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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. Citizens of qualified countries may be able to visit the United States without a visa under the Visa Waiver Program. All travelers coming to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program must obtain authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) system prior to initiating travel to the United States.
If you do not qualify for the Visa Waiver Program (i.e. traveling to study, work, participate in an exchange program, or any other purpose that does not fall under a B visa purpose of travel) you will need a nonimmigrant visa.
A visa does not guarantee entry to the United States. A visa simply indicates that a U.S. consular officer has determined that you are eligible to apply for entry to the United States for a specific purpose.
NOTE: Canadian citizens generally do not require a visa to enter the United States for the purposes of visiting or studying. For more information click here.
A nonimmigrant visa is used by tourists, business people, students, or specialty workers who wish to stay for a particular period of time in the United States to accomplish specific purposes. According to U.S. visa laws and regulations, most nonimmigrant visa applicants must demonstrate to the consular officer that they have strong ties to their country of residence and must show that they intend to depart the United States after their temporary stay.
Preparation for the Consular Section Interview
In preparation for the Consular Section interview, applicants must collect the appropriate documentation related to the purpose of travel. Provided under each of the specific visa categories is a list of documents required. You will need to establish that you meet the requirements under U.S. law to receive the category of visa for which you are applying. There is no guarantee that a visa will be issued. Do not make final travel plans or buy tickets until a visa is issued.
Note: Additional documentation may be required. Please review the instructions on how to apply for a visa on the website of the Embassy or Consulate where you will apply. Additional documents may be requested to establish visa qualifications.
For Visa applications that require an in-person interview at the Consular Section, applicants must bring all required documents with them to the interview.
For Visa applicants that do not require an in-person interview at the Consular Section, applicants must include all required documents for Consular Section review in the application package to be submitted by the applicant.