Often referred to as “the land of opportunities,” the US offers a stable economy, social security, and the promise of improving your social status through hard work and commitment. This idea has attracted people from all over the world and motivated them to come to the US in the search of a better quality of life for centuries.
But what do you need to apply for to enter the country? Although some nationalities are exempt (such as Canadians), most non-American citizens will need to apply for a suitable visa permit before coming to the US.
In this article, we’ll give you a brief overview of the types of visas available in the US to help you choose the correct one. Learn about the average cost and the process to obtain yours.
A visa is a travel document issued by the Department of Homeland Security. It is attached to your passport, and it states the type of permit you hold, how long you are allowed to stay in the country for, whether you are entitled to work or not, and its expiration date.
Depending on the reason why you are travelling to the US, you may need to request a different type of visa. Broadly speaking, these permits are divided into two big categories:
If the purpose of your stay requires you to enter the US only for a limited amount of time, you’ll need to apply for a nonimmigrant visa. At the moment, there are over 20 types of non-immigrant visas. Some of the most common reasons to apply for a temporary visitor visa are tourism; visiting family and friends; studying; seeking medical treatment; coming to do temporary work (like an Au-pair, for example); or to do business. You can find a complete list of all the non-immigrant visas available here.
For more detailed information, you can read our article on how to apply for nonimmigrant visas.
These are visas issued to people who intend to move to the US permanently. To be able to apply, you must follow under one of the following categories:
For a complete list of all the immigrant visas, click here.
Once you have checked whether you need a visa, and you’ve chosen the right one for your circumstances, you need to apply for your visa in your nearest US embassy or consulate.
The process and the documentation you’ll need to submit depends on the type of visa you’ve selected and the embassy or consulate you're applying from. However, in general you will need to:
If your application is succesful, you'll receive your passport by a courier service with your visa attached to it. Make sure you check the information printed on it is correct. If there are any mistakes, you’ll need to contact the embassy or consulate where it was issued to ask them to rectify it, as it won’t be valid otherwise.
Fees vary depending on the type of visa you’re applying for. As a guide, in 2022 you can expect to pay:
Visa fees are non-refundable. This means you will not get your money back if you apply for the wrong visa, submit incorrect or incomplete documentation, or are refused entry. If you are unsure, you can use the government’s Visa Wizard tool to help you decide which visa to apply for.
Know that other fees may apply too depending on your particular situation and visa type. For a complete list of all visa fees, you can check the following link.
- What is the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)?
- Apply for a Nonimmigrant Visa to the U.S
- Apply for a Nonimmigrant Visa to the U.S (en Español)