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General Information

What is a Visa?

A visa is issued by a U.S. Embassy or Consulate and entitles the holder to travel to the United States and apply for admission; it does not guarantee entry.  An immigration inspector at the port of entry determines the visa holder's eligibility for admission into the United States.

Who Needs a Visa?

Anyone who is not eligible to enter the United States visa free under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Please note: Travelers born in the United States and those who hold dual citizenship with the United States must enter and depart the United States on U.S. passports.

What types of Visas are Available?

  • Non-immigrant: A Non-immigrant visa is required by anyone seeking temporary admission into the United States who is not eligible to travel visa free under the Visa Waiver Program , or is exempt from the visa requirement. Nonimmigrant visas cover visits for tourism, business, work or study.
  • Immigrant: An immigrant visa is required by anyone seeking to take up indefinite or permanent residence in the United States.  Upon entry into the United States, an immigrant visa holder is processed for a Permanent Resident Card (PRC) commonly known as a green card.

Who We are

The Office of Visa Services, in the Consular Affairs Bureau, Department of State provides several functions:

  • We serve as liaisons with the Department of Homeland Security
  • We serve as liaisons between the Department of State and embassies and consulates abroad on visa matters
  • We interpret visa laws and regulations, and act as a point of contact for the public

When to Contact Us vs. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

Defining the different roles and responsibilities of the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State can be confusing. We hope this information will assist you:

Contact the Department of State, an embassy or consulate abroad with questions about U.S. visas, including application, the status of visa processing, and for inquiries relating to visa denial.

Visa Services, Public Inquiries can usually explain what aspects of immigration law and regulation are applicable in certain cases, and can also check the current status of a particular case, if processing has been delayed.

Department of Homeland Security is responsible for the approval of all immigrant and nonimmigrant 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.

Questions about these matters should be referred to the US CIS district office having jurisdiction over the applicant's present or future place of domicile in the United States.