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About Visas - The Basics
What types of visas are available for people to come to the United States?
There are more than 20 nonimmigrant visa types for people traveling to the United States temporarily. There are many more types of immigrant visas for those coming to live permanently in the United States. The type of Visa you need is determined by the purpose of your intended travel. For an overview of visa types, please see Types of Visas for Temporary Visitors or Visa Types for Immigrants.
After Visa Issuance
How do I read and understand my visa?
My visa expires in 5 years, what does this mean?
My old passport has already expired. My visa to travel to the United States is still valid but in my expired passport. Do I need to apply for a new visa with my new passport?
No. If your visa is still valid you can travel to the United States with your two passports, as long as the visa is valid, not damaged, and is the appropriate type of visa required for your principal purpose of travel. (Example: tourist visa, when your principal purpose of travel is tourism). Both passports (the valid and the expired one with the visa) should be from the same country and type (Example: both Uruguayan regular passports, both official passports, etc.). When you arrive at the U.S. port-of-entry (POE, generally an airport or land border) the Customs and Border Protection Immigration Officer will check your visa in the old passport and if s/he decides to admit you into the United States they will stamp your new passport with an admission stamp along with the annotation "VIOPP" (visa in other passport). Do not try to remove the visa from your old passport and stick it into the new valid passport. If you do so, your visa will no longer be valid.
My visa will expire while I am in the United States. Is there a problem with that?
No. If the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection Immigration Officer at the port-of-entry admitted you into the United States for a specific period of time, s/he will note your authorized period of stay on your admission stamp or paper Form I-94, called an Arrival/Departure Record. You will be able to remain in the United States during your authorized period of stay, even if your visa expires during the time you are in the United States. Since your admission stamp or paper Form I-94 documents your authorized stay and is the official record of your permission to be in the United States, it is very important to keep inside your passport.
What are indefinite validity visas (Burroughs visas) and are they still valid?
Indefinite validity visas (Burroughs Visas) are tourist/business visas manually stamped into a traveler’s passport which were valid for ten years. Effective April 1, 2004, all indefinite validity Burroughs visas became void. Therefore, if you have an indefinite validity visa you must apply for a new visa for travel to the U.S.
I changed my name. Is my U.S. visa with my old name still valid?
If your name has legally changed through marriage, divorce, or a court ordered name change, you will need to obtain a new passport. Once you have a new passport, the Department of State recommends that you apply for a new U.S. visa to make it easier for you to travel to and from the United States.
What is Administrative Processing?
Some visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the visa applicant's interview by a consular officer. Applicants are advised of this requirement when they apply. Most administrative processing is resolved within 60 days of the visa interview. Learn more.
My visa application has been refused. Why can't I get my money back?
The fee that you paid is an application fee. Everyone who applies for a U.S. visa anywhere in the world must pay this fee, which covers the cost of processing your application. This fee is non-refundable regardless of whether you are issued a visa or not, since your application was processed to conclusion. As one example, if your application was refused under Section 214(b) and you choose to reapply for a visa, whether applying at the same embassy or elsewhere, you will be required to pay the visa application processing fee. See the Fees for Visa Services page for a list of fees.
I have a nonimmigrant visa that will expire soon and I would like to renew it. Do I need go through the whole visa application process again?
Yes, you will have to go through the whole visa application process each time you want to apply for a visa, even if your visa is still valid. There are some situations where a visa applicant may not need to be interviewed when renewing his/her visa. See the U.S. Embassy or Consulate website for more information.
Entering and Departing the United States
After I have my visa, I will be able to enter the U.S., correct?
A visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. A visa allows a foreign citizen to travel to the U.S. port-of-entry, and the Department of Homeland Security U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) immigration inspector authorizes or denies admission to the United States. See Admissions on the CBP website.
How can I find out how long I am authorized to stay in the United States?
A visa does not guarantee entry into the United States, but allows a foreign citizen coming from abroad, to travel to the United States port-of entry (generally an airport or land border) and request permission to enter the United States. The Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have authority to permit or deny admission to the United States, and determine how long a traveler may stay. At the port of entry, upon granting entry to the United States, the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. immigration inspector, provides you an admission stamp or paper Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record in your passport. On this admission stamp or paper form, the U.S. immigration inspector records either a date or "D/S" (duration of status). If your I-94 contains a specific date, then that is the date by which you must leave the United States. Your admission stamp or paper Form I-94 is very important to keep in your passport, since it shows your permission to be in the United States. Review information about Admission on the CBP Website. Also, see Duration of Stay.
I did not turn in my paper Form I-94 when I left the United States, what should I do?
If your visa has been damaged in any way, you will need to reapply for a new visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad.
I may have a claim to U.S. citizenship. Can I apply for a U.S. visa?
With few exceptions, a person born in the United States acquires U.S. citizenship at birth. A state-issued birth certificate serves as evidence of citizenship. Review the Apply for a Passport webpage to learn more.
Persons born in countries other than the United States may have a claim to U.S. citizenship if either parent is a U.S. citizen under U.S. law. Learn more on the Birth of U.S. Citizens Abroad webpage.
If a person is a U.S. citizen, he or she is not eligible for a visa. Any prospective applicant believing he or she may have a claim to U.S. citizenship should have his or her citizenship claim adjudicated (officially determined) by a consular officer at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate before applying for a U.S. visa.
I have dual citizenship. Which passport should I use to travel to the United States?
All U.S. citizens, even dual citizens/nationals, must enter and depart the United States using his/her U.S. passport.
How do I know whether to contact the Department of State or Department of Homeland Security about my issue?
Contact the Department of State, U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad with questions about U.S. visas, including application, the status of visa processing, and for inquiries relating to visa denial. Once in the United States, the traveler falls under the authority (jurisdiction) of Department of Homeland Security. The Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is responsible for the approval of all petitions, the authorization of permission to work in the United States, the issuance of extensions of stay, and change or adjustment of an applicant's status while the applicant is in the United States.
I would like to know if my friend has applied for a visa and what the status is. Who should I contact?
Your friend, the visa applicant. Under U.S. law, specifically the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) 222(f), visa records are confidential. Therefore, the visa applicant should inquire at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad where he/she applied regarding necessary information about visa application status. Because of confidentiality of visa records, you’ll need to ask your friend, the visa applicant your questions about whether a visa application was made, or a visa was issued or denied.
Visa Applicants from State Sponsors of Terrorism Countries
To find information regarding FAQ's from visa applicants from state sponsors of terrorism countries please click here.