United States Visa Policy

Familiarize yourself with the United States visa policy and discover the US visa requirements for your nationality.

Visa Policy for the USA

The US visa policy outlines the requirements which a foreign citizen who wishes to visit the United States must meet to obtain a permit to travel to, enter, and remain in the country.

The United States immigration policy is the same for all 50 states, and is similar for certain US territories, such as Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands. However, different visa regulations apply to the territories of Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa.

The visa requirements to travel to the USA differ depending on the nationality of the traveler, as well as the intended purpose and duration of the intended stay in the United States.

Travelers of a few nationalities, including Canada, do not require a visa or travel authorization to enter the country, some for a limited period and others for an indefinite stay.

Citizens of 39 additional countries around the world do not need a visa for the United States to stay for short periods in the country. However, they are required to pre-register for an electronic authorization (ESTA) and receive approval before departure.

This is a quick and easy process that involves filling in a short form online. It can be done from the comfort of the applicant’s own home.

Individuals who are not visa-exempt are required to apply for a United States visa from the nearest US embassy or consulate.  It is necessary to apply for the correct visa type depending on the purpose of travel. This could be a student visa, work visa, visitor visa, business visa, or transit visa.

Some nationalities may be required to obtain both a traditional visa from an embassy and register with the US Electronic Visa Update System (EVUS) to gain travel authorization to the United States. This is the case with citizens of China.

In some rare cases, none of the visa options for the United States are available to some nationalities because of  US visa bans against travelers from certain territories.

Find below a comprehensive list of US regulations to travel to the United States from your country of residence.

Tourist Visa Policy for the United States

Citizens of selected nationalities do not need to obtain one of the types of visa for the United States in order to travel to the country for short stays for tourism, business or transit purposes.

However, although a visa is not required, the traveler may need to obtain an electronic travel authorization before departure, to receive permission to travel to the United States.

Citizens of 39 countries must pre-register online for the ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) to receive travel authorization for the United States. This is mandatory to enter the US at all air, land, and sea border crossings.

To visit the country for longer periods and other purposes than those permitted with ESTA, it is necessary to apply for an embassy visa by making an appointment at a diplomatic office of the United States.

For some nationalities, including China, it is necessary to both apply for an embassy visa and pre-register for an online visa update system to gain travel authorization for the United States.

Below you will find further information about the requirements for your nationality to enter the United States.

United States ESTA

Citizens of 39 nationalities in the US visa waiver program do not need to apply for a visa to travel to the United States for up to 90 days.

To take advantage of visa-free travel to the USA, eligible passengers must pre-register for an ESTA.

This multiple-entry electronic travel authorization allows the holder to travel to the United States several times during its validity.

Applicants can easily obtain an ESTA authorization for the US by completing an online form with personal, passport, and travel information, to receive an approved ESTA linked to their passport.

An approved US ESTA online visa waiver allows the holder to stay for a maximum of 90 days with each entry to the United States, for purposes of tourism, business or transit.

The validity of an approved ESTA is 2 years from the date of issue, or until the associated passport expires, whichever comes first.

A necessary requirement for applying for an ESTA is having a passport from an eligible country valid on the intended arrival date in the United States.

Find below a complete list of all the countries for which an ESTA is needed to visit the USA.

United States ESTA: Country list

EVUS for the United States

The government of the United States implemented the EVUS program in 2016 for Chinese citizens. EVUS stands for Electronic Visa Update System.

Travelers who are registered with EVUS can use the system to update their biographic and employment information on their visitor visa.

The advantage of this is that they do not have to apply for a new visa if their circumstances change. Instead, they can simply use EVUS to amend the details on their existing US visa.

Registration with EVUS is mandatory for Chinese visitors to the US.

In order to register for EVUS, the applicant must be a People’s Republic of China (PRC)  passport holder in possession of a 10-year B1/B2 visa for the USA.

It is first necessary to obtain a visitor B1/B2 US visa from a US embassy or consulate to submit an EVUS application online. Chinese citizens can be issued any of the following visas:

  • B-1 (for business)
  • B-2 (for tourism)
  • A combined B1/B2 visa if there are varied reasons for the travel

Travelers must then complete the online EVUS application. It takes just a few minutes to enter the necessary personal, passport and travel information. The applicant will then receive an approved EVUS travel authorization linked to their passport.

