Before a foreign national can enter the United States in a non-immigrant status, he or she must obtain a visa from a U.S. consulate abroad. This rule applies to all foreign nationals except Canadians and a few other groups. Generally, a non-Immigrant visa is a temporary pass to enter the United States. However, the issuance of a visa does not guarantee actual admission to the United States.
Another class of Non-Immigrants exempted from the visa requirements include nationals of selected countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program. This special program permits the arrival of foreign nationals without a visa if they are citizens of certain designated countries and for a limited time. Prior to arriving to the United States, the Visa Waiver Program participant must register with the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).
Use the link below for a list of countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program: http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/without/without_1990.html
Use the link below for access to the ESTA program registration website:
Each family member accompanying the visa applicant must submit a separate non-immigrant visa application, with supporting documents. The following documents are necessary to apply for a non-Immigrant visa
- Passport of Visa Applicant
- Standard Passport sized Photograph of Visa Applicant
- Application Fee
- Evidence of ties to the home country
The Student and Visitor Visa
Applicants who wish to enter the United States as students, also known as F-1 non-immigrants, must obtain certification from the sponsoring institution or organization in the form of a certificate of eligibility Form I-20. The Form I-20 establishes that the student is qualified to undertake the academic program through which he or she is applying for admission to the United States. In addition, prior to obtaining the F-1 visa, the foreign national must register and pay the SEVIS program fee. An important restriction of the F-1 visa is that the student is not permitted to engage in employment and will not be issued a work authorization, absent a few exceptions.
The foreign national must provide the following documents to establish eligibility for a visitor and student visa:
- B-2 visitor for pleasure:
a) A letter of invitation from a U.S. host, substantial documentation of financial ability to pay for the trip and expenses while in the United States, and documentation establishing ties to the home country (i.e. home mortgage, property ownership, bank accounts, etc.)
- F-1 student:
a) Evidence of financial ability to pay for tuition and board. The level of support should be sufficient to ensure that all expenses are covered without the need to engage in employment. The intending student must present the Form I-20, evidence regarding his/her intention to maintain a foreign domicile and leave the United States upon completion of the study program.
If the officer is satisfied with the applicant’s eligibility he will issue a machine readable visa which will contain the following information:
- Location of the Consular Post issuing the decision
- The number of the Visa (a visa control number)
- The date of issuance
- The date of expiration
- The number of entries for which the visa is valid (the letter “M” indicates validity for multiple entries)
- The name, date of birth, sex, nationality, and passport number of the foreign national
- If applicable, the name of the petition, type of petition, and the period for which foreign national’s admission has been authorized as indicated in the petition
- For F-1 Non-immigrant visas, the name of the school which issued the I-20
Depending on the visa other information may be included.
Can I change my visa while I am in the United States?
Yes, in certain circumstances, you may change your visa status while in the United States. The eligibility for a change of status depends on the type of visa already issued to the foreign national and the type of visa he or she is seeking.
The Attorneys at Law Group International have the experience and knowledge necessary for a successful issuance of a non-immigrant visa for you or a family member. Please contact our office at 703-549-5445 and schedule a free consultation with one of our Immigration Attorneys.