Questions About Visas?


The information below provides answers to certain general visa questions you may have. The purpose of your travel, with few exceptions, determines the type of visa required under United States immigration law. By selecting other information on this website, such as Visa Types for Temporary Visitors, Visa Types for Immigrants, or the A-Z Subject listing, as examples, you will find detailed information and frequently asked questions (FAQs) specific to that type of visa.

What types of visas are available for people to come to the United States?

There are more than 20 nonimmigrant visa types for people traveling to the United States temporarily. There are many more types of immigrant visas for those coming to live permanently in the United States.  The type of Visa you need is determined by the purpose of your intended travel.  For an overview of visa types, please see Types of Visas for Temporary Visitors or Visa Types for Immigrants.

How do I read and understand my visa?

Please use the illustrated guide below to learn how to read your new nonimmigrant visa (for travel to the U.S. as a temporary visitor). In addition, as soon as you receive it, check to make sure information printed on the visa is correct (see below). If any of the information on your visa does not match the information in your passport or is incorrect, please contact the nonimmigrant visa section at the embassy or consulate that issued your visa.


Reading Your Visa

Related Links:
What is a Visa?
Nonimmigrant Visa Types (Classifications)
Immigrant Visa Types (Classifications)

After I have my visa, I will be able to enter the U.S., correct?

A visa does not guarantee entry into the U.S. A visa allows a foreign citizen to travel to the U.S. port-of-entry, and the Department of Homeland Security U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) immigration inspector authorizes or denies admission to the United States. See Admissions on the CBP website.

I have a nonimmigrant visa that will expire soon and I would like to renew it. Do I need go through the whole visa application process again?

Yes, you will have to go through the whole visa application process each time you want to apply for a visa, even if your visa is still valid. There are some situations where a visa applicant may not need to be interviewed when renewing his/her visa. See the U.S. Embassy website for more information.

How do I know whether to contact the Department of State or Department of Homeland Security about my issue?

Contact the Department of State, U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad with questions about U.S. visas, including application, the status of visa processing, and for inquiries relating to visa denial.
Once in the United States, the traveler falls under the jurisdiction of Department of Homeland Security. The Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is responsible for the approval of all petitions, the authorization of permission to work in the U.S., the issuance of extensions of stay, and change or adjustment of an applicant's status while the applicant is in the U.S. See Other Government Information below to learn more.

My visa expires in 5 years, what does this mean?

A visa must be valid at the time a traveler seeks admission to the U.S., but the expiration date of the visa (validity period/length of time the visa can be used) has no relation to the length of time a temporary visitor may be authorized by the Department of Homeland Security to remain in the United States. Persons holding visas valid for multiple entries may make repeated trips to the U.S., for travel for the same purpose, as long as the visa has not expired, and the traveler has done nothing to become ineligible to enter the U.S., at port of entry.

My old passport has already expired. My visa to travel to the United States is still valid but in my expired passport. Do I need to apply for a new visa with my new passport?

No. If your visa is still valid you can travel to the United States with your two passports, as long as the visa is valid, not damaged, and is the appropriate type of visa required for your principal purpose of travel. (Example: tourist visa, when your principal purpose of travel is tourism). Both passports (the valid and the expired one with the visa) should be from the same country and type (Example: both Uruguayan regular passports, both official passports, etc.). When you arrive at the United States port of entry (POE) the Customs and Border Protection Immigration Officer will check your visa in the old passport and if s/he decides to admit you into the United States they will stamp your new passport with an admission stamp along with the annotation "VIOPP" (visa in other passport). Do not try to remove the visa from your old passport and stick it into the new valid passport. If you do so, your visa will no longer be valid.

How can I find out how long I am authorized to stay in the U.S.?

A visa does not guarantee entry into the United States, but allows a foreign citizen coming from abroad, to travel to the United States port-of entry and request permission to enter the U.S. The Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have authority to permit or deny admission to the United States, and determine how long a traveler may stay. At the port of entry, upon granting entry to the U.S., the Department of Homeland Security, US immigration inspector, provides you a small white card, Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record in your passport. Visa Waiver Program travelers receive Form 1-94W. On this form, the U.S. immigration inspector records either a date or "D/S" (duration of status). If your I-94 contains a specific date, then that is the date by which you must leave the United States. Your Form I-94, or I-94W is a very important document to keep in your passport, since it shows your permission to be in the U.S. Review information about Admission on the CBP Website. Also, see Duration of Stay.

I did not turn in my I-94 when I left the United States, what should I do?

