The USA visa policy determines the rules that foreign citizens must meet to obtain a US visa. The United States distinguishes 180 various types of visas dividing them into two categories, including nonimmigrant and immigrant visas.
A nonimmigrant visa can be issued for temporary stays, including the purposes of tourism, business, study courses, family reunions, etc. In turn, an immigrant visa is granted to those who plan to live and/or work in the United States.
All 50 US states have the same immigration policies. Moreover, the visa policy is similar for some US territories, such as the US Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico. Different visa policies may apply if one wishes to visit the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, or American Samoa.
It is the traveler’s nationality, the planned duration of stay in the US as well as traveling purpose that determine what type of US visa one should apply for.
A few countries do not need a visa or any other travel permit to enter the United States either for an indefinite stay or for a limited period of time.
Additionally, the visa policy of USA states that citizens of 40 countries in the world, instead of applying for a visa, simply need to complete the online US ESTA registration prior to travel. The application for an ESTA can be completed from the comfort of their home as it is an entirely online process.
All those who are not nationals of the visa-exempt countries need to obtain a relevant US visa from the nearest US diplomatic mission.
Chinese citizens are required to get both a regular embassy visa and register with the US EVUS (Electronic Visa Update System) to gain access to the United States.
There are also some cases where no visas will be available for certain nationalities due to the existing visa bans imposed by the US government. These nationals, however, should directly contact the US embassy or consulate since the visa requirements are constantly being updated and revised.
As of 12th May 2023, foreign travelers no longer need to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination. It means that the US now welcomes all travelers, including both vaccinated and non-vaccinated against the coronavirus.
There are many grounds for inadmissibility determined by the Immigration and Nationality Act that may lead to entry refusal, including:
Note: If a traveler has been arrested (including the arrest without criminal conviction), has a criminal record, has been refused admission into the US, has been deported from the States, or has once overstayed an ESTA, they should apply for a nonimmigrant visa directly from the nearest US embassy or consulate instead of registering for the ESTA. Application for the ESTA under the aforementioned conditions may result in unsuccessful ESTA registration.
The USA entry requirements are essential to ensure smooth entry to the country and a hassle-free stay. Make sure you have all documents gathered before you start your journey.
Following, there are the most important documents that you must have ready before your oncoming trip to the United States.
Please note that you no longer need to provide a COVID-19 negative test certificate or vaccination proof to enter the United States.
Do also remember that entry regulations may change at short notice, and it is important to check the latest update to avoid any problematic situations upon arrival in the United States.
40 different countries participating in the US Visa Waiver Program can travel to the US visa-free for up to 90-day stays. They, however, still need to complete the online registration for an ESTA.
The US ESTA is a multiple-entry electronic travel authorization that enables traveling to the United States numerous times throughout a 2-year validity period. The maximum period that an ESTA holder can spend in the country is 90 days in total. The stay must be related to tourism, business, or transit.
According to the US visa policy, there are around 190 nationalities that need a consular or embassy visa obtained before traveling to the United States.
These countries’ citizens must obtain a US visa directly from one of the US diplomatic missions, regardless of the length of stay they plan to stay in the country or their traveling motive.
Application for an embassy visa is most often a long-time procedure that should be started much in advance of the planned travel. Travelers are also required to visit an embassy or consulate in person to complete all the procedures and submit all necessary documents, which may differ depending on the selected visa type.
Electronic visa (ESTA)
Children traveling to the US should follow the same entry requirements as adult travelers, i.e., to hold a valid passport, visa, and other applicable entry documents.
If a minor (aged 17 and less) is traveling accompanied by only one parent or with someone who is not their parent or legal guardian, it may be necessary to present a notarized letter of consent.
Although you may not plan an extended stay in the USA and you simply wish to transit through the country before reaching your final destination, you will still need to obtain a transit visa or ESTA (depending on your eligibility).
If you are a national of one of the 40 countries eligible for ESTA, do remember to register for the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, even if you do not plan to exit the transit zone before taking your connecting flight.
Also, make sure that you meet all entry requirements applicable to your final destination, including visa and COVID-related requirements.
There are only a few nationalities that can travel to the USA visa-free. Most of them, however, still need to complete the ESTA before traveling to the States.
Depending on the traveler's nationality, travel purpose and planned duration of stay, there are different ways of getting a visa. Nationals of the countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program need to apply for the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).
No, obtaining a visa on arrival in the USA is impossible. All nationals being members of the Visa Waiver Program must have an approved ESTA prior to the planned trip. Arriving in the United States without a valid visa or previously approved ESTA may result in entry denial.
Travelers arriving in the USA, in most cases, need a valid visa and a passport that will not expire for the entire duration of their intended stay in the country. Although presenting coronavirus documentation, i.e., negative tests and vaccination certificates, is no longer mandatory, travelers still need to complete the US CDC Contact Tracing Form.
Yes, a transit visa or ESTA is necessary even if you do not plan to leave the airport terminal before taking your connecting flight.
Children planning to visit the US need to follow the same entry regulations as adult travelers. If traveling without a parent or legal guardian, it may be necessary to provide a notarized written consent translated into English.
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