If you wish to visit the U.S. temporarily, as a tourist, an investor, a student or to work temporarily, you may be interested in getting a non-immigrant visa. There are many different types of temporary visas (visas that are issued for a specific purpose and specific time period), the most common of which is the B visa for visitors. 

It is now possible to visit the U.S. for up to 3 months from many different countries without any visa at all (Visa Waiver). These visas generally require that you intend to return to your home country and maintain a foreign residence during your stay in the U.S. Although there are several “dual intent” visas, be careful to choose the visa that best suits your plan.  Our office is very experienced in assisting you with the necessary documentation and procedure to procure a non-immigrant visa, but most importantly, we can analyze exactly what type of visa will best suit your immediate and future needs.  Consultation

In order to get a visa, you must apply for one at the American Consulate in your country. Sometimes this is done through a travel agency, but generally that is only in the case of a visitor’s visa. In some cases, the visa must first be approved by an Immigration officer inside the U.S. and then forwarded to the Consulate abroad for issuance of visa. The processing times and procedures  vary depending upon the country and the consulate.

There are some new visas being authorized such as the E-3 visa for Australians, and there are always modifications to old visa procedures and requirements, so always refer to the latest news for updated information.  E-3 Visas --- Australians

 WORKER (H visa)
New Visas (S, T, U)


If you are already in the United States on an unexpired visa (dictated by the I-94 entry document, not the visa page in your passport), you may apply to change your status without leaving the U.S. You may even extend you status in some cases, but all of these visas have a maximum time period you can remain in the U.S. (for example, a visitor's visa allows a 6 month visit whereas a professional athlete may stay up to 10 years.) But be warned, if you change your status while inside the U.S., you must still apply for the visa at the Consulate abroad if you travel outside the U.S.

Once the visa is placed into your passport, you can enter into the U.S. on that visa for the duration of the visa period so long as you satisfy the border inspector that you are truly coming for that specified purpose. Remember, these visas for very specific and you can not use one type to really come in to the country to do something else. For example, if you are engaged to marry a U.S. citizen, you may be coming to just “visit” that fiancée or you may be coming to get married.  There is a huge difference in your intent at the time of entry, and you need to be careful you do not commit “visa entry fraud”  by coming for the wrong purpose. Back to Top


Since October 26, 2004, visa waiver travelers from ALL 27 Visa Waiver Program countries must present either a machine-readable passport (MRP) or a U.S. visa. In the interest of facilitating travel, a border official at ports of entry the discretionary authority to grant one-time exemptions on a case-by-case basis to  travelers without a visa or MRP  who are nationals of 22 of the 27 countries. The following 5 countries are already required to present an MRP and therefore this one-time exemption procedure will not apply to travelers from Andorra, Belgium, Brunei, Liechtenstein, and Slovenia.  President Bush signed legislation which requires that all passports include biometrics beginning October 26, 2005.  

Visa Waiver Program - Participating Countries

Andorra Iceland Norway
Australia Ireland Portugal
Austria Italy San Marino
Belgium Japan Singapore
Brunei Liechtenstein Slovenia
Denmark Luxembourg Spain
Finland Monaco Sweden
France the Netherlands Switzerland
Germany New Zealand United Kingdom

The Patriot Act legislated that all Visa Waiver Program travelers must have a machine-readable passport which has biographical data entered on the data page according to international specifications. The size of the passport and photograph, and arrangement of data fields, especially the two lines of printed OCR-B machine readable data, meet the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization, Doc 9303, Part 1 Machine Readable Passports. OCR-B means the type is Optical Character Reader, style B. If there are questions about your passport after carefully reviewing this information, and any information, which may be available to you from your country, contact the passport issuing agency or authority in your country of citizenship. Below is a data page example of a Machine-Readable Passport.

Machine Readable Passport image

Families seeking to enter the U.S. under the Visa Waiver program using a machine-readable passport will need to obtain an individual passport for each traveler, including infants. Machine-readable passports typically have biodata for only one traveler in the machine-readable zone. Based on this, families may be denied visa-free entry into the U.S. since the biodata for only one traveler is available on the machine-readable passport.

To enter the U.S. under the Visa Waiver program, travelers must:

  • Be a citizen of a Visa Waiver Program country;
  • have a valid passport issued by the participating country that is valid for six months beyond your intended visit;
  • have a machine-readable passport (MRP);
  • be seeking entry for 90 days or less, as a temporary visitor for business or pleasure . You will not be permitted to extend your visit or change to another visa category;
  • if entering by air or sea, have a round-trip transportation ticket issued on a carrier that has signed an agreement with the U.S. government to participate in the VWP, and arrive in the United States aboard such a carrier;
  • hold a completed and signed Nonimmigrant Visa Waiver Arrival-Departure Record, Form I-94W, on which you have waived the right of review or appeal of an immigration officer's determination about admissibility, or deportation. These forms are available from participating carriers, travel agents, and at land-border ports-of-entry;
  • have no visa ineligibilities. This means if you have been refused a visa before, have a criminal record or are ineligible for a visa you cannot travel on the Visa Waiver Program. You must apply for a visa to the U.S.

You must apply for a visa and can not use the Visa Waiver Program if you want to work or study in the United States; have been refused a visa or admission to the U.S. before; have a criminal record; or are ineligible for a visa.

