What is a visa?

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Author: Esta Visa

Example visa image with explanation

Top row left to right: Make sure your passport number is correct / Make sure the spelling of your name is accurate / Country where the visa was issued / Make sure your DOB is correct / ‘R’ stands for “regular”. Class designate the type of visa.

Bottom row left to right: M stands for multiple. If you have an M it means you can apply for entry multiple times. A number here represents the amount of time you may apply for entry / The “annotation” section contains additional information about your visa. For instance, a student visa would have the school name and SEVIS number here / The expiration date marks the last day you may use your visa to seek entry into the United States. It does not represent how long you’re allowed to stay in the country.

Example visa with explanation

What is an US visa?

If you are a US citizen planning to travel abroad, you will not need a US visa. Information on visa requirements by country is available in the passport section of this website. Visas for US citizens traveling abroad are issued by the embassy of the destination country.

Any foreign national attempting to enter the United States must, in many cases, obtain a US visa. It is inserted into the person’s passport, which is issued by their country of citizenship.

Travelers who meet certain requirements for visa-free travel may be allowed to enter the country without a visa. This section of the website deals exclusively with US visa information for those travelers who require one to enter the United States.

How can I use a visa to enter the USA?

A US visa allows a traveler to request entry into the United States of America at any port of entry, whether it be a land border crossing, airport or seaport. However, it does not guarantee the traveler entry to the country. A Customs and Border Protection (CBP) or Department of Homeland Security (DHS) inspector grants the traveler’s entry to the country. The visa indicates to the inspector that a consular officer at a US Embassy or Consulate has deemed the traveler eligible to seek entry for the reasons specified by their visa. CBP and DHS inspectors are charged with guarding US borders and therefore, are responsible for admitting travelers into the country. DHS is responsible for immigration issues during your stay in the USA as well.

What types of visas are there?

US immigration law dictates the type of visa a traveler must obtain. The type of visa reflects the purpose of your travel and they are divided into two main categories:

Non-immigrant visas: For travelers who plan on staying temporarily.

Immigrant visas: For those who intend to permanently reside in the USA.

Visa Waiver Program

Citizens of participating countries traveling for business or pleasure may be allowed to enter the USA without a visa. All the requirements must be met, and your stay may not exceed 90 days. In most cases, Canadian and Bermudan nationals do not require a visa to enter the United States.


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