work for an international organization in the United States, you will need to obtain a G-1 to G-5 visa. For those who work specifically for NATO, they will obtain the NATO visa.

H1B visa for highly skilled workers

H1B visas are intended for people employed in highly specialized fields. This particular case means that these people have a higher diploma or work which cannot be accomplished without specific in-depth training.

H1B1 visa for nationals of Chile and Singapore

This visa is based on the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) concluded between Chile and Singapore. The H1B1 visa allows nationals of these countries to live and work temporarily in the United States. They may also be accompanied by their spouse and their dependent children.

H2A visa for agricultural workers

The H2A visa is granted to temporary agricultural workers from certain countries. These countries represent a real interest for the United States.

H2B visa for non-agricultural workers

While the H2A is intended for temporary agricultural workers, the H2B visa is granted to other types of temporary seasonal workers who perform non-agricultural work. This visa is similar to the H2A, it is only granted in particular to certain countries representing an interest for the United States.

H3 visa for visitors in exchange for specific education

The United States offers unique educational and training opportunities that may not exist in other countries. To take advantage of these training and education possibilities, you must obtain the H3 visa. However, these courses should not lead to a university degree.

I visa for representatives of foreign media

Visa I is intended for representatives of foreign media and journalists from the press, film, radio or print media who travel to the United States to work or participate in media activities educational.

J visa for travelers in exchange

The J visa is intended for exchanges with other countries, more specifically it concerns:

Visa L for people transferred within a company

As part of your employment contract with your company, if you are transferred to a branch in the United States, you will need an L visa. The L1 visa is called an intra-company transfer visa. An essential condition is to remember: you must have worked for this company for at least 1 year in the last 3 years.

Visa O for people with extraordinary abilities

Regarding people who have an extraordinary ability in the arts, in management, science, education or even athletics, they can get an “O” visa to work temporarily in their area of ​​expertise. To obtain this visa, these people with exceptional abilities must be essential for the provision of services in their area of ​​competence. There are three types of O visas:

P visa for athletes and artists

For athletes, animators and artists, there are therefore three types of P visas:

Q visa for participants in cultural exchange programs

Q visas are for people visiting the United States as part of an international cultural exchange program. This means that they will share their history, culture and traditions in the United States. This visa is also intended for those who will follow practical training or a job in the United States.

R visa for religious workers

Temporary religious workers who wish to conduct religious activity in the United States must obtain the R1 visa type.

T visa for victims of trafficking in human beings

T visas are intended for victims of trafficking in human beings victims of serious trauma, but can also contribute to the investigation of crimes related to trafficking in human beings:

V visa for the spouse and children of a permanent resident

The V visa allows families who are waiting for the end of their immigration process to be reunited with their family in the United States.

U visa for victims of criminal activity

The U visa is intended for people who have been victims of certain criminal activities and who can in some way help the investigation or prosecution of criminals.

Period of validity of main visas for non-immigrants

Here is a summary table which allows you to see at a glance the periods of validity of the main Visas reserved for non-immigrants to enter American territory. In order to facilitate the reading of the table, we started from the general reason for the stay in the United States:

Travel patternVisaValidity period
Border crossing: MexicoBCC10 years
Business tripB-11 month to 10 years
Tourist visitB-21 month to 10 years
Medical treatmentB-21 month to 10 years
Stopover or transit through the USAC29 days
Crew member (plane / boats)D2 years
StudentF, MDuration of studies
Skilled workerH-1B3 years renewable
Agriculture workerH-2AOne year renewable
Professor, teacherJ, QThe duration of the contract or exchange program
Spouse of an American citizenK-16 months
Individual with extraordinary skillsO3 years
Religious wishing to work temporarilyR2 and a half years renewable

Is there an alternative to the need to obtain a visa for entry into the United States?

There is an alternative to the visa, in addition to the Green Card , for travelers wishing to make short stays in the United States for tourist or professional reasons. Under the agreements made under the aegis of the Visa Waiver Program, individuals from the 38 partner countries of the program can apply for a travel authorization called ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) . You do not have to obtain a visa to enter the USA.

This document is given to the applicant after he has passed a first security check in the form of a form accessible online. This will have 3 separate parts asking you questions about your identity, your passport, as well as your medical and legal history. After the verification of your information by the agents of the American Department of Homeland Security (DHS), you will obtain the ESTA allowing you to make several trips lasting 90 consecutive days during the 2 years of validity of the document.

To obtain ESTA, you can go to the official website of the United States Department of Homeland Security, but you will not benefit from the additional services available on platforms specialized in travel formalities. If you must obtain an ESTA for your trip, make your request several days before your departure and then leave with peace of mind.