Visas for the USA

In this article you will find the main types of visas for the United States. A complete 2020 guide with up-to-date information and answers to frequently asked questions. You can also click on the links to obtain specific information about the American visa that interests you.

If you need help with an immigration matter, our immigration lawyers in Los Angeles can help. From assisting you in visa and residency applications to any other consular and immigration matter.

Types of american visas

Click on a specific visa or group of visas for detailed information. These are the main U.S. visas:

  • Foreign government diplomat or official. The visa type A categories for officers and diplomats are as follows:
    • The A1 visa is for diplomats or foreign government officials traveling to the United States for official work functions.
    • The A2 visa is for middle-ranking military officials who work full-time at a U.S. embassy or consulate. It includes civilian diplomatic officials and their immediate families.
    • If you have worked in an international organization in the USA, you must obtain a G-1 to G-5 visa. NATO visas are for NATO workers.
  • Visas for visitors. Visa B1 and B2 for visitor are issued to those who wish to visit the United States for a maximum of six months. They are divided into:
    • B1 tourist visa.
    • B2 business visa.
  • Student visas. Both the F and M visas pursue academic and vocational purposes. Depending on the field of study and the college, you must obtain the student visa F-1 or the M1 one. These are the categories of student visas for the USA:
    • F-1 visa for students.
    • F-2 visa dependent on F-1 visa holders.
    • M-1 visa for vocational purposes.
  • Visas for exchange visitors. They are intended for those who participate in exchange programs and some form of practical training and employment within the United States. These visas are divided into:
  • Family visas. The V visa is a non-immigrant visa that was created to allow families to stay together while waiting for the processing and approval of an immigrant visa.
  • Temporary work visas. These visas are issued for temporary work in the United States. Here are the categories of work-related visas.
    • E-3 visas. For Australians who will work in specialized areas.
    • H-1B visa. For foreign workers in specialized occupations.
    • H-2A visa. Temporary agricultural workers.
    • H-2B visa. For temporary non-agricultural workers.
    • H-3 visas. Special education learners or visitors.
    • L-1 visas. Transfer of specialized professionals within the same company.
    • O visa. For people with extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, education, business, or athletics. There are three types:
      • O-1 Visa. For people with extraordinary abilities.
      • O-2 Visa. For assistants of O-1 visa holders.
      • O-3 Visa. For dependents of O-1 visa holders.
    • P visa. For athletes and their spouses and children. It includes the following categories.
      • P-1 applies to individual or team athletes, or members of an entertainment group (P-1B) who are internationally recognized.
      • P-2 is for artists who will perform under a reciprocal exchange program.
      • P-3 applies to artists performing in a program that is culturally unique.
      • P-4 is for the spouse or child under the age of 21, of a P-1, P-2 or P-3 alien and accompanying or continuing to join the alien.
    • Religious type R visa. Religious workers who want to practice within the U.S. must obtain the R-1 visa.
    • Media visa I. For foreign journalists and media outlets visiting the US
  • Treaty merchant and investor visas. The E-1 and E-2 visas are for those who have trade and navigation treaties in the USA.
  • Visas for victims of crime and human trafficking. T visas and U visas are the ones to look at in this category.
  • Sponsored visas for immediate family members. In this category fall the F-type visas or IR-2, IR-3, IR-4 and IR-5 among others.
  • Fiance and spouse visas. These are the categories:
    • IR1 and CR1 visas for spouses of US citizens.
    • K-3 and K-4 visas. Specifically, the K3s are for spouses of American citizens who are in the process of obtaining permanent immigration status. The K-4 is for the children of K-3 visa applicants.
    • K-1 fiancé visa. As a U.S. citizen you can bring your fiancé (e) to the USA to get married and live here with this visa.
  • Permanent worker visa preference categories.
    • EB-1 visa. It is intended for “priority workers”. That is, foreigners with “extraordinary abilities”, or “outstanding teachers and researchers.” It also includes some executives and managers of foreign companies transferred to the United States.
    • EB-2 visa. For professionals who may have a graduate degree or its equivalent, or are a foreigner with exceptional ability
    • EB-3 visa. This is for professionals, skilled workers, and other workers.
    • EB-4 visa. For special immigrants of the fourth preference.
    • EB-5 visa. Investor category.
  • Other types of U.S. visas.
    • VAWA visa. For victims of abuse in the United States.
    • Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. Protection status for minors victims of abuse, neglect or abandonment.
    • Diversity visas. They are for immigrants who come from countries with a low immigration rate to the United States.
    • The SB-1 visa or returning resident visa is for permanent residents of the USA who for reasons that they could not control have remained abroad for more than a year or their re-entry permit is no longer valid. This visa grants them entry to the United States again.
    • S visas. This visa is for informants and witnesses to criminal or terrorist activities assisting U.S. law enforcement authorities.

