What is a Visa?

What is a Visa?

In general, citizens of foreign countries need a  visa stamp in their passport to enter the United States the same way  citizens of the U.S. may need a visa to enter a foreign country. Most  foreign nationals interested in coming to the U.S. will need to apply  for the appropriate visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate outside of the  U.S. Exceptions are made for Canadian citizens and a designated list of  countries (currently 27) eligible to visit the U.S. temporarily under  the B1/B2 Visa Waiver Program.

Individuals who need to apply for a visa should be advised to apply in  the country they currently reside or their citizenship country.  Appointment arrangements and visa application processing times vary at  each Embassy. In addition, security clearances, especially in areas  that are considered sensitive or are listed on the Technology Alert  List, may cause unpredictable delays in the visa processing. While  there is no way to control the visa processing time, especially in  cases of individuals who may be subject to delays, ensuring the  individual is prepared for the visa interview will significantly  facilitate the visa processing.

F students and J Exchange Visitors (students, scholars, and  researchers) must pay a $100 SEVIS I-901 fee prior to the visa  appointment in addition to any visa issuance or reciprocity fees (based  on the country of citizenship).

A visa doesn't permit entry to the U.S., however. A visa simply  indicates that a U.S. consular officer at an American embassy or  consulate has determined a foreign national is eligible to enter the  country for a specific purpose. Consular affairs are the responsibility  of the U.S. Department of State.

A visa allows you to travel to the United States as far as the port of  entry (airport or land border crossing) and an immigration officer  allows admission to the country. Only the immigration officer has the  authority to permit you to enter the United States. He or she decides  how long you can stay for any particular visit. Immigration matters are  the responsibility of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.