The "visitor" visa is a nonimmigrant visa for persons desiring to enter the United States temporarily for business (B-1) and for pleasure or medical treatment (B-2). As examples, if the purpose of your planned travel is recreational in nature, including tourism, amusement, visits with friends or relatives, rest, medical treatment, and activities of a fraternal, social, or service nature, then a visitor visa (B-2) would be the appropriate type of visa for your travel. As additional examples, if the purpose for your planned travel is to consult with business associates, travel for a scientific, educational, professional or business convention, or conference on specific dates, settle an estate, or negotiate a contract, then a business (B-1) visitor visa would be the appropriate type of visa for your travel.
Most Canadian citizens and many citizens from Visa Waiver Program countries can come to the U.S. without a visa if they meet certain requirements. Visa Waiver travelers from ALL 36 Visa Waiver Program countries 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. Other passport requirements may also apply. In addition, the Department of Homeland Security also requires Visa Waiver Program travelers to complete the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) application PRIOR to boarding a flight to the United States. (See the Visa Waiver Program page on this web site for additional information.)
The presumption in the law is that every visitor visa applicant is an intending immigrant. Therefore, applicants for visitor visas must overcome this presumption by demonstrating that:
- The purpose of their trip is to enter the U.S. for business, pleasure, or medical treatment;
- That they plan to remain for a specific, limited period;
- Evidence of funds to cover expenses in the United States;
- Evidence of compelling social and economic ties abroad; and
- 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.
When making an application for a B visa at a U.S. Consulate, or when applying for admission at the Port of Entry to the United States, applicants will need to satisfy Consular Officers and/or Immigration Officers that they are entering the United States for activities that are allowed for persons entering in this visa status.
For entry as a B-1 visitor, it is sometimes difficult to tell whether activities in the United States will be appropriate for entry in the business category, as the line between “business” and “employment” can be blurred. Certain activities are clearly appropriate:
- Engaging in commercial transactions, which do not involve gainful employment in the United States (such as a merchant who takes orders for goods manufactured abroad);
- Negotiate contracts;
- Consult with business associates;
- Participate in scientific, educational, professional or business conventions, conferences, or seminars; or
- Undertake independent research.
However, when a potential visitor will be performing any hands-on services, professional services or productive employment, they may not qualify for entry as a Business Visitor.
The Visa Waiver Program (“VWP”) enables nationals of certain countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. VWP eligible travelers may apply for a visa, if they prefer to do so. Not all countries participate in the VWP, and not all travelers from VWP countries are eligible to use the program. However, the purposes for which a VWP applicant may enter the United States for business purposes are the same as those for the B-1 Business Visa Applicant. No changes of nonimmigrant status are permissible for those persons in the United States under the visa waiver category.
Currently, 36 countries participate in the Visa Waiver Program, as shown below:
Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
Where Do I Apply 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. Although visa applicants may apply at any U.S. consular office abroad, it may be more difficult to qualify for the visa outside the country of permanent residence. It is important that you refer to the Embassy Consular Section web site to determine visa processing time frames and instructions, learn about interview scheduling, and find out if there are any additional documentation items required. Learn more by contacting the Embassy Consular Section.
Misrepresentation of a Material Facts, or Fraud
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.
Visa Ineligibility/ Waiver
The U.S. Department of State's web site lists classes of persons who are ineligible under U.S. law to receive visas. In some instances an applicant who is ineligible, but who is otherwise properly classifiable as a visitor, may apply for a waiver of ineligibility and be issued a visa if the waiver is approved. [»] Classes of Aliens Ineligible to Receive Visas provides important information about ineligibilities, by reviewing sections of the law taken from the immigration and Nationality Act.
- No assurances regarding the issuance of visas can be given in advance. Therefore final travel plans or the purchase of nonrefundable tickets should not be made until a visa has been issued.
- Unless previously canceled, a visa is valid until its expiration date. Therefore, if the traveler has a valid U.S. visa in an expired passport, do not remove the visa page from the expired passport. You may use it along with a new valid passport for travel and admission to the United States.
- Visitors are not permitted to accept employment during their stay in the U.S.
Entering the United States
A visa allows a foreign citizen coming from abroad, to travel to the United States port-of entry and request permission to enter the U.S. Applicants should be aware that a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. The Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) officials have authority to permit or deny admission to the United States. If you are allowed to enter the U.S., the CBP official will determine the length of your visit on the Arrival-Departure Record (Form I-94). Since Form I-94 documents your authorized stay in the U.S., it’s very important to keep in your passport. Upon arrival (at an international airport, seaport or land border crossing), you will be enrolled in the US-VISIT entry-exit program. In addition, some travelers will also need to register their entry into and their departure from the U.S. with the National Security Exit Entry Registration System (“NSEERS”), also referred to as Special Registration program.
