Learn how to apply for different types of nonimmigrant visas for tourists, students, business travelers and future spouses. Also, find information about the Visa Waiver Program, and how to get a job in the United States as a foreign worker.
On This Page
- How to Apply Online for a Business or Tourism Visitor Visa to the U.S.
- Waiver Program for Tourists and Business Travelers
- Student and Vocational Training Visas
- North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Professional Visa
- Getting a Job in the U.S. as a Foreign Worker
- The K-1 or Fiancé(e) Visa
How to Apply Online for a Business or Tourism Visitor Visa to the U.S.
If you are planning a brief visit to the U.S. for business or tourism, you might need to apply for a visitor or a transit visa. These are the steps you should take:
1. Find out if you need a visa.
Check to see if your country participates in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP). If you don’t see your country listed, you will need a nonimmigrant visa to visit the U.S.
2. Determine which visa you might need for your visit.
Most business and tourism travelers use B-1 and B-2 visitor visas.
- B-1 visa classification is for business travelers to consult with business associates, attend a conference, settle an estate, or negotiate a contract.
- B-2 visa classification is for tourists on vacation and people coming for medical treatment, a social event, or participation in amateur contests for no pay.
Transit visas are less common.
- Transit C visa classification is for foreign nationals traveling through the U.S. to another country and stopping briefly in the U.S. as part of their travel to the next foreign destination.
- Transit C-1, D, and C-1/D visas are for crewmembers of sea vessels or international airlines traveling to the U.S.
3. Apply for a visa.
The process of applying for a visa will vary depending on the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you apply. Follow the specific instructions for the country that you’re in.
In general, you will need:
- To complete online form DS-160, the nonimmigrant visa application form
- A photo
- A visa application fee
- To schedule an interview
Waiver Program for Tourists and Business Travelers
International travelers for business or pleasure who are citizens of one of the 38 countries that participate in the U.S.’s Visa Waiver Program (VWP) can get a visa waiver. While you do not need a visa to come to the U.S. for your business meeting or for vacation, you must get an approved travel authorization prior to your trip to the U.S.
How to Apply and Get Approval to Travel to the U.S.
- Check the list of 39 countries that participate in the VWP.
- You must have an e-Passport to use the VWP. This type of passport is also known as an electronic passport and has an embedded chip in it.
- Fill out the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) online application. ESTA determines the eligibility of a visitor to travel to the U.S. under the VWP.
- The processing fee is $4.00 and if you are approved, there is an additional $10.00 authorization charge. Learn how to pay for your ESTA fee.
- When you fill out your application, you will get an ESTA application number. Use this number to check the status of your application if it has been accepted to travel to the U.S.
Visitors traveling to the U.S. for tourism or business meetings or conferences under the VWP can stay for up to 90 days without a visa.
Student and Vocational Training Visas
An international student can apply for a student or exchange visitor visa only after being accepted by a school certified in the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). Students’ records are kept in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Learn more about SEVP and SEVIS, and about the SEVIS fee.
Types of Educational Visas
Your course of study, the school you plan to attend, or the exchange program you will be with will determine the type of student visa you will need.
The most common student visas are F-1 and M-1 visas.
- F-1 visa classification is for a full-time international student pursuing academic studies.
- M-1 visa classification is for a full-time international student pursuing vocational studies.
- J-1 visa classification is also known as the exchange visitor program (EVP) and is for foreign nationals approved to take part in work or study-based exchange programs. Examples include visiting scholar, camp counsellor, or research assistant.
The duration of stay for J-1 visa holders depends on the agreement between you and your Department of State approved sponsoring organization. Find a Department of State approved sponsoring organization or program.
Learn more about studying in the U.S.
North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Professional Visa
Only citizens of Canada and Mexico are eligible for a nonimmigrant North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Professional visa to work in the U.S. The NAFTA Professional visa classification is TN and grants the holder temporary entry into the U.S. to work in business activities at a professional level for an initial period of up to three years.
How to Apply
After getting a letter from your future employer confirming your offer of a position, the application processes varies for Canadian and Mexican citizens.
Canadian Citizens: a NAFTA Professional (TN) visa is usually not required. You can go directly to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) port of entry, with your documentation for an interview to be admitted to the U.S. as a nonimmigrant who can legally work in the U.S.
Mexican Citizens: a NAFTA Professional (TN) visa is required. Complete the online visa application form DS-160, print out the confirmation page, and bring it to your interview. If you are applying in Mexico, a photo is not required for your application.
Prepare for Your Interview
Getting a Job in the U.S. as a Foreign Worker
Based on your skills, circumstances, and the job that you plan to do, you may be able to come to the U.S. as either a:
- Temporary or permanent foreign worker, or a
- Temporary visitor for business
Under certain circumstances, you may also be able to work in the U.S. if you’re a foreign student or an exchange visitor.
Get a Work Visa
As a foreign worker, you will need a visa to get a job in the U.S. Each type of visa has unique requirements, conditions, and time limits.
Visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) Working in the U.S. web page for an overview of each worker category and type of visa.
Use the Department of State’s visa wizard to find:
- The visa you need
- The application process
- Estimated wait time for a visa interview
Your Rights and Protections as a Temporary Foreign Worker
- As a temporary foreign worker in the U.S., you will not be denied a visa or be punished by the U.S. government because you have exercised your rights under U.S. laws. Learn your rights and protections.
- If you violate the terms of your work visa, it could be revoked. You could be deported, arrested, or denied re-entry into the U.S.
- If you think you or someone you know is being brought to the U.S. for human trafficking, get help now.
The K-1 or Fiancé(e) Visa
If you’re a citizen of another country, you’re engaged to a U.S. citizen, and you plan to marry and live in the U.S., your fiancé(e) can petition for a K-1 visa for you. The K-1 visa allows you to travel to the United States to marry your fiancé(e) within 90 days of arriving. After you marry, you may apply for an adjustment of status to get a Permanent Resident (Green) Card.
The K-1 visa expires after 90 days and cannot be extended. If you don’t marry within that time, you must leave the country or face possible deportation.
- Find instructions for applying for your K-1 visa on the Department of State K-1 visa page.
- Download forms for your fiancé(e) to petition for your visa and for you to apply for authorization to work. Find these on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services fiancé(e) visas page.
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Last Updated: January 22, 2020