GOVERNMENT > Foreign Policy and International Affairs > Visas > Obtaining a Visa
Obtaining a Visa
Temporary visas for studying or working in the United States are not issued until you can establish that several things have happened.
- Student visa applicants must, at minimum, show proof that they have applied to and been admitted to a U.S. school or institution; that they are proficient in English; that they have the funds to pay for at least one year in the United States and evidence of being able to afford their entire study visit; and that they have an established home in their country and intend to return to it after the visit.
- Work visa applicants (teachers) must meet all the requirements for the type of visa they seek, which may include proof of having a job offer from the United States and/or an authorized person or organization that agrees to guarantee their compliance with the visa rules; and proof that they meet other requirements, such as education levels, that qualify them for entry. It may also be necessary to establish that the work does not displace qualified U.S. citizens from job opportunities and that the applicant does not intend to remain in the United States.
Satisfaction of any or all of the requirements to be eligible for obtaining a visa does not entitle you to a visa or guarantee automatic issuance of one. Decisions on who will be issued a visa are entirely within the discretionary authority of U.S. Consular officials. No domestic U.S. authority, government or non-government, can override a Consular decision or intervene to influence a visa application. It is a very good idea to plan well ahead - at least a year - before your intended visit. This allows time for applications to be made and processed, tests to be scheduled and taken, diplomas and other documents to be evaluated, finances to be obtained, and other necessary arrangements to be made.
Questions About Visas? provides answers to many general questions about U.S. visas and the visa process.
Information on Visa Issuance Abroad provides a listing of the specific visa services provided by each consulate in every country with which the United States has diplomatic relations.
Countries with Limited or No Visa Services provides information on how visa services are provided for citizens of countries where U.S. consular operations have been suspended or curtailed due to natural disasters, war, or other security concerns.
Foreign Student Visas provides information on the various types of visas that are issued to students coming to the United States.
Foreign Students in Public Schools provides special information on new legal restrictions for school-age students intending to come to the United States to enroll in public primary and secondary schools.
Visa Waiver Program provides information on a special program for citizens of designated countries who may have the visa requirement waived if they intend a stay of no longer than 90 days.
Exchange Program Visas
Exchange Visitors provides information on the various types of visas that are issue to persons coming to the United States as part of sponsored exchange programs.
Employment-Based Visas provides information about work visas and the special conditions that must be met to qualify for them.
Temporary Workers provides definitions of each class of work visa and guidance on how to apply.
Treaty Traders and Investors provides information on special work visa regulations that apply to persons doing business in the USA who come from countries having trade agreements with the United States. Education and training are classed as service industries.
Professionals Under NAFTA provides specific information for professionals coming to the United States for temporary work from Canada or Mexico under the auspices of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Visa Ineligibility and Denial
Classes of Aliens Ineligible to Receive Visas provides information on the conditions under which U.S. law requires that visas be denied and the classes of persons who are automatically ineligible for U.S. visas.
Visa Denials provides information on how U.S. consulates make decisions to issue or deny visas and what can be done to appeal or reopen a visa application.
FAM 9 Manual is the online version of the U.S. Department of State's Foreign Affairs Manual on Visas, which contains the official procedures used by consular officials in processing visa applications.
Extending a Visa
Extending a visa can only be done after you are in the United States and before the time period of the current visa expires. Once you are in the United States, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) has authority over you as a visitor. It is the INS that processes all requests to extend visa stays.
How Do I Extend My Stay in the U.S.? provides information and references for the process of requesting that a visa be extended.
Revalidating Visas in the U.S. provides information on how to extend the duration of a visa stay once you are in the United States, and which types of visas may be extended. It also provides information on replacing a lost, stolen, or damaged visa.
Changing Visa Status
As with extending a visa period, changing from one type of visa to another happens after you are in the United States and thus is under the authority of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).
How Do I Get Permission to Change to a New Non-Immigrant Status? provides information and references on the procedures for requesting a change in visa status from a local INS office (they are located across the United States).
Immigration and Permanent Residency
There are several types of status that permit non-U.S. citizens to come to or remain in the United States on a semi-permanent or permanent basis. These include formal immigration, or change of citizenship; permanent residency; temporary protected status; and refugee status. It is important not to confuse immigration or permanent residency with a temporary visa status. Permanent visitor status or naturalization (intent to become a U.S. citizen) can only be granted by a U.S. Consulate before coming to the United States or the INS after arrival. Falsifying a visa application, such as obtaining temporary student status while intending to remain in the United States permanently, is a violation of law and is punishable by criminal penalties, deportation, and possible legal action in your home country.
Immigrant Visas provides information on immigrant visas that are issued by U.S. Consulates prior to a person coming to the United States, as well as guidance on application procedures.
How Do I Become a Lawful Permanent Resident While in the U.S.? provides information on how a temporary visa holder may become a permanent resident of the United States.
How Can I Get Immigrant Status Based on Employment? provides information on how some persons holding temporary work visas may become eligible for a change to immigrant status.
How Do I Apply for Temporary Protected Status? provides information on how a temporary visa holder may petition the INS to award him or her temporary protected status, which may be granted to victims of unrest or disaster in their home countries until danger passes.
How Do I Apply for Asylum While in the U.S.? provides information on how a person already in the United States can request asylum, or permanent refugee status.