U.S. Visa Policy for Foreign Visitors

U.S. Visa Policy for Foreign Visitors

The U.S. visa policy for foreign visitors establishes that they need a visitor visa or an ESTA to travel to the country. Travelers from 38 countries are part of the Visa Waiver Program and can easily obtain an electronic travel authorization to travel to the U.S. Citizens that aren’t from visa-exempt countries that wish to visit the United States for short term stays are required to first obtain a tourist or business visa through an embassy a consulate. Once a foreign traveler is a visa B1 or visa B2 holder they will be authorized to visit the U.S. However, Chinese citizens must also complete the EVUS registration before traveling to the United States.

At this time, only Chinese citizens are required to enroll with the EVUS system. EVUS was introduced in November 2016 and it stands for Electronic Visa Update System. This automated system was launched by the Customs and US Border Protection and it is currently a mandatory requirement for Chinese citizens that have a valid 10-year visitor visa, B1, B2 or a combination of both. The goal of the EVUS system is to contribute to border security.

While only Chinese nationals are obliged to register with EVUS, it is likely that citizens from other countries that are also in need of a visa B1 o B2 to travel to the U.S. will need to enroll with the EVUS system in the future.

American visas: How to enter the U.S.

There are several types of visas available to travel to the U.S. and for different purposes. It’s important to differentiate between a non-immigrant visa and an immigrant visa.

  • A nonimmigrant visa - is available for temporary visits such as for tourism, business, work, visiting family, or studying
  • An immigrant visa - is available for people who want to migrate to the United States permanently.

In order to enter the U.S. most foreign nationals will need to obtain a form of authorization. If you are not eligible for ESTA, which grants stays of up to 90 days, then you need to apply for a nonimmigrant visa at an embassy or consulate. Those who wish to work, live and study in the U.S. for long term periods must apply for an immigrant visa.

What are the nonimmigrant visas for the U.S.?

There are several types of nonimmigrant visas to the United States. The most common ones are the B1 and B2 visa types. However, there are many more types of nonimmigrant visas that might apply to your needs or individual circumstances.

A Visas - An A-1 visa is issued to representatives of a foreign government traveling to the United States to engage in official activities for that government. A visas are granted to government ambassadors, ministers, diplomats and other government officials traveling on official business. An A-2 visa is granted to immediate family members of foreign government officials.

B Visas - There are two types of category B visas, B-1 and B-2 visas. The most common non-immigrant visa is the multipurpose visa which is a combined B1 and B2 visa that allows travel for business or/and pleasure. Visa applicants can choose to apply for either a B-1 visa also known as a temporary visitor visa for business or a B-2 visa which is a temporary visitor visa for pleasure.

C Visa - a C-1 is a transit visa issued to individuals who are traveling in “immediate and continuous transit through the United States en route to another country”. The C-2 visa is issued to diplomats transiting to and from the United Nations Headquarters and limited to New York. A C-3 visa is issued to diplomats and their dependents who are in transit.

D Visa - is issued to crew members of sea-vessels and international airlines in the United States.

E Visa - Treaty Trader E-1 and Treaty Investor E-2 visas are issued to citizens of countries that have signed a treaty of commerce and navigation with the U.S.

F Visa - These visas are granted to foreign students enrolled at accredited US institutions. F1 Visas are provided to full-time students and F2 visas may be granted to spouses and children of F1 visa holders.

G Visa - These visas will be granted to diplomats, government officials, and employees who will work for international organizations in the United States. Within this category there are five different types of visas.

NATO Visa - officials who work for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization require NATO visa. The NATO visa is issued to permanent representatives of NATO. There are different types within this category depending on the case.

H Visa - Issued to temporary workers in the United States. In this category there are several types too. The visa granted will depend on the temporary work that will be carried out in the country.

I Visa - The I-1 visa will be issued to representatives of foreign media in general including press, film, and radio.

J Visa - This type of visa is granted to participants of work and study-based exchange visitor programs.

K Visa - can be issued to the fiancé or finaceé of a United States citizen to enter the U.S. A K-1 visa required a foreigner to marry his or her U.S. partner within 90 days of entering the country. K-2 visas are granted to unmarried children under the age of 21.

L Visa - This is for international transferees that have worked for a related organization abroad or for at least one continuous year in the past three years and who will be coming to the United States to work in an executive or managerial position.

M Visa - this is allotted to students who wish to follow vocational and technical education. Holders of this visa are not allowed to work during their studies.

O Visa - It’s another type of non-immigrant temporary worker visa granted to a person that possesses extraordinary ability in the area of sciences, arts, education, business or athletics.

P Visa - issued to individual athletes or teams or members of an entertainment group. May be granted to artists or entertainers under a reciprocal exchange program.

Q Visa - this visa type will be granted to participants in an international cultural exchange program.

R Visa - R-1 visas are issued to temporary religious workers and an R-2 visa will be issued to dependent family members.

S Visa - this nonimmigrant visa is granted to people who have assisted law enforcement as a witness or informant. However, there’s a limit of 200 S visas per year.

U and T Visa - U-1 visas are issued to victims of crimes and their immediate family members. Candidates for this type of visa must have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse and are willing to assist law enforcement. There are other subtypes of U visas. The T-1 visa is issued to victims of severe forms of human trafficking.

How to apply for a nonimmigrant visa B1/B2

There are several steps and requirements in order to obtain a visitor visa. Foreign travelers who want to apply for a nonimmigrant visa need to:

Among the requirements, applicants need a valid passport and supporting documents to demonstrate the purpose of their trip. Once approved, the holder can travel to the United States.

It is essential that Chinese nationals complete the EVUS application when they have a visitor visa in order to travel to the U.S.

Entry denials to the United States

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers conduct all arrival inspections using the same criteria for all foreign nationals visiting the U.S. regardless of the visa type.

Officers decide your admission to the United States, even if all your travel documents, including your visa, are in order.

Pregnant women should bear in mind that traveling to the United States to give birth is prohibited. A CBP officer will consider your pregnancy when deciding on your admission.

The U.S. Department of State will issue a visa to a foreign national who wishes to travel to the United States through its embassy or consulate. China is not part of the Visa Waiver Program, therefore, Chinese travelers must apply for a nonimmigrant visa to visit the U.S. for short term stays. Only citizens of 38 countries are visa-exempt and can get an ESTA to travel to USA.

A Chinese national needs to have a valid visitor visa and then complete the EVUS form with their personal data, passport information and visa details. Once approved, the EVUS registration will be valid for two consecutive years. A visitor visa may grant its holder stays of up to six months in the United States, however, the visa and passport must always be valid upon arrival in the country.

Common immigrant visas that can requested to stay in the United States for longer periods of time include:

  • Business or professional visas
  • Student visa
  • Transit visa
  • Immigrant visas for permanent residency in the U.S.
  • Fiancé(e) visa to marry a U.S. citizen

However, travelers must know the clear difference between a nonimmigrant visa and an immigrant visa. Nonimmigrant visas are granted to travelers who wish to visit the United States for short term stays and for tourism or business purposes. When a B1 or B2 visa is granted, its holder can travel to the U.S. on multiple occasions.

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