A visa is required for foreign citizens to enter the U.S., unless they meet the requirements for a visa-free travel. There are 2 types of visas: immigrant and non-immigrant. Immigrant visas are designed for foreign citizens who intend to make the U.S. their permanent residence (they may have multiple residences, but the U.S. residence must be the permanent one). Non-immigrant visas are intended only for a temporary stay in the U.S.

There are a variety of non-immigrant and immigrant visas available, depending on the purpose of travel to the U.S., such as for tourism, vacation or pleasure (see tourist visas), for working on sea vessels or international airlines (crewmember visas), for study in the U.S. (see student visas), for temporary employment (see temporary employment visas), for marriage to a U.S. citizen (see fiancé(e) visas), for permanent immigration to the U.S. based on a family relationship (see green card through family), etc.

Foreign citizens living outside of the U.S. must apply at a U.S. Department of State (DOS) consulate abroad to a get an immigrant visa. This process is called consular processing. The first step in consular processing is the filing of an immigrant petition. Once the petition is approved, it is forwarded to the DOS’s National Visa Center (NVC) for visa processing. If a visa is available, the NVC will collect all fees and supporting documentation and will forward the case to a consulate abroad, where the immigrant is scheduled for a visa interview.

To obtain a non-immigrant visa, foreign citizens must submit an online visa application to a U.S. consulate and then undergo an in-person interview with a consular officer. Each visa type has its own specific qualification requirements. Also, most employment-based and student applications require some type of pre-approval by a different agency or entity before visas can be applied for. At Anna Handy Law Firm, P.A. we can guide you through a complicated visa application process and save you a lot of time and money.