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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

A request for an expedited visa appointment will only be granted for limited reasons listed below in brief:

(1)The death or life-threatening illness/accident of an immediate relative in the United States. (2) An F,M, or J visa whose I-20 or DS-2019 shows a start date that is earlier than the first available visa appointment. (3) A lost or stolen visa. (4) An unexpected business trip or (5) a visit that is of significant cultural, political, journalistic or economic importance. Please inquire as to the required documentation needed to request an expedited visa appointment.

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

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)

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

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.

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