Did not find the visa you were looking for? There are around 185 visas for the United States and here we have only included the most important ones. If you need assistance with any other type of visa, do not hesitate to contact us.

Our attorneys have an over 50 years combined experience serving all types of visa-related matters for the United States.

Why is a visa necessary to enter the United States?

requirements to apply for a visa

Foreign citizens (with some exceptions) who wish to enter the United States territory require a visa to do so. This document is placed in the passport issued by the traveler’s country.

Some foreigners may be eligible to travel to the USA without the need for a visa, provided they meet the requirements for visa exemption. These travelers belong to countries with which the United States has signed the Visa Waiver Program, which includes 38 countries, including Chile and Spain.

Does the visa guarantee entry to the USA?

The U.S. visa allows a foreign citizen to travel to the United States and apply for entry through any land, sea or airport border point. However, this document does not guarantee entry into the country, because before an official from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or Customs and Border Protection (CBP), must carry out the inspection task and authorize entry.

In addition to admission to the country, DHS / CBP inspectors establish the status and period of time that the alien will remain in the U.S.

Differences between immigrant and non-immigrant visas

The main difference is for how long the visa holder can stay in the US. Non-immigrant visas are temporary. In other words, the visa holders must return to their country of origin when the visa expires.

On the other hand, immigrant visas, also known as Green Cards, are permanent. As soon as the holder has one of these visas, he can move and reside in the USA. He will be able do it for as long as he wants and without a deadline to return his country of origin.

Examples of non-immigrant visas

Depending on the purpose of the trip, there are almost 40 different types of non-immigrant visas, the most frequent being B1, B2, C, D, J, Q, J-1-, J-2, M-1, M- 2, H-B1, H-1B, H-2A, H-2B, H-3, L, O-1, P; also R, 1, E-1, E-2, E-3, G1 and G5, A and TN / TD visas.

Other visa categories are T-1, P, BCC, J-1 and J-2, K-1, A-2, O-1, H-1B1, H-1C, I, F-1, F- 2, M-1, M-2, H-3, C, T-1.

To enter the United States, foreign minors require a visa that must be processed by their parents or representatives. The procedure to acquire it is done online by filling out the form after scheduling an appointment and paying the fee.

Examples of immigrant visas

Immigrant visas based on employment, business and investment are the most frequent in this group. However, there are other types of immigrant or residence visas depending on the reasons for the application. Such is the case of the T visa, which benefits victims of human trafficking. Along with the U visa, which protects victims of crimes committed in the United States.

  • Family visas: fiance visa (K-1), spuse visa (K-3); visa for couples and children (F2), children of US citizens, singles under 21 (F1); daughters and married sons of United States citizens and their spouses and minor children (F3).
  • Visas for siblings of US citizens (F4).
  • Adoption visas.
  • Employment visas.
  • Investor visas (EB-5).
  • Professionals of extraordinary abilities.
  • Translators’ visas in conflict zones.
  • Religious visas.

Requirements to obtain the visa for the United States

These depend on the type of visa you want to apply for. However, there are some common requirements for non-immigrant visa applications.

