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VISA or ESTA for travelling to the USA ?

If you're planning to visit the United States, you will need a valid ESTA or US visa.

This also applies to transit through the USA. Under most circumstances, a visa is not mandatory for entry into the US for citizens of Visa Waiver Program countries. The English, Irish, Scots or Welsh and residents of most other European nations are eligible for it. In comparison to visas, the ESTA application is cheaper, faster and easier.

How do you obtain a visa to the USA?

If you want to request a visa to the USA, you will need to bring the following documents:

  • Your completed application document.
  • Two up-to-date photos of yourself.
  • Your valid passport, which will be valid for the next six months after the date of travel. A number of supporting documents, such as proof of medical insurance and a detailed description of your planned activities in the USA.
  • Supporting documentation may include, but is not limited to, your airline tickets, travel agent's itinerary, reservation information, a letter from your institution, or a letter of your intended employment in the USA.

When you apply for a visa, you will be asked for a number of personal statistics and details along with the reason for your visit. It is essential that you respond to all of these questions to avoid any risk of delay in your application process.

Why would a visa be denied?

Obviously, you may be denied a visa for various reasons. Possible reasons for denial include the following:

  • You have an existing criminal record.
  • You are ill.
  • You have engaged in illegal activity.
  • You are a security risk.
  • Your public statements may constitute a danger to the USA.
  • You cannot obtain the necessary U.S. visa.
  • You are missing certain necessary documents.
  • You have already been denied entry into the USA.
  • The consular officer believes that you are not eligible.

This list is not exhaustive and may justify a refusal of the application. Also remember that the application process is longer than that of an ESTA USA. While the application process for an American visa can take several weeks, the ESTA USA application is often done in minutes.

Visa Instructions for traveling to the United States

Will you require a visa to visit the USA? When an ESTA allows you to visit the United States of America, no visa is required. This is rarely the case if you intend to purchase real estate in the USA or engage in other activities such as filing documents. Visas are also required if you want to work for a local company or undertake research in the United States. You will have to request a visa if you cannot get an ESTA.

  • You do not hold a passport from a Visa Waiver Program country.
  • Your visit to the U.S. is for a period of more than ninety (90) consecutive days.
  • Your stay is not a vacation, business trip or medical visit.
  • When you travel by private plane or by an operator not using ESTA.
  • You were in Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, North Korea, Somalia or Libya.
  • You are a national of one of the above nations.
  • Under Section 212 of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, you are not allowed to enter the United States.
  • You answered "yes" to some of the questions on the ESTA application.

General U.S. Visa Information

If you cannot obtain an ESTA, you will need to obtain a visa to enter the USA. Please be aware that approval of a visa does not guarantee admission to the USA. Upon entry, the immigration office has the authority to refuse you entry with no reason given. This occurs when they accuse you of being a security risk or violating Section 212. During inspection visits, frequent random checks are made for this reason, during which passengers are questioned upon landing.

There are two types of visas for the USA (non-immigrant and immigrant). A non-immigrant visa is used to visit the USA for business, tourism, employment or research purposes. The immigrant Visa is issued to people who are interested in immigrating to the USA.

Visas are issued for different reasons

  • Type A: is given to non-US government officials on official business. It will therefore be issued to diplomats or other foreign authorities.
  • Type C: is given to tourists leaving the United States immediately after arrival. It is a transit visa, which allows you to enter the United States. A transit ESTA can also be applied for if you wish.
  • Type D: This is given to ship and air crew members who need permission to come to the United States.
  • Type E: This type is given to workers of companies involved in trade, providing investor services or who have made significant investments in U.S.-based companies.
  • Type G: This type of permit is given to ambassadors, officials and employees of foreign organizations who are already based in the USA. The family of persons in this target group, along with persons who are eligible for visas under the same program or who meet certain other requirements.
  • Type K: This type of visa is for a fiancée of an American citizen. Non-U.S. citizens need a K-1 visa to enter the United States. However, they must marry or relocate to the United States within three months of arrival. Unmarried minor children who are under 21 years of age can obtain a K-2 visa.
  • Type R: is given to religious persons who want to reside in the USA temporarily. These religious persons must be affiliated with a non-profit organization or religious group. The nonprofit organization should have existed for a minimum of two years in the USA. The R-2 visa is also available for family.
  • Type S: This type is given to informants or witnesses who assist law enforcement in their investigations. Only 200 of these visas are granted each year, and they must be applied for through law enforcement agencies.
  • Type TN: This is given to Mexicans and Canadians who have one of the qualifications or professions listed in the NAFTA. However, they must have earned at least a bachelor's degree (in Canada) and work in a predetermined field.
  • Type V: is given to minor children and spouses of US permanent residents. This visa allows permanent residents to invite their families to the USA for family reunification purposes.
  • Type U+T: is often granted to crime victims who have been physically or mentally abused and who decide to assist the law enforcement or the government authorities in locating the perpetrators.

Visas granted for the purpose of education or employment

  • Type F: is given to international students enrolling in a U.S. school or university. In addition to students, their children and spouses may also live in the United States on this type of visa.
  • Type H: This type of visa is given to employees who want to work in the United States temporarily. This visa allows people in skilled occupations to remain in the United States.
  • Type J: This type is for workers and for students who want to participate in a program of international exchange. The objective of the visa is to encourage cross-cultural understanding via cultural and educational interaction.
  • Type L: This is given to workers from companies that are located in both their country of origin and the United States. You must have worked for the company for a minimum of 12 months to obtain a Type L visa. The applicant, his or her children and spouse may be granted Type L for up to seven years.
  • Type M: This is for students wishing to enroll in technical or professional courses. It should be noted that their children and spouses may also come to the United States under this visa.
  • Type O: Individuals with outstanding abilities in science, business, arts, education, or sports can obtain this visa. Applicants must provide evidence of their experience and demonstrate the transient nature of their employment.
  • Type P: Athletes, artists, actresses and crew members supervising their activities may obtain this visa.
  • Type Q: Persons participating in International Cultural Exchange Programs may obtain this visa.

Tourist and Business Visas

  • Type B-1: If you intend to enter the U.S. for business purposes, such as negotiations with companies or conferences.
  • Type B-2: If you intend to enter the U.S. for a vacation, to visit friends or family, or for a business trip, you can obtain a tourist visa. However, the following should also be considered: medical treatment, participation in sports or music events or competitions.
  • Combination of B-1/B-2 visas: The B1/B2 visa is the combination of business and tourist visas. Note: It is essential to be clear on what you are allowed to do and what you are not allowed to do with this type of visa.

The Green Card Lottery Program

In addition to the visa categories described above, there is the "green card lottery". This is nothing more than a lottery for the chance to get a visa. Each year, the lottery offers 50,000 visas to pre-screened individuals from qualified countries. Each year, approximately 12 to 25 million people participate, which means that obtaining a green card through this process is very rare.

How do I choose the correct visa to visit the US?

It is essential to understand which US visa is right for you. There are other visas in addition to those mentioned above (about 185 separate visa types in total). Each visa has a distinct purpose and is subject to distinct criteria and processes. Consult the Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure if you have difficulty choosing the appropriate visa.

When should I apply for a visa or an ESTA?

Do you already own a visa for the United States of America and are you going there for the reason for which it was issued? If so, no ESTA is required. If you hold your visa and want to go to the USA for a reason other than that indicated by your visa, then you must request an ESTA or apply for a corresponding visa.

Regulations, circumstances and visa requirements in the United States are constantly changing. It is essential that you carefully consult government and U.S. embassy websites to ensure that you request the proper visa for the USA. You can call the nearest American embassy or consulate.