Apply for Nonimmigrant Visas to the U.S.
Learn how to apply for different types of nonimmigrant visas for tourists, students, business travelers and future spouses. Also, find information about the Visa Waiver Program, and how to get a job in the United States as a foreign worker.
How to Apply Online for a Business or Tourism Visitor Visa to the U.S.
If you are planning a brief visit to the U.S. for business or tourism, you might need to apply for a visitor or a transit visa. These are the steps you should take:
1. Find out if you need a visa.
Check to see if your country participates in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP). If you don't see your country listed, you will need a nonimmigrant visa to visit the U.S.
2. Determine which visa you might need for your visit.
Most business and tourism travelers use B-1 and B-2 visitor visas.
B-1 visa classification is for business travelers to consult with business associates, attend a conference, settle an estate, or negotiate a contract.
B-2 visa classification is for tourists on vacation and people coming for medical treatment, a social event, or participation in amateur contests for no pay.
Transit visas are less common.
Transit C visa classification is for foreign nationals traveling through the U.S. to another country and stopping briefly in the U.S. as part of their travel to the next foreign destination.
Transit C-1, D, and C-1/D visas are for crewmembers of sea vessels or international airlines traveling to the U.S.
3. Apply for a visa.
The process of applying for a visa will vary depending on the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you apply. Follow the specific instructions for the country that you’re in.
In general, you will need:
Waiver Program for Tourists and Business Travelers
International travelers for business or pleasure who are citizens of one of the 38 countries that participate in the U.S.’s Visa Waiver Program (VWP) can get a visa waiver. While you do not need a visa to come to the U.S. for your business meeting or for vacation, you must get an approved travel authorization prior to your trip to the U.S.
How to Apply and Get Approval to Travel to the U.S.
Visitors traveling to the U.S. for tourism or business meetings or conferences under the VWP can stay for up to 90 days without a visa.
Student and Vocational Training Visas
An international student can apply for a student or exchange visitor visa only after being accepted by a school certified in the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). Students’ records are kept in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Learn more about SEVP and SEVIS, and about the SEVIS fee.
Types of Educational Visas
Your course of study, the school you plan to attend, or the exchange program you will be with will determine the type of student visa you will need.
The most common student visas are F-1 and M-1 visas.
Check out the differences (PDF, Download Adobe Reader) between F-1 visas and M-1 visas and how to apply.
J-1 visa classification is also known as the exchange visitor program (EVP) and is for foreign nationals approved to take part in work or study-based exchange programs. Examples include visiting scholar, camp counselor, or research assistant.
Learn how to apply for a J-1 visa.
The duration of stay for J-1 visa holders depends on the agreement between you and your Department of State approved sponsoring organization. Find a Department of State approved sponsoring organization or program.
Learn more about studying in the U.S.
North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Professional Visa
Only citizens of Canada and Mexico are eligible for a nonimmigrant North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Professional visa to work in the U.S. The NAFTA Professional visa classification is TN and grants the holder temporary entry into the U.S. to work in business activities at a professional level for an initial period of up to three years.
How to Apply
After getting a letter from your future employer confirming your offer of a position, the application processes varies for Canadian and Mexican citizens.
Canadian Citizens: a NAFTA Professional (TN) visa is usually not required. You can go directly to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) port of entry, with your documentation for an interview to be admitted to the U.S. as a nonimmigrant who can legally work in the U.S.
Mexican Citizens: a NAFTA Professional (TN) visa is required. Complete the online visa application form DS-160, print out the confirmation page, and bring it to your interview. If you are applying in Mexico, a photo is not required for your application.
Learn more about the process of applying for a TN nonimmigrant visa.
Prepare for Your Interview
Review this list of what you will need to bring to your in-person interview including what details need to be in your letter from your prospective employer.
Getting a Job in the U.S. as a Foreign Worker
Based on your skills, circumstances, and the job that you intend to do, you may be able to come to the U.S. as a temporary or permanent foreign worker or as a temporary visitor for business. Under certain circumstances, you may also be able to work in the U.S. if you’re a foreign student or an exchange visitor.
As a foreign worker, you will need a visa to be employed in the U.S. Each type of visa has unique requirements, conditions, and time limits.
Your Rights and Protections
- As a temporary foreign worker in the U.S., you will not be denied a visa or be punished by the U.S. government because you have exercised your rights under U.S. laws. Learn your rights and protections.
- If you violate the terms of your work visa, it could be revoked and you could be removed from the U.S. (deported), arrested, or denied reentry into the U.S.
- If you suspect you or someone you know is being brought to the U.S. for the purpose of human trafficking, get help now.
If you’re in the U.S. and have questions about visas and immigration, contact the USCIS National Customer Service Center. If you’re in another country, contact your nearest international immigration office.
The K-1 or Fiancé(e) Visa
If you’re a citizen of another country engaged to be married to a U.S. citizen, and you plan to marry and live in the United States, your fiancé(e) can petition for a K-1 visa for you. The K-1 visa allows you to travel to the United States to marry your fiancé(e) within 90 days of arriving. After you marry, you may apply for an adjustment of status to permanent resident and receive a Permanent Resident (Green) Card.
The K-1 visa expires after 90 days and cannot be extended. If you don’t marry within that time, you must leave the country immediately or face possible deportation.
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Last Updated: February 1, 2019