EVUS is valid for 2 years or until the passport expiry date, whichever comes first. The passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the period of the planned stay in the United States.

The EVUS allows the holder to travel multiple times to the United States during its validity.

The EVUS is currently only a requirement for nationals of the PRC, but may be made available to other travelers in the future.

EVUS for the United States: Country list

  • China

Embassy or Consular Visa Required for the United States

Of the nationalities who need a visa for the United States, the US visa policy states that citizens of around 190 countries are required to obtain a consular or embassy visa in advance of travel.

Citizens of these countries are required to apply for a visa from a US government diplomatic office, no matter the duration and purpose of the intended visit to the United States.

To apply for an embassy visa for the United States, it is usually necessary to make a visa appointment at a US diplomatic office in the traveler’s country of residence.

Once the visa interview has been confirmed, travelers normally have to print and complete a copy of a US visa application form to bring to the consular appointment.

Applicants must also indicate which type of US visa is required and bring along different supporting documentation. This can vary, depending on the purpose of the intended travel, such as tourism, transit, business, work, study, or for other reasons.

Eligible travelers are advised to submit a US embassy application well in advance of the intended arrival date in the destination country, as it may take up to several weeks or more to process a visa.

Check the list below to find out if you require an embassy visa to travel to the United States for your nationality.

Embassy or Consular Visa Required for the United States: Country list

  • Afghanistan
  • Aland Islands
  • Albania
  • Algeria
  • American Samoa
  • Angola
  • Anguilla
  • Antarctica
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Argentina
  • Armenia
  • Aruba
  • Azerbaijan
  • Bahrain
  • Bangladesh
  • Barbados
  • Belarus
  • Belize
  • Benin
  • Bhutan
  • Bolivia
  • Bonaire
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Botswana
  • Brazil
  • British Indian Ocean Territory
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Bulgaria
  • Burkina Faso
  • Burundi
  • Cambodia
  • Cameroon
  • Cape Verde
  • Cayman Islands
  • Central African Republic
  • Chad
  • Christmas Island
  • Cocos Islands
  • Colombia
  • Comoros
  • Congo
  • Cook Islands
  • Costa Rica
  • Cuba
  • Curacao
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Djibouti
  • Dominica
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • Egypt
  • El Salvador
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Eritrea
  • Ethiopia
  • Falkland Islands
  • Faroe Islands
  • Fiji
  • French Guiana
  • French Polynesia
  • Gabon
  • Gambia
  • Georgia
  • Ghana
  • Gibraltar
  • Greenland
  • Grenada
  • Guadeloupe
  • Guam
  • Guatemala
  • Guernsey
  • Guinea
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Guyana
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • Hong Kong
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Isle of Man
  • Israel
  • Ivory Coast
  • Jamaica
  • Jersey
  • Jordan
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kenya
  • Kiribati
  • Kuwait
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Laos
  • Lebanon
  • Lesotho
  • Liberia
  • Macau
  • Macedonia
  • Madagascar
  • Malawi
  • Malaysia
  • Maldives
  • Mali
  • Martinique
  • Mauritania
  • Mauritius
  • Mayotte
  • Mexico
  • Moldova
  • Mongolia
  • Montenegro
  • Montserrat
  • Morocco
  • Mozambique
  • Myanmar
  • Namibia
  • Nauru
  • Nepal
  • New Caledonia
  • Nicaragua
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Niue
  • Norfolk Island
  • North Korea
  • Northern Mariana Islands
  • Oman
  • Pakistan
  • Palestinian Territory
  • Panama
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Pitcairn Islands
  • Qatar
  • Republic of Cyprus
  • Reunion
  • Romania
  • Russian Federation
  • Rwanda
  • Saint Barthelemy
  • Saint Helena
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis
  • Saint Lucia
  • Saint Martin
  • Saint Pierre and Miquelon
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Samoa
  • Sao Tome and Principe
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Senegal
  • Serbia
  • Seychelles
  • Sierra Leone
  • Sint Maarten
  • Solomon Islands
  • South Africa
  • South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
  • South Sudan
  • Sri Lanka
  • Sudan
  • Suriname
  • Svalbard and Jan Mayen
  • Swaziland
  • Tajikistan
  • Tanzania
  • Thailand
  • Timor-Leste
  • Togo
  • Tokelau
  • Tonga
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey
  • Turkmenistan
  • Turks and Caicos Islands
  • Tuvalu
  • Uganda
  • Ukraine
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Uruguay
  • Uzbekistan
  • Vanuatu
  • Vatican City
  • Venezuela
  • Vietnam
  • Wallis and Futuna
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe

Immigrant and Non-Immigrant US visas

Although there are around 180 different types of United States visa, there are only 2 US visa categories: Nonimmigrant visa and immigrant visa.