One of the most requested visas is that of a tourist and the documents that must be attached, in addition to the DS-160 form, are as follows:

  • Valid passport, which does not expire before 6 months.
  • Travel itinerary if you have it.
  • Mention the dates of the last five visits or trips to the USA, if applicable. You may be asked for travel history to other countries too.
  • Resume.
  • Other information. Depending on the purpose of the trip some applicants must provide some additional information on form DS-160.

Also certain applicants such as students and exchange visitors may be asked to add more information and additional documents. Also to temporary workers who have made an application for an employment visa based on a petition (H-1B, H-2, H-3, CW1, L, O, P, R, E2C) and other temporary workers.

How to get the visa for the United States?

After filling in the DS-160 application, you must follow these steps:

  1. Submit the visa application for the United States, completing form DS-160 to apply individually or with the family group. This migration template is available on the website of the respective embassy or consulate of the applicant’s country of origin.
  2. Print and keep the page for the DS-160 barcode. You do not need to print the entire form.
  3. Schedule an appointment for the visa interview through the website of the United States embassy or consulate in your country.
  4. Pay the processing fee for the United States visa application. You should carefully review the specific instructions provided by the U.S. embassy or consulate.
  5. Promptly attend the interview at the embassy / consulate and bring all supporting documents for the information provided on form DS-160.

In the interview with the immigration officer they will tell you if your visa application was approved, remains pending or was rejected.

What is the visa bulletin?

It is a monthly publication by the U.S. Department of State informing foreigners with approved immigrant visa applications when they can start the final phase of their visa application. It can be for a family-based or employment-based visa, through which you will finally obtain permanent residence (Green Card).

The visa bulletin can be consulted through the following link on the U.S Department of State site. The publication provides an overview of the availability of visa numbers for immigrants. The newsletter is published for specific months for both “Final Action Dates” and “Application Dates”.

On these dates, the final documentation required by the National Visa Center must be submitted.

Steps to apply for the renewal of an American visa

  1. Download the Visa Renewal Application Guide. Purchase is not mandatory.
  2. Pay the costs of the American Visa Renewal Application. The fee varies depending on the embassy or consulate of the United States.
  3. Make an appointment for the visa. Follow the instructions on the website of your country’s embassy or consulate. On the “Travel Purpose” page the applicant will be asked if they have been denied a visa in the last 12 months and if they have a valid visa or it has expired.
  4. Attend the visa interview. Don’t forget to bring to the interview the following:
  • Printed letter of appointment obtained online.
  • Confirmation page with the form DS-160 barcode.
  • Valid passport.
  • Receipt of fee payment of the visa.
  • Color photo according to the specifications indicated on the website.

5. Get your visa. For approved applications, the embassy / consulate will tell you where you can pick up the visa.

Frequently asked questions about the U.S visas

Below we provide answers to many of the questions we receive in our office about the American visa.

Remember that our expert immigration law firm is at your service. Do not hesitate to contact us so that we can resolve any questions you may have. You can use the free consultation and our lawyers will assist you directly on your case.

Which countries do not need a visa for the United States?

There are 39 countries whose citizens do not need a visa to enter the United States. Whenever the reason for your trip is tourism, business or medical treatment. These countries are part of the Visa Waiver or Exemption Program (VWP).

These countries are: Germany, Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, South Korea, Denmark, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, the Netherlands, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Norway and New Zealand.

Nor do citizens of Poland, Portugal, United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Isle of Man and Channel Islands) need a visa to enter the US. Neither the Czech Republic, San Marino, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, and Taiwan.

How much does the visa for the United States cost in 2020?

visa cost to the USA

The fee to apply for the most common types of non-immigrant visa is $ 160. This includes tourist, business, student and exchange visas.

Most petition-based visas, such as work and religious visas, are $ 190. K visas cost $ 265 and the fee amount for E visas is $ 205.

Visit the travel.state.gov page for more information.

