Visiting the U.S.

Most visitors to the United States who plan to stay for a short time (either to visit or to conduct business-related activities) must first obtain a visa, unless they are from one of the countries for which visas are not necessary. A "non-immigrant visa" authorizes a temporary visit, while an "immigrant visa" grants permanent residency. There are a number of different non-immigrant visa categories, including employment-based visas and student visas.

See "Working in the U.S." for an introductory primer on immigration rules and procedures for foreign nationals who want to work in the U.S. 

Those visiting the U.S. for tourism, for medical treatment, to visit family, or for other purposes (not related to employment or higher education) should consider the following:

  1. Visitor Visas - Visitors who want to see friends or relatives; embark on tourism-related activities; seek medical treatment; participate in conventions or social organization meetings; or participate in amateur (unpaid) sporting or other entertainment-related events will need a B-2 visitors visa.
  2. Eligibility - Those visiting the U.S. from abroad must prove the temporary nature of their visit; that they plan to stay only for a limited time; evidence of adequate funds to cover travel and visiting expenses; and that they have a residence outside the U.S.
  3. Visa Application Process - Even if you meet the criteria for a visitors visa, you must apply at the nearest U.S. embassy or consular office to obtain clearance. You will be required to pay an application fee, present a valid passport, and fill out the appropriate forms.
  4. Border Entry - The port-of-entry for foreigners visiting the U.S. typically is the airport in your destination city. You will be asked to fill out an arrival/departure form, submit to a brief interview and verification of documentation, and consent to a luggage inspection.
    • U.S. Customs and Border Protection provides detailed information about filling out an arrival-departure record.
    • See "Border Entry Rules" for more general information about entering the U.S. as a visitor from abroad.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified immigration attorney to help you with visa procedures.