If you failed to turn in your I-94 Departure Records, see Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection website for more information.

My visa will expire while I am in the United States. Is there a problem with that?

No. If the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection Immigration Officer at the port of entry (generally an airport) admitted you into the United States for a specific period of time, s/he will note your authorized period of stay on your I-94 card, called an Arrival Departure Record. You will be able to remain in the United States during your authorized period of stay, even if your visa expires during the time you are in the United States. Since Form I-94 documents your authorized stay and is the official record of your permission to be in the U.S., it is very important to keep inside your passport.

My passport with my visa was stolen, what should I do?

If your passport with your I-94 are lost or stolen, you must get them replaced immediately. There are a number of steps you need to take, learn more, see Lost and Stolen Passports, Visas, and Form I-94s.

What are indefinite validity visas (Burroughs visas) and are they still valid?

Indefinite validity visas (Burroughs Visas) are tourist/business visas manually stamped into a traveler’s passport which were valid for ten years. Effective April 1, 2004, all indefinite validity Burroughs visas became void. Therefore, if you have an indefinite validity visa you must apply for a new visa for travel to the U.S.

I hold an Iraqi "S" series passport; can I travel to the U.S. with this passport?

If you hold an Iraqi "S" series passport, effective January 8, 2007, the "S" series passports became no longer valid for travel to the U.S. due to its failure to meet international security standards. Holders of the "S" series passport cannot apply for a U.S. visa, and Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection will not admit travelers on U.S. visas issued in "S" series passports.

Travelers with existing valid U.S. visas in the "S" series passports must obtain a new visa as well as a new passport. In order to apply for a U.S. visa and travel to the U.S., Iraqi citizens must have a "G" series passport. The "G" series Iraqi passport has effective security features and can be used for visas or travel to the U.S. See U.S. Embassy Amman's website for more information about obtaining a "G" series passport, as well as information about certain immigrant special cases and refugees who may not need a passport to travel to the U.S.

Can an Iraqi "M" or "N" series passport holder travel to the U.S. with this passport?

If you hold an Iraqi "M" or "N" series passport, effective January 2007, both the "M" and "N" series passports are no longer valid for travel to the U.S.  The Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection will not admit travelers on "M" or "N" series passports.

If you have a valid U.S. visa in the "M" or "N" series passport, you will need to obtain a new "G" series passport, but need not obtain a new U.S. visa.

I may have a claim to U.S. citizenship.  Can I apply for a U.S. visa?

With few exceptions, a person born in the United States acquires U.S. citizenship at birth.  A state-issued birth certificate serves as evidence of citizenship. Review the Apply for a Passport webpage to learn more.

Persons born in countries other than the United States may have a claim to U.S. citizenship if either parent is a U.S. citizen under U.S. law. Learn more on the Birth of U.S. Citizens Abroad webpage.

If a person is a U.S. citizen, he or she is not eligible for a visa.  Any applicant believing he or she may have a claim to U.S. citizenship should have his or her citizenship claim adjudicated (officially determined) by a consular officer at a U.S. embassy or consulate before applying for a U.S. visa.  

I have dual citizenship. Which passport should I use to travel to the United States?

All U.S. citizens, even dual citizens/nationals, must enter and depart the United States using his/her U.S. passport.

I would like to know if my friend has applied for a visa and what the status is. Who should I contact?

Your friend, the visa applicant. Under U.S. law, specifically the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) 222(f), visa records are confidential. Therefore, the visa applicant should inquire at the U.S. embassy or consulate abroad where he/she applied regarding necessary information about visa application status. Because of confidentiality of visa records, you’ll need to ask your friend, the visa applicant your questions about whether a visa application was made, or a visa was issued or denied.

What is Administrative Processing?

Some visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the visa applicant's interview by a Consular Officer. Applicants are advised of this requirement when they apply. Most administrative processing is resolved within 60 days of the visa interview. Learn more.

My visa application has been refused. Why can't I get my money back?

The fee that you paid is an application fee. Everyone who applies for a U.S. visa anywhere in the world must pay this fee, which covers the cost of processing your application. As the application form states, this fee is non-refundable regardless of whether you are issued a visa or not, since your application was processed to conclusion. As one example, if your application was refused under Section 214(b) and you choose to reapply for a visa, whether at this Embassy or elsewhere, you will be required to pay the visa application processing fee. See the Fees for Visa Services page for a list of fees.

Frequently Asked Questions - Visa Applicants from State Sponsors of Terrorism Countries

To find information regarding FAQ's from visa applicants from state sponsors of terrorism countries please click here.

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