TIPS FOR U.S. VISAS: VISITORS - BUSINESS AND PLEASURE
Generally, a citizen of a foreign country who wishes to enter the United States must first obtain a visa, either a nonimmigrant visa for temporary stay, or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. The "visitor" visa is a nonimmigrant visa for persons desiring to enter the United States temporarily for business (B-1) or for leasure or medical treatment (B-2).
Persons planning to travel to the U.S. for a different purpose such as students, temporary workers, crewmen, journalists, etc., must apply for a different visa in the appropriate category. Travelers from certain eligible countries may be able to visit the U.S. without a visa on the Visa Waiver Pilot Program
QUALIFYING FOR A VISA
Applicants for visitor visas must show that they qualify under provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The presumption in the law is that every visa applicant is an intending immigrant. Therefore, applicants for visitor visas must overcome this presumption by demonstrating that:
1. The purpose of their trip is to enter the U.S. for business, pleasure, or medical treatment;
2. That they plan to remain for a specific, limited period; and
3. That they have a residence outside the U.S. as well as other binding ties which will insure their return abroad at the end of the visit.
APPLYING FOR A VISITOR VISA
Applicants for visitor visas should generally apply at the American Embassy or Consulate with jurisdiction over their place of permanent residence. Each applicant for a visitor visa must submit:
1. An application Form DS-160, completed and signed. Blank forms are available without charge at all U.S. consular offices;
2. A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant's intended period of stay in the United States;
3. Two photographs 1 and 1/2 inches square (37x37 mm) for each applicant, showing full face, without head covering, against a light background.
Applicants must demonstrate that they are properly classifiable as visitors under U.S. law. Evidence which shows the purpose of the trip, intent to depart the United States, and arrangements made to cover the costs of the trip may be provided. It is impossible to specify the exact form the evidence should take since applicants' circumstances vary greatly.
Persons traveling to the U.S. on business can present a letter from the U.S. business firm indicating the purpose of the trip, the bearer's intended length of stay and the firm's intent to defray travel costs. Persons traveling to the U.S. for pleasure may use letters from relatives or friends in the U.S. whom the applicant plans to visit or confirmation of participation in a planned tour. Persons traveling to the U.S. for medical treatment should have a statement from a doctor or institution concerning proposed medical treatment.
Depending on individual circumstances, applicants may provide other evidence substantiating the trip's purpose and specifying the nature of binding obligations, such as family ties or employment, which would compel their return abroad.
Attempting to obtain a visa by the willful misrepresentation of a material fact, or fraud, may result in the permanent refusal of a visa or denial of entry into the United States. If the consular officer should find it necessary to deny the issuance of a visitor visa, the applicant may apply again if there is new evidence to overcome the basis for the refusal. In the absence of new evidence, consular officers are not obliged to re-examine such cases.
U.S. PORT OF ENTRY
Applicants should be aware that a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. The U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) has authority to deny admission. Also, the period for which the bearer of a visitor visa is authorized to remain in the United States is determined by the USCIS, not the consular officer. At the port of entry, an USCIS official must authorize the traveler's admission to the U.S. At that time the USCIS Form I-94, Record of Arrival-Departure, which notes the length of stay permitted, is validated. Those visitors who wish to stay beyond the time indicated on their Form I-94 must apply to Extend their stay. The decision to grant or deny a request for extension of stay is made solely by the USCIS.
VISA WAIVER PILOT PROGRAM
Travelers coming to the U.S. for tourism or business for 90 days or less from qualified countries may be eligible to visit the U.S. without a visa. Currently, 25 countries participate in the Visa Waiver Pilot Program: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, San Marino, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Visitors entering on the Visa Waiver Pilot Program cannot work or study while in the U.S. and cannot stay longer than 90 days or adjust their status to another category.