Nonimmigrant visas allow foreign citizens to visit the United States for temporary stays, for purposes such as for tourism or business, to visit family, or to undertake a course of study.

Immigrant visas are issued to those who wish to immigrate to live in the United States. To immigrate to the United States, it is necessary to obtain either an immigrant visa or a dual intent visa compatible for making a permanent resident status application upon arrival in the US.

At the port of entry to the United States, a holder of an immigrant visa is processed for a I-551 permanent residence card, also known as a ‘US Green Card’.

Once this card has been stamped by the U.S Customs and Border protection service, it serves as evidence to allow permanent residence in the US for up to one year.

As per the US immigration policy, all children who enter the United States on either an IR-3 or IH-3 immigrant visa type are automatically granted US citizenship and will be automatically processed for a N-560 certificate of citizenship.

Visa Not Required for the USA

There are currently very few foreign nationalities that do not need a visa for the United States, nor are they required to obtain an electronic travel authorization to travel to the country.

Some of these nationalities are visa-free for the United States for an unlimited period and are able to work, study, and reside in the country indefinitely without a permit.

Others, including Canadian citizens, do not need a visa to travel to the US under most circumstances and can work under a special simplified procedure. Citizens of Canada are also able to use a NEXUS border protection card to enter the US instead of a passport, or an Enhanced Driver’s License if arriving by land or sea.

However, although US visa-exempt citizens do not need to present a visa at ports of entry to the United States, in some cases they may still be denied admission based on general immigration policy disqualifications such as criminal convictions.

Below you can find a full list of the visa not required countries for the United States.

Visa Not Required for the USA: Country list

  • Bahamas
  • Bermuda
  • Canada
  • Federated States of Micronesia
  • Marshall Islands
  • Palau
  • Puerto Rico
  • United States Virgin Islands

Other Visa Exemptions for the United States

Apart from the US visa not required nationalities, a foreign passport holder wishing to enter the United States must obtain a visa unless they are:

  • Permanent resident of the USA
  • Citizen of Canada, including those applying for nonimmigrant TN status at the border
  • Citizen of one of the 39 countries that are part of the US Visa Waiver Program (they must apply for an ESTA instead)
  • In possession of an I-512 “Authorization for Parole of an Alien into the United States” form
  • British Overseas Territories citizen with a connection to Bermuda
  • Citizen of the Compact of Free Association states (Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, or Palau)
  • British Overseas Territories citizen or a citizen of The Bahamas with a connection to the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, or the Turks and Caicos Islands, under certain conditions.

It is also possible for citizens of Mexico to travel to the United States without a passport or a visa, under limited circumstances. The Mexican citizen must be in possession of a valid Border Crossing Card and intend to spend no more than 72 hours in the US while remaining inside the designated “border zone”.

Admission Refused for the United States

A US visa is unavailable to some nationalities due to travel visa restrictions for the United States placed on their country by the US government.

The US visa issuance restrictions currently in place are a result of Executive Order 13780, titled ‘Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States’, which was adopted in 2017. Additional revisions were made in 2018, and 2020, respectively.

In some cases, citizens from a banned country are able to obtain certain US visa types through enhanced screening, while other types of US visa, particularly the immigrant visa category, are currently off-limits to some nationalities.

In other cases, such as in the list below, the restrictions place a complete United States visa ban or admission refused policy on all nationals of one country.

However, those who wish to apply for a visa for the US from a restricted country are advised to contact the nearest US Embassy or Consulate for further information. As visa requirements are constantly being revised, it may be possible to obtain a US visa for your nationality in the future.

Find below an updated list of nationalities for which a United States visa application is currently unavailable.

Admission Refused for the United States: Country list

  • Libya
  • Somalia
  • Syrian Arab Republic
  • Yemen

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