Citizens of Canada generally do not require a visa. While some people mistakenly believe Canada is part of the visa waiver program, the authorization for Canadian citizens to travel visa-free comes from other immigration laws. Additionally, the machine-readable passport requirement does not apply to Canadian citizens, because they are not part of the visa waiver program. It should be noted however; some Canadian citizens traveling to the U.S. require nonimmigrant visas.   Back to Top


In general, you may apply to change your nonimmigrant status if you were lawfully admitted into the United States with a nonimmigrant visa, your nonimmigrant status remains valid, and you have not committed any crimes that would make you ineligible.

You may not apply to change your nonimmigrant status if you were admitted to the United States in the following visa categories:

If you are an international exchange visitor (J visa category) you may not change your nonimmigrant status if you were admitted to the United States to receive graduate medical training, unless you receive a special waiver. In addition, some exchange visitors must meet a foreign residence requirement before they are allowed to change status. This means that some international exchange visitors must leave the United States and go back to their home country for a minimum of two years before applying to come to the United States as a temporary worker or an immigrant. If you are an exchange visitor and are required to meet the foreign residence requirement, you must receive a waiver if you wish to change your nonimmigrant status without returning home. If you do not receive a waiver, then you may only apply to change to the A (Diplomatic and other government officials, and their families and employees) or G (Representatives to international organizations and their families and employees) nonimmigrant categories

If you are a vocational student (M visa category), you may not apply to become an academic student (F visa category). You also may not apply to change from the vocational student visa category to a temporary worker visa category (H) if it was the training you received as a vocational student in the United States that made you qualified for the temporary worker position.

You do not need to apply to change your nonimmigrant status if you were admitted into the United States for business reasons (B-1 visa category), and you wish to remain in the United States for pleasure before your authorized stay expires.

If you are in the United States as the spouse or child of someone in the following nonimmigrant visa categories, you do not need to apply to change your status if you wish to attend school in the United States (as long as your parent or spouse maintains their original nonimmigrant status).

A - Diplomatic and other government officials, and their families and employees.
E - International Trade and Investors
G - Representatives to international organizations and their families and employees.
H - Temporary Workers
I - Representatives of foreign media and their families
J - Exchange Visitors and their families
L - Intracompany Transferees

If you are in the United States as the spouse or child of someone in the F (Academic Student) or M (Vocational Student) visa category, you do not need to apply to change your status if you wish to attend elementary, middle, or high school in the United States. If you wish to attend post-secondary school full-time, you must apply for change of status.

EXTENSION of STATUS  If you were lawfully admitted into the United States with a nonimmigrant visa, or you changed your status to an unexpired nonimmgrant visa which is still valid, and you have not committed any crimes that would make you ineligible. Please note, you must submit the application for an extension of stay BEFORE your current authorized stay expires. You must also keep your passport valid for your entire stay in the United States.

For the following categories of nonimmigrants, your employer should carefully read and file a CIS Form I-129 (Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker) and any supporting documentation: E - International Traders and Investors; H - Temporary Workers; L - Intracompany Transferees; O - Aliens of Extraordinary Ability; P - Entertainers and Athletes; Q - Participants in International Exchange Programs; R - Religious Workers;
TN - Canadians and Mexicans Under NAFTA.

If you are in the following nonimmigrant categories, you should carefully read and complete I-539 (Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status) and submit any required supporting documents: A - Diplomatic and other government officials, and their families and employees; B - Temporary visitors for business or pleasure; F - Academic Students and their families; G - Representatives to international organizations and their families and employees; I - Representatives of foreign media and their families; J - Exchange Visitors and their families; M - Vocational Students and their families; N - Parents and children of the people who have been granted special immigrant status because their parents were employed by an international organization in the United States.

We recommend that you apply to extend your stay at least 45 days before your authorized stay expires, but the CIS Service Center must receive your application by the day your authorized stay expires.  If you are late filing for an extension and your authorized stay has already expired, you must prove that:

  • The delay was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond your control;
  • The length of the delay was reasonable;
  • You have not done anything else to violate your nonimmigrant status (such as work without USCIS approval);
  • You are still a nonimmigrant (This means you are not trying to become a permanent resident of the United States. There are some exceptions.); and
  • You are not in formal proceedings to remove (deport) you from the country.

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Visa Wait Times Advance travel planning and early visa application are important, since visa applications are subject to a greater degree of scrutiny than in the past. If you plan to apply for a nonimmigrant visa to come to the United States, we know you’d like to estimate how long you will have to wait to get an interview appointment to apply for a visa. See our “Visa Wait Times for Interview Appointment” information below.

It is important to thoroughly review all information on the specific Embassy's Consular Section website for local procedures and instructions, such as how to make an interview appointment. Consular Websites will also explain any additional procedures for students, exchange visitors and those persons who need an earlier visa interview appointment.

You'll also want to know how long it will take for your nonimmigrant visa to be processed at the Consular Section, after a decision is made by a Consular Officer to issue the visa, and the visa is available for pick-up by you or the courier at the embassy. See the “Wait Times for a Nonimmigrant Visa to be Processed” information, which does not include time required for special clearances and administrative processing . Some visa applications require additional special clearances or administrative processing, which requires some additional time. Most special clearances are resolved within 30 days of application. Applicants are advised when they apply. When additional special clearances or administrative processing is required, the timing will vary based on individual circumstances of each case.  

To schedule an appointment for a full analysis of your particular situation, please visit our Contact Us or request an Consultation. 

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