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Nonimmigrant Visa FAQs

Nonimmigrant Visa FAQs

Applicants for visitor visas should not find it necessary to employ persons to assist them in preparing documents.

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.

If the consular officer should find it necessary to deny the issuance of a visitor visa, the applicant may apply again if there is new evidence to overcome the basis of the refusal. In the absence of new evidence, consular officers will probably not reexamine such cases.

If you have a valid visa in your expired passport, you may continue to use it for entry into the United States so long as you carry your current passport as well.

How long can I stay in the United States?

In all instances, your period of admittance into the United States is determined at the port of entry by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). The validity of the visa does not indicate the length of time you may stay in the U.S. It represents the date by which you must use the visa to apply for entry.

Immigration Procedures at Port of Entry

Applicants should be aware that a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States.

  • The USCIS has authority to deny admission.
  • The USCIS, not the Consular Officer, also determines the period for which the bearer of a visitor visa is authorized to remain in the United States.
  • At the port of entry, an USCIS official authorizes the traveler’s admission to the U.S. and length of stay on Form I-94, Record of Arrival-Departure.
  • Visitors who wish to stay beyond the time indicated on their Form I-94 must contact the USCIS to request Form I-539, Extension of Stay.
  • The decision to grant or deny a request for extension of stay is made solely by the USCIS.

The non-immigrant visa application Form DS-156 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 temporary worker, may apply for a waiver of ineligibility and be issued a visa if the waiver is approved.

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.

What about proof of binding ties?

With the exception of the H-1 and L-1, applicants may also need to show proof of binding ties to a residence outside the United States which they have no intention of abandoning. It is impossible to specify the exact form the evidence should take since applicants’ circumstances vary greatly.

Family members?

With the exception of “Q-1 Cultural Exchange Visitors,” the spouse and unmarried, minor children of an applicant under some of the other classifications may also be classified as non-immigrants in order to accompany or join the principal applicant. A person who has received a visa as the spouse or child of a temporary worker may not accept employment in the United States. The principal applicant must be able to show that he or she will be able to support his or her family in the United States.

Time Limits

All classifications have fixed time limits in which the alien may perform services in the United States. In some cases the USCIS may extend those time limits in order to permit the completion of the services. Thereafter, the alien must remain abroad for a fixed period of time before being readmitted as a temporary worker under any classification.

The USCIS will notify the petitioner on Form I-797 whenever a visa petition, an extension of visa petition, or an extension of stay is approved under any of the above classifications. The beneficiary may use form I-797 (original) to apply for a new or revalidated visa during the validity period of the petition. The approval of a permanent labor certification or the filing of a preference petition for an alien shall not be a basis for denying a visa under the H-1 or L classifications.

I would like to submit information to support the nonimmigrant visa application of someone. What should I do?

You are welcome to provide the applicant with information or documents that may support his or her application to travel to the U.S.  Please note that consular officers do not review most nonimmigrant visa applications prior to the applicant’s interview.  Therefore, we are unable to accept letters of invitation or other supporting documentation in advance of the interview you must send them directly to your relative to bring on the day of their interview.  This regulation is in place to ensure that all applicants receive a fair, unprejudiced consideration of their applications under the law at the time of their interviews.  When the interview occurs, the applicant is welcome to present any documentation or other information upon the consular officer’s request.  Please remember that the conversation between the consular officer and the applicant is the most important part of the process — we may not even refer to the documents depending on the case.  A decision about the applicant’s qualifications for a visa can often be made without extensive review of the applicant’s documentation.

I have scheduled an appointment online, but need an expedited appointment because of my travel date?

Outside our regularly scheduled visa weeks, we will only accept requests for expedited or emergency appointments related to a U.S. national security matter or impacting the national interests of the U.S. government.

Please review the following list of circumstances that may merit favorable consideration.  If you believe your circumstances merit consideration, please email apiaconsular@state.gov with your justification and supporting documentation to request an expedited visa appointment in Apia.

Valid National Security or National Interest Reasons for an Expedited Visa Appointment:

  1. An agency of the U.S. federal government has requested that you travel to the United States.
  2. An unexpected urgent need to travel to the U.S. to conduct business with or on behalf of the U.S. Government.
  3. An unexpected visit that is of significant cultural, political, journalistic, or economic importance that is sponsored by or in the direct interest of the U.S. Government.

In all cases, the applicant will be expected to provide documentation to substantiate the urgent need to travel in addition to those forms and supporting documents normally required.

Applicants requesting expedited or emergency visa appointments for other purposes, including to obtain urgent medical care or to accompany a relative or employer for urgent medical care; to attend the funeral of or make arrangements for repatriating the body of an immediate family member; to begin or resume employment as permitted by C1/D, E, H, I, L, O, or P visa categories; or to begin or resume a valid program of study in the United States, should request an appointment at either the U.S. Consulate General in Auckland, New Zealand (https://nz.usembassy.gov/visas/) or the U.S. Embassy in Suva, Fiji (https://fj.usembassy.gov/visas/).

What is ESTA and how does it affect my travels to the United States?

The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (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.

For additional information about ESTA and travel to the U.S. on a visa go to: http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en.html

Can someone else collect my passport for me?

If you designate someone else to collect your passport, please advise our Consular staff at the time of your interview.  We normally require the person you designate to have written authorization from you to pick up your passport and provide their photo identification (their passport, driver’s license or work id)

How long can I stay in the U.S. after my study/exchange visa expires?

On a study (F, M) or exchange (J) visa you may enter the U.S. no more than 30 days before the official start of the program.  On a J or M visa, you may stay 30 days after the official end of your program.  On an F visa, you may stay for 60 days after the conclusion of your studies

How long can I stay in the U.S. after the end of my working visa?

On the E, H, L, O, P, Q, and R you may enter the U.S. 10 days before the official start of your work and you may stay 10 days after the official end of your work.

Can my relative in the U.S. sponsor my employment?

Only an employer can petition for a work visa for you. 

Only an employer can petition for a work visa for you.