The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) has allowed the U.S. government to secure the country from mass arrivals of foreigners on U.S. soil and has also made it easier for applicants to travel to the United States. However, the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) is not available to everyone. Persons not eligible for ESTA will need to apply for an USA visa in order to stay legally in the United States.
In this article, we will look at the different types of American visas and their specificities so that you know which travel authorization is the most suitable for your stay in the United States.
The American visas for non-immigrants
Non-immigrant visas are for temporary stays. This category of visa includes different American visas: the tourist visa, the work visa or the student visa.
First of all, you should know that despite the many existing visas, all of them require :
- to complete the DS-160 form;
- to provide passport photos to the desired standards (5 x 5 cm on a white background);
- to have a valid biometric or electronic passport;
- to have a complete file to the American Embassy.
B2 tourist visa, C transit visa and B1 business visa
The tourist visa is necessary for people wishing to go to the USA for short stays. This category of visa concerns :
- Business trips (B1 visa): participation in conferences, meetings, signing of contracts, etc. ;
- Tourist trips and visitors for medical treatment (B2 visa);
- transits to the United States (C visa).
The B1 and B2 visas allow holders to stay 6 months in the United States.
This category is for applicants who cannot afford an ESTA application. The ESTA authorization covers the same reasons for travel as the US tourist visa (tourism, business travel and transit) but with more limited conditions (maximum stay of 90 days in the United States for countries covered by the VWP).
We advise you to find out about the conditions of an ESTA, as this travel authorization is much simpler to obtain thanks to its price, its online process and its ease of understanding. With this document, your dream trip to New York, New Mexico, or a roadtrip to the West Coast can become more quickly accessible.
The work visa
Probably the category with the most possibilities, the USA visa to work in the USA offers visas adapted to each socio-professional category, here is the list:
- D1 visa for crew members leaving the U.S. on the same plane or ship and D2 visa if the plane or ship is different from the one used on arrival;
- visa I for media;
- E1 visa for traders and E2 visa for investors;
- E3 visa for Australian workers going to the US to work temporarily in a skilled occupation;
- H1B visa for specialized professions in areas requiring special knowledge;
- H2A visa for seasonal agricultural intermediate workers and H-2B visa for non-agricultural intermediate workers;
- H3 visa to do a non-student internship in the USA;
- L visa for intra-company transfers;
- O1 visa Foreign citizens with extraordinary scientific, artistic, educational, business or athletic ability;
- P visa for athletes, artists, coaches;
- J and Q visas for cultural exchange programs;
- the R visa for religious workers.
The American visa to study
When you want to continue your studies in the United States, to discover the famous campuses and the American culture, you must obtain an American student visa. There are three different ones:
- F-1 visa for university students or language stays;
- M-1 visa for technical or professional students;
- the J-1 visa for an au pair stay with a host family, exchange programs (such as Erasmus and its exchange program) or professional internships for students in the USA, professors or researchers.
Before you can apply for a USA visa (F-1, J-1 or M-1), you must have been previously admitted to a U.S. university, educational program or sponsoring organization. In addition, there is a fee for registration in SEVIS (the information system for students and visitors in the United States as part of an exchange). These steps are mandatory and necessary in order to present yourself to the French embassy or consulate general with a complete file.
The USA visa for expatriates
Among the American visas, there is also the immigrant visa, better known as the Green Card. The green card, in French, is an authorization for permanent residence in the United States. Thanks to this authorization to reside, foreign nationals can work, study in the USA (have scholarships), develop a business, find an internship or live in the USA as American citizens (with the exception of the right to vote which will not be allowed). After 5 years of expatriation, the permanent resident in the USA can apply for American naturalization.
The Permanent Resident Card offers many benefits to its holders and that is why it is so difficult to obtain, unlike the American visas non-immigrants. How do I get a green card? Here are the three ways.
The green card for family reunification
An American citizen (from 21 years old) can apply for a green card for a member of his direct family (parents, brothers and sisters, spouses…).
Beware, for family reunifications based on marriages, the American authorities will be more vigilant because of the white marriages.
The green card for professional skills
A U.S. company may apply for a green card for its employee provided he or she demonstrates specialized professional skills and experience.
The green card for the diversity of the American population
The green card lottery is based on a diversity visa draw. Every year, thanks to the US green card lottery, 55,000 participants obtain a green card from the United States of America and can live the American dream!
In order to register on the official government website and participate in the lottery, you must:
- Be born in an eligible country;
- Have a minimum academic education (a high school diploma or at least 2 years of experience in the last 5 years prior to registration).
Advice to travelers: to obtain a visa, an appointment at the U.S. Embassy (or U.S. Consulate) is mandatory for everyone. It consists of an interview with a consular officer who will validate, or not, your visa. The interview is a decisive step in the process of moving to the USA. Therefore, be sure to bring the right documents to the appointment:
- your valid passport (biometric or electronic), with a minimum validity of 6 months;
- a chronopost envelope with your home address;
- the DS-160 form that you filled out for the VISA application and your SEVIS number;
- documents proving your solvency (pay slips, bank statements, etc.);
- a letter of commitment from your sponsor and a valid job offer (for an internship in the USA);
- official documents proving that you have been accepted into a school and that your English is good (if you wish to study at an American university).
An important thing to remember is that an electronic (or biometric) passport must always be up-to-date. If this is not the case, you will need to reapply to renew your identity document.