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What is a Visa ?

Updated 02 February 2015

A visa is issued by a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. A visa entitles the holder to travel to the United States and apply for admission; it does not guarantee entry.  An immigration inspector at the port of entry determines the visa holder's eligibility for admission into the United States.

Who Needs a Visa?

Anyone who is not eligible to enter the United States visa free under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), or is not exempt from the visa requirement.
Please note
: Travelers born in the United States and those who hold dual citizenship with the United States must enter and depart the United States on U.S. passports.

What types of Visas are Available?

  • NONIMMIGRANT:  A Nonimmigrant visa is required by anyone seeking temporary admission into the United States who is not eligible to travel visa free under the Visa Waiver Program , or is exempt from the visa requirement.  Nonimmigrant visas cover visits for tourism, business, work or study.  
  • IMMIGRANT:  An immigrant visa is required by anyone seeking to take up indefinite or permanent residence in the United States.  Upon entry into the United States, an immigrant visa holder is processed for a Permanent Resident Card (PRC) commonly known as a green card.  

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