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 visa allows a foreign citizen, to travel to the United States port-of entry and request permission of the U.S. immigration inspector to enter the U.S.
The "visitor" visa is a nonimmigrant visa for persons desiring to enter the United States temporarily for business (B-1), for pleasure or medical treatment (B-2), or combination of both (B-1/B-2) purposes.
Business Visitor Visas (B-1) - For example, 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 visitor visa (B-1) would be the appropriate type of visa for your travel. After reviewing this website information, should you need additional information about business related (B-1) visitor visas; select Business Travel to the United States – What Type of U.S. Visa Will You Need.
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 if they meet the visa waiver program requirements. Select Visa Waiver Program to learn more, and find out if you meet the visa waiver requirements.
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ESTA is an automated system used to determine the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and whether such travel poses any law enforcement or security risk. Upon completion of an ESTA application, a traveler is notified of his or her eligibility to travel to the United States under the VWP.
New ESTA Fee: Effective September 8, 2010, all Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) registration applications or renewals on or after that date will require a $14.00 fee payment by credit or debit card. Existing ESTA registrations remain valid through their expiration date. For more information, please visit the ESTA webpage on the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection website.
ESTA is Required: Effective January 20, 2010, the Department of Homeland Security is transitioning to enforced compliance of the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) requirement for VWP travelers. Therefore, VWP travelers who have not obtained approval through ESTA should expect to be denied boarding on any air carrier bound for the United States.
Learn more about ESTA on the DHS Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website, http://www.cbp.gov. ESTA applications may be completed online at the official DHS website, which is: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/.
There are specific requirements which must be met by applicants to qualify for a visitor visa under provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The consular officer at the embassy or consulate will determine whether you qualify for the visa.
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:
Applicants for visitor visas should generally apply at the U.S. 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. Visa applications are now subject to a greater degree of review than in the past so it is important to apply for your visa well in advance of your travel departure date.
As part of the visa application process, an interview at the embassy consular section is required for visa applicants from age 14 through 79, with few exceptions. Persons age 13 and younger, and age 80 and older, generally do not require an interview, unless requested by embassy or consulate. Making your appointment for an interview is the first step in the visa application process. The waiting time for an interview appointment for applicants can vary, so early visa application is strongly encouraged. Visa wait times for interview appointments and visa processing time information for each U.S. Embassy or Consulate worldwide is available online at Visa Wait Times, and on most embassy websites. Learn how to schedule an appointment for an interview, pay the application processing fee, review embassy specific instructions, and much more by visiting the U.S. Embassy or Consulate website where you will apply.
During the visa application process, usually at the interview, an ink-free, digital fingerprint scan will be quickly taken. Some visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the visa applicant’s interview by a Consular Officer.
Each applicant for a visitor visa must submit these forms and documentation as explained below:
It is important that you refer to the Embassy Consular Section web site to determine visa processing timeframes and instructions, learn about interview scheduling, and find out if there are any additional documentation items required. Learn more by contacting the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
Applicants must demonstrate that they are properly classifiable as visitors under U.S. law by:
Questions on visa application procedures and visa ineligibilities should be made to the American consular office abroad by the applicant. Before submitting your inquiry, we request that you carefully review this web site and also the Embassy Consular web site abroad. Very often you will find the information you need.
If your inquiry concerns a visa case in progress overseas, you should first contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate handling your case for status information. Select U.S. Embassy or Consulate, and you can choose the Embassy or Consulate Internet site you need to contact.
Source: Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. State Department
8 October 2010 <http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types/types_1265.html>