If you are a citizen of a foreign country and you would like to enter the United States, you generally must obtain a U.S. immigrant or non-immigrant visa. A visa is a stamp placed in the passport issued by your home country. Some foreign nationals or non-immigrants are allowed to travel to the United States without a visa if they meet the requirements of a visa free travel.
If you have a U.S. visa you can come to the designated ports of entry in the United States, such as airports and land border crossing points. With a U.S. visa in your passport you will ask the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspector to allow you to enter the United States. Although having a visa does not guarantee entry to the United States, it does indicate that a consulate officer at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad has determined you are eligible to enter the United States for the purpose indicated in your visa. DHS and CBP officers allow immigrants and non-immigrants to enter the United States. DHS also is responsible for oversight of your immigration matters while you are in the United States.
U.S. immigration law defines the type of immigrant or non-immigrant visa you are eligible to receive. There are two main visa categories:
- Nonimmigrant visas – are the visas to travel to the United States on a temporary basis. For example you can come to attend a school, engage in temporary employment, attend a seminar, visit your relatives in the United States or tour the country. Visit our specific non-immigrant visa pages for additional detailed information and set up an appointment with our U.S. visa attorney for an in-depth consultation about your U.S. visa needs.
- Immigrant visas – are the visas to come to live permanently in the United States. For example, you may immigrate to the United States to join your spouse, children, or siblings. A U.S. based employer may also petition DHS to grant you an employment based green card or permission to become a lawful permanent resident. For more information on ways to immigrate to the United States on the basis of employment, please review our pages pertaining to immigration and contact our attorneys for an in-depth consultation.