Staying Beyond Your Authorized Stay in the U.S. and Being Out of Status
You should carefully consider the dates of your authorized stay and make sure you are following the procedures under U.S. immigration laws. It is important that you depart the U.S. on or before the last day you are authorized to be in the U.S. on any given trip, based on the specified end date on your Arrival-Departure Record/Form I-94. Failure to depart the U.S. will cause you to be out-of-status.
Staying beyond the period of time authorized by the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) and being out-of-status in the United States is a violation of U.S. immigration laws, and may cause you to be ineligible for a visa in the future for return travel to the U.S.
Staying unlawfully in the United States beyond the date Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) officials have authorized--even by one day--results in your visa being automatically voided, in accordance with INA 222(g). Under this provision of immigration law, if you overstay beyond the ending date of your I-94 card (your authorized stay in the U.S.) your visa will be automatically voided. In this situation, you are required to reapply for a new nonimmigrant visa, generally in your country of nationality.
VISA APPLICATION FORM
The Form DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application, is a fully integrated online application form that is used to collect the necessary application information from a person seeking a nonimmigrant visa. The Form DS-160 is submitted electronically to the Department of State via the Internet. Consular Officers use the information entered on the Form DS-160 to process the visa application and, combined with a personal interview, determine an applicant’s eligibility for a nonimmigrant visa.
All U.S. Embassies and Consulates that process nonimmigrant visas use the online Form DS-160. Therefore, visa applicants will need to apply using the online Form DS-160 for all nonimmigrant visa categories, except for K, N, S, T, and U categories. Review the Frequently Asked Questions for instructions about the DS-160 and to access the form from our website.
Frequently Asked Questions
You may also visit the (» Form DS-160 informational webpage) for links to relevant U.S. embassy and consulate web pages, and for general information about the online form.
1. Where can I find the DS-160?
2. Can my answers be in my native language?
No. All application questions, except as specially provided, must be in English, using English characters only. Applications that are submitted in any language other than English may be denied, and you may be required to submit a new application.
3. Are all fields on the DS-160 mandatory?
Most fields on the DS-160 are mandatory. You may leave fields marked “Optional” blank. Some fields may also give you the option to select “Does Not Apply”. If that field does not apply to you, you may mark the box next to “Does Not Apply.” All other fields must be completed: the application will not allow you to submit a form with any mandatory fields left blank. In this instance, an error message will be displayed and you will be required to complete the field before continuing with the application. If you do not answer questions that apply, your form may also be rejected.
4. What happens if I need to step away in the middle of data entry?
The DS-160 will “time out” approximately 20 minutes after the application has been idle. The “time out” is designed to protect your privacy. If the application times out, all the data that has been entered will be lost. In order to guard against possible “time out” issues you should save the application at regular intervals while you are completing the application. To save the application, click the “Save” button at the bottom center of the application. Clicking save will temporarily save your application. In order to permanently save your application, select the “Save Application to File” button. Then, click the “Save” button on the File Download window. Identify a place on your computer to save the application file, browse to that location, and click the “Save” button on the Save As window. The system will download your application to the specified location. Once the download is complete you can click “Close” to return to the application. You can then use the “Import Application Date” option on the “Getting Started” page to upload the data that you have already entered.
5. I understand that I can upload a photo with my application. How do I get a digital photo that will successfully upload to my application?
Please refer to the Guidelines for Photographs - for Online Visa Applications for detailed guidance for using a digital camera, and requirements for scanned images.
6. The confirmation page has an “X” in the box where the photo should be. What does that mean?
That means that the photo upload failed. Therefore, you will need to submit one printed photograph meeting requirements, along with the online DS-160 confirmation page. Please verify with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you are applying for specific instructions on how to attach your photo to your confirmation page. See the print photo format found in the Nonimmigrant Photograph Requirements. If the confirmation page includes a photo image, then the photo upload function has succeeded and no separate print photograph is required.
7. Why did the edits I made from the review page “edit” link not save?
In order for data changes made from the review page links to save, you must use the buttons at the bottom of each page to navigate, instead of the browser’s back/forward buttons or the buttons along the left of the screen.
