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Travel Tips

USA Visas

The US State Department issues all US visas

A United States embassy or consulate in your home country is the best place to get complete and accurate information about visas. Another good source of information can be found on the web pages maintained by the US State Department. We will try to explain the basic information here, but the rules are complex and continuously changing, so you should not use us as your final source of information.

There are many types of visas

Visas generally fall into one of three categories. Visitor visas, also known as tourist visas, are the easiest to obtain. They permit the recipient to visit the USA for up to three months, but do not permit the visitor to work in the USA. Temporary employment visas are severely restricted and thus more difficult to get. They permit the holder to work in the USA for a set period of time usually between six months and five years. Immigration visas allow the recipient to permanently live in the USA, to work in the USA and to enjoy most of the privileges of citizenship. Depending on the individual circumstances, Immigration visas can often be difficult or even impossible to get.

No visa required for some tourists

Many tourists and business travelers to the USA will require no visa or a simple visitor visa. The State Department currently allows residents of 27 countries to enter the USA without a visitor visa under the Visa Waiver Program. If you hold a valid passport of one of the following countries and wish to visit for 90 days or less, you are not required to obtain a visitor visa: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and United Kingdom.

United States Passport © Art Today
United States Passport

How to get a visitor visa

If you permanently reside in any other country or plan on staying more than 90 days, you must get a visitor visa before entering the USA. You must apply for the visa at a US embassy or consulate in your home country. You will be required to show evidence that you maintain a permanent residence or have strong ties in your home country. Such evidence could include ownership of property or a business in your home country, family ties, a permanent career, a letter from a US resident assuming responsibility or other factors that indicate that you will return to your home country within 90 days. You must present sufficient evidence to convince the examining officer at the US embassy that you will return to your home country.

Temporary employment visas

There are many categories of temporary employment visas that apply to a wide variety of circumstances. They cover executives transferred from overseas offices, specialty occupations, seasonal agricultural workers, entertainers, artists, teachers, religious workers, certain trainees and cultural exchange workers. If you have special job skills or you are a famous entertainer or artist, you will probably have little trouble obtaining a temporary employment visa. Otherwise, you may find it difficult to obtain an employment visa.

Working while touring the US

Young people often ask us about the possibilities of working in the USA while touring the country. The best possibilities are in the student visa or cultural exchange programs. Student visas (J-visas) are available to students that are accepted into an approved educational program in the USA. They do not automatically allow employment but many work-study provisions are available. Cultural exchange visas (Q-visas) include temporary employment in the USA, but you must have a job with an approved cultural exchange employer before you apply for the visa.

The Disney Corporation is one of the largest employers of cultural exchange students in the USA. Au pair jobs are available through a number of temporary employment agencies overseas.

Written by: Mike Leco
Top Photo Credit: © Mike Leco /
Photo Description: The Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers in West Virginia