General Visa FAQ

What types of visas are available for people to come to the United States?
How do I read and understand my visa?
After I have my visa, I will be able to enter the U.S., correct?
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?
How do I know whether to contact the Department of State or Department of Homeland Security about my issue?
My visa expires in 5 years, what does this mean?
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?
How can I find out how long I am authorized to stay in the U.S.?
I did not turn in my I-94 when I left the United States, what should I do?
My visa will expire while I am in the United States. Is there a problem with that?
My passport with my visa was stolen, what should I do?
I have dual citizenship. Which passport should I use to travel to the United States?
I would like to know if my friend has applied for a visa and what the status is. Who should I contact?
My visa application has been refused. Why can't I get my money back?

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Q: What types of visas are available for people to come to the United States?
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A: 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.

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Q: How do I read and understand my visa?
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A: 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.

US Visa 

Related Links:

Nonimmigrant Visas, Immigrant Visas

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

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Q: 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?
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A: 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.

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

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Q: My visa expires in 5 years, what does this mean?
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A: 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.

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Q: 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?
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A: 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.

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

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Q: I did not turn in my I-94 when I left the United States, what should I do?
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A: If you failed to turn in your I-94 Departure Records, see Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection website for more information.

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

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Q: My passport with my visa was stolen, what should I do?
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A: 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.

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Q: I have dual citizenship. Which passport should I use to travel to the United States?
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A: All U.S. citizens, even dual citizens/nationals, must enter and depart the United States using his/her U.S. passport.

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

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

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Information courtesy of the Department of State.

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