How long does it take to process the visa to the United States?

The average time is 3 to 5 weeks. after having conducted the interview and submitted the request. This includes sending the passport by mail, which usually takes from 48 to 72 hours.

If your application for a visa to the United States requires an application for an exemption of ineligibility, it can take 6 to 8 months from the interview request.

If the application is rejected, it can take up to 60 days until you receive that notification depending on the reason for the visa denial.

The time to process the visas depends on the type of visa. The process is also faster in emergency circumstances. Note that the time mentioned above is just an average subject to many variables.

If you need personalized information for your specific case, do not hesitate to book your free consultation with our immigration lawyers now.

How long can I stay in the USA with a visa?

Immigrant visas do not have an expiration date so you can stay permanently.

Non-immigrant visas are temporary and the time varies for each specific visa. It can be from 3 months to 3 years or more.

Can I bring my parents and children to the United States?

In the case of parents, most visas do not allow this since they are not considered dependent relatives. The case of children is different and for the most part visas do allow it. These must be under 18 or 21 years old.

family based immigration

We discuss this issue in detail in our section of family based immigration.

What does a United States visa look like?

When you receive the USA visa you will get something similar to the following image:

how does a visa for the USA look like

Please check that the information is correct in all sections of the visa. If you find any incorrect information you should contact the embassy of the United States that issued it. If you have questions, our phone number is also at your disposal.

American visa for over 60 year old people

Applying for seniors is generally a simpler immigration process than for other people.

One of the reasons is that you do not have to go to a consular appointment. Nor does it require showing evidence of possessing property, income, or bank accounts, work or family ties to U.S. citizens.

American visa requirements for senior citizens

The main requirement is that the applicant has never lived illegally in the U.S. or been convicted of a crime. Likewise, his visa has not been revoked and / or denied before.

It is advisable to have some type of international medical insurance before traveling to cover any medical expenses.

Visa to the United States from other countries

U.S. visa from Spain, Colombia, Argentina and Peru

Spain: Spanish citizens do not need a tourist or non-immigrant visa to travel to the USA.

As Spain is a member of the countries of the Visa Exemption Program (VWP), its citizens are exempt from the visa requirement. Instead, you must file the ESTA. This system helps determine if the applicant is eligible to travel to the United States under this program.

Colombia: Like the rest of the Latin American countries with the exception of Chile, it is not part of the Visa Waiver Program. Therefore, their citizens need to apply for a nonimmigrant visa for tourism or employment, if they wish to visit the US temporarily.

The United States Embassy in Colombia advises travelers to first apply for and obtain a nonimmigrant visa before beginning the travel process.

The most frequent type of visa in Colombia is that of tourist visas (B1 / B2). Although the embassy also processes and awards more than 20 different types of non-immigrant visas. These include student, exchange, temporary work and investor visas (E2 and EB-5).

For more information visit the website of the United States Embassy in Colombia.

Argentina: To enter the United States, Argentine citizens need to previously apply for a tourist visa (B1 / B2). The requirements are similar to those of any other Latin American country, so the applicant must only demonstrate to the consular authorities that he meets each of these requirements.

In the visa category directory of the American Embassy in Argentina you can determine the most appropriate visa category for your next trip to the United States.

Peru: Peruvian citizens who wish to travel temporarily to the USA require to process a non-immigrant visa with the U.S. consular authorities in that country. Basically, the DS-160 form for Peru must be completed in full and meet the following requirements:

  • Being a Peruvian citizen.
  • Have a valid passport for a period of more than 6 months from the date of travel.
  • Guarantee the consular authorities that they have reason to return to Peru.

For more information, please consult the website of the United States Embassy in Peru.


Our firm is made up of immigration lawyers especializing in deportation who can help you become a U.S. citizen or achieve permanent residence in the United States. If you are looking for information about a visa or asylum in the United States, we can also help you.

We have over 50 years of combined experience representing immigrants in the Los Angeles area.