Choosing the right visa for the USA
Due to a strict immigration policy, it is not always easy to travel to the United States. A visa or ESTA travel authorization is required for any type of stay in the USA. Here are the characteristics of the different American visas to make the right choice.
For a stay of less than 90 days in the USA: It is not necessary to apply for a visa, you can obtain an electronic travel authorization online by clicking on the online form.
Presentation of the different American visas
There is a U.S. visa for each type of stay. For the sake of clarity, we divide U.S. visas into two sections: the non-immigrant visa for a temporary stay and the immigrant visa for expatriation to the United States.
Among the various American visas, there are a large number of so-called non-immigrant visas. These are mainly for tourists, students, businessmen or workers wishing to work in a given sector of activity and for a limited period of time.
Regardless of the reason for coming, the non-immigrant visa applicant is not allowed to live in the United States indefinitely. The duration of validity varies from several days to several months or even years. Consequently, the consular services systematically ask applicants to provide proof of return to their country of origin.
Non-immigrant visas cover a multitude of specific cases, there are more than thirty different U.S. visas, the main ones being :
- B1 business visa ;
- B2 tourist visa;
- C transit visa ;
- F1 visa for students wishing to study at an American university;
- J1 visa for exchange program participants (including au pairs);
- O and P visas reserved for athletes and artists;
Regardless of the reason, the visa application is made at the U.S. Embassy. This formality is not free of charge, it involves administrative fees that average $160, to which may be added additional fees such as issuance fees. For example, if you want to study in the United States, you will need to prove that you have a good level of English (unless you are studying in a language school) and pay the SEVIS fee.
Among the different U.S. visas that allow foreign nationals to live in the United States, there are different immigrant visas. These types of visas lead to a Green card.
Depending on the reasons for the application, there are three families of immigrant visas:
- For family reunification (family relationship with a US citizen/resident);
- With professional skills;
- For the diversity of the American population.
The method of obtaining an immigrant visa is more complex than applying for a non-immigrant visa. This is simply because this visa for the USA entitles you to a permanent residence card. In other words, the holder of a permanent resident card obtains the right to reside, work or study in the United States in the same manner as a U.S. citizen. It should be noted that the green card does not give the right to vote.
With the exception of the diversity visa, all expatriate visas for the USA require a sponsor, i.e. an American company or a family member who is an American citizen or has official permanent resident status. The petition is thus initiated not by the foreign national, but either by a relative or by an American employer depending on the reason for the request. The petition is processed by USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) who sends it after validation to the NVC (National Visa Center) so that they can inform you of the documents you need to present for your interview with a consular officer of the U.S. Embassy.
Established in 2009 by the American government, an ESTA authorization is an interesting alternative to the various American visas.
The ESTA is not a visa. The ESTA is not required at the American embassy or consulate. It is obtained by filling out an online questionnaire set up by the US Customs and Border Protection. It is a travel authorization reserved for nationals of countries benefiting from a visa exemption through the Visa Waiver Program.
The ESTA document is only applicable under certain specific conditions, including :
- The duration of stay in the United States must not exceed 90 days;
- The reason for the trip must be tourist or professional;
- The citizen must be a citizen of one of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) member countries;
- The traveler must be in possession of a valid biometric passport.