Temporary Visitors to the U.S.
International visitors add greatly to our nation’s cultural, education and economic life. We continue the proud tradition of welcoming visitors to the United States, with secure borders and open doors.
Most Canadian citizens and many citizens from Visa Waiver Program countries can come to the United States (U.S.) without a visa if they meet certain requirements.All Visa Waiver Program travelers must present a machine-readable passport at the U.S. port of entry to enter the U.S. without a visa; otherwise a U.S. visa is required. See important information about additional digital photograph and e-passport requirements for VWP travelers. Other foreign citizens will need a nonimmigrant visa.
Nonimmigrant visas are for international travelers (citizens of other countries), coming to the U.S. temporarily. The visa, placed in your passport when issued, allows you to travel to a U.S. port-of-entry (airport, for example) and request permission of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Protection immigration officer to enter the U.S. A visa does not guarantee entry into the U.S.
International travelers come to the U.S. for a wide variety of reasons, including tourism, business, medical treatment and certain types of temporary work. The type of visa needed is defined by immigration law, and relates to the principal purpose of your travel. For an overview of the types of non-immigrant visas available under immigration law, please see our Visa Types for Temporary Visitors webpage. The Consular Officer at the U.S. embassy or consulate will decide what kind of visa you need, when you apply.
Advance planning can smooth the visa application process for you. Apply for your visa well in advance of your travel!
Important steps to remember:
- Review your visa status, and find out if you need a U.S. visa or a renewal.
- Review the Visa Wait Times information for interview appointments and visa processing at each embassy and consular section worldwide available on our website. Visit the embassy or consular section website where you will apply for your visa to find out how to schedule an interview appointment, pay fees and any other instructions.
- Plan on an interview, as well as quick inkless fingerprint scans at the U.S. embassy or consulate, which is required for most visa applicants. Some visa applications require additional administrative processing, which requires some additional time. Applicants are advised when they apply.
See the Visa Types link on the left for more information about visas required for temporary visitors to the U.S.
Copyright © 2013, U.S. Department of State