8. Should I save my application before I submit it?
YES! You should, if you can, save your application locally (to either your computer hard drive or a CD) before you submit your application. Saving your application locally is beneficial in two ways. First, if your application is rejected by the U.S. Embassy or Consulate for being incomplete, i.e., your application contains non-responsive answers or you failed to answer a critical question, you will be able access your saved application data, correct the non-responsive or incomplete answers and submit the corrected application without having to complete an entirely new application. Second, if you are a frequent visa applicant, you can update your saved application the next time you wish to apply for a visa and submit the updated application. This will save you time by not having to re-enter information that has not changed since the last time you applied.
9. How do I save my application?
To save the application, click the “Save” button at the bottom center of the application. Clicking save will temporarily save your application. In order to permanently save your application, select the “Save Application to File” button. Then, click the “Save” button on the File Download window. Identify a place on your computer to save the application file, browse to that location, and click the “Save” button on the Save As window. The system will download your application to the specified location. Once the download is complete, you can click “Close” to return to the application. You can then use the “Import Application Date” option on the “Getting Started” page to upload the data that you have already entered.
10. Do I bring my entire application with me to the interview, or do I just bring the confirmation page?
You should not bring your entire application. Your confirmation page is all that is needed to retrieve your application data. You must bring the confirmation page with you during all phases of the application process. Without the confirmation page, it may not be possible to access your application and process your visa case.
11. I am traveling with my family or as part of a group. Can I create a family or group application?
Yes. On the “Thank You” page you will see an option to create a family or group application. When you select this option, certain information from your application, such as destination, will automatically be imported to and displayed on a new application. Please note that if you use this option you will need to create an individual application for each of your family members traveling with you or for each individual within the group.
12. If I use the option on the “Thank You” page to create a family or group application, can I modify the data automatically populated by the system?
Yes. If one of the dependents has a different surname or nationality, for example, the applicant can alter that data on the application before submitting.
13. When I apply for a nonimmigrant visa using the online DS-160, are additional forms required?
No, with two exceptions. When applying at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate that is using the new DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, you will use only one (1) form. For Embassies and Consulates that have converted to this new process, the DS-160 has replaced all of the following forms: DS-156, DS-157, DS-158, and DS-3032, which are no longer necessary.
NOTE: The exceptions are Fiancé(e) Visas (K-1/2) which still require use of the forms DS-156 and DS-156K, and the Treaty Trader/Treaty Investor visa application, which is explained in #14 below. It is important to check the Embassy or Consulate website where you will apply for your nonimmigrant visa for information on the application process in place. Embassies and consulates worldwide will transition one-by-one to the DS-160. Therefore, those Embassies which have not yet converted to the new DS-160 online form continue to require all application forms, as necessary.
14. What happens to my DS-160 if I select a U.S. Embassy or Consulate where I will be applying for my visa, but end up making an interview appointment instead at another U.S. Embassy or Consulate?
Step 1 on the DS-160 asks you to select the location where you will be submitting your application. In case you select a particular location, but then decide to schedule an interview appointment and apply for your visa at another location, the second location will still be able to use the DS-160 you filled out listing where you originally intended to apply.
For example, a business traveler intends to apply for his visa at the U.S. Embassy in City X, so he selects City X as the location where he will submit his application when he completes his DS-160. He then has an urgent reason to travel to City Y on business. Because there is a U.S. Consulate in City Y, he schedules an appointment for a visa interview there, using the barcode from his completed DS-160 application for appointment scheduling. The U.S. Consulate in City Y is able to accept his DS-160 even though it lists the U.S. Embassy in City X as the location where he originally intended to submit his application.
15. I am applying for a Treaty Trader/Treaty Investor, E Visa. Do I need to fill out the DS-160 and the DS-156E?
It depends. If you are a Treaty Investor (E-2) applicant, all you need to complete is the DS-160. If you are a Treaty Trader (E-1) or an Executive/Manager/Essential Employee (E-1 or E-2) you will need to complete the DS-160 and you or your employer will need to complete the paper DS-156E. (Sometime next year a new form, the DS-161, E Visa Business Information form, will be released. This form will allow you or your employer to complete an online form and submit the form electronically to the Department. Until that time all treaty traders, executives, managers, and essential employees of an E visa business will be required to complete and submit the paper DS-156E.)
16. In addition to the Fiancé(e) Visa (K1/K2), are there any other visa categories for which I should not fill out the DS-160?
Yes. If you are applying for N-8, N-9, S-5, S-6, S-7, T-1, T-2, T-3, T_4, U-1, U-2, U-3, or U-4 visa categories below, you should fill out the Form DS-156, not the Form DS-160. If required, you should also fill in the Form DS-157 and Form DS-158.