United States visa policy

United States visa policy

iVisa | Updated on Aug 26, 2021

Visa Policy for the United States

Foreign citizens wishing to visit the United States must meet the United States visa policy, which outlines the requirements they must meet to enter the country. There is a uniform immigration policy in the United States for all 50 states, and it is often the same for territories like Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The territories of Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa, however, have different visa regulations.

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The requirements for getting a visa for a trip to the United States vary by nationality and intention. Visas are generally not required for visa-exempt nationalities, such as Canada. Some countries allow indefinite stays while others have a limited stay.

Citizens of 39 countries do not need visas to stay in the United States for a short period of time, but they must pre-register for an electronic authorization (ESTA) and receive it before leaving. If citizens are not visa-exempt, they need to obtain a visa from the nearest US embassy or consulate. It is necessary to apply for the appropriate visa type, depending on whether you are traveling for business, pleasure, or to attend school.

As is the case for citizens of China, there are some countries whose citizens are required to obtain a visa through their embassies in addition to registering for the United States Electronic Visa Update System (EVUS). There are certain nationalities whose visa eligibility may be restricted in the United States and whose travel may be prohibited. Below you will find more details about the United States visa policy.

Tourist Visa Policy for United States

For short stays in the United States, including tourism, business, and transit, citizens of selected nationalities do not need to obtain a visa. Travelers may be required to obtain a travel authorization before departing, permitting them to enter the United States without a visa. ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) is an electronic visa waiver that citizens of 39 countries must register for before arriving on a commercial flight or cruise. In order to enter the country for longer periods and other purposes, travelers must make an appointment at a United States embassy or consulate in order to receive a visa.

To gain travel authorization for the United States, some nationalities must do both: apply for an embassy visa and register for the online visa update system.

United States ESTA

A person from one of the 39 countries included in the US visa waiver program does not need a visa for 90 days. But they are still required to pre-register for an ESTA—a multiple entry electronic travel authorization that entitles them to travel to the United States more than once during its validity period.

You can apply online for an ESTA authorization. To do so, travelers need to provide personal information, passport details, and travel plans. Once they provide this information, they receive an ESTA linked to their passport. The recipient of an approved US ESTA online visa waiver may stay in the United States for up to 90 days per entry, either for business, tourism, or transit.

ESTAs are valid for two years from the date of issue or until the expiration of the passport associated with it. Citizens from eligible countries must provide a valid passport to obtain an ESTA. Below you will find a complete list of all countries for which an ESTA is required to enter the United States.

  • Andorra
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Brunei Darussalam
  • Chile
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Monaco
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • San Marino
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • United Kingdom

United States Visa

According to United States visa policy, most travelers who need a visa for the United States must obtain a visa before traveling. Around 190 countries require travelers to apply for a visa at the US consulate or embassy. No matter the purpose and length of the intended trip to the United States, citizens from such countries need a visa from a US government diplomatic office.

For those traveling to the United States on a tourist visa, it is necessary to schedule a visa appointment at an embassy or consulate in their country of residence. When you have been assigned a visa interview appointment, you will need to print and complete a copy of the US visa application form.

The applicant is also required to indicate which type of US visa they are seeking and to bring supporting documents based on whether the trip is for tourism, transit, business, study, or for other reasons. In order to obtain a visa before arriving, travelers should apply to the US embassy in advance, as they might need to wait several weeks or more.

Find out if travelers from your country need a visa to travel to the United States below:

  • 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
  • Croatia
  • 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

Learn more about the United States visa policy

Other Visa Information for United States

In 2016, the United States implemented the EVUS program for Chinese citizens seeking visas. In order to obtain a US visa electronically, Chinese citizens must use EVUS. The applicant must be an EVUS applicant with a 10-year B1/B2 visa for the USA and a passport from the People's Republic of China.

In order to submit an online EVUS application, an embassy or consulate must first grant a visitor B1/B2 visa. For Chinese citizens, this can either be a B1 (for business) or B2 (for tourism) visa. If there are multiple reasons for the travel, they can also apply for a combined B1/B2 visa. In the next step, you must complete the online EVUS application, by providing personal information, travel information, and passport details.

In order for EVUS to remain valid, it needs to be utilized within two (2) years or until the expiration date of the passport. The passport must be valid for the period of stay and for at least the next 6 months. EVUS holders may travel multiple times to the United States during their validity period.

The United States implemented the Electronic Visa Update System (EVUS) to pre-screen foreign travelers, and the EVUS approval is linked to the applicant's passport.

Check if you need a visa to enter the United States