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How to Enter the U.S.

Learn about the most common types of visas for business, student or travel you may need when coming to or traveling through the United States, plus review what other documents you need to enter the U.S. Also, find information on how to apply for an immigrant visa.

or consulates tooltip Consulate: a smaller version of an embassy, located outside a nation’s capital. An embassy is the place in a nation’s capital where the diplomatic staff of another country work. . However, you do not need a visa for your business meeting or for vacation if you are a citizen of any of the 39 countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program.

Your reason for travel will determine the type of visa you need to enter the U.S. Some of the most commonly requested visas are:

. The documents you need and depend on the country you are arriving from and your citizenship or status.

Arrival From Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda

The covers travel by land, sea, or air from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda:

  • American citizens entering the U.S. must show a valid , a  (NEXUS, SENTRI, Global Entry or FAST), or an . If you have any questions, contact your carrier to find out if they require a specific document.

  • Đang chơi bàiLawful permanent residents of the U.S. need to show a Permanent Resident Card (Green card). A passport is not required.

  • Citizens of Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda can find the from the Department of Homeland Security under “land and sea entry.”

Arrival From Other Countries

  • All travelers entering the United States from all other countries need a passport upon arrival (regardless of their country of citizenship).

  • Đang chơi bàiPermanent residents and foreign nationals may also need a . You must apply for a visa before you start your trip.

Entry Denials

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers conduct arrival inspections using the same criteria for all foreign nationals visiting the U.S. They decide your admission to the United States, even if all your travel documents, including your visa, are in order.

Đang chơi bàiNote: While there are no rules from entering the United States, doing so to give birth is prohibited. A CBP officer will consider your pregnancy when deciding on your admission.

Learn about .

  • For more information, contact .

Apply for an Immigrant Visa

About a million people a year receive Green CardsĐang chơi bài, designating them as new permanent residents of the United States. Many of those people arrive in the U.S. through an .

Top Types of Immigrant Visas

Most people who come to the U.S. using an immigrant visa receive one of the following types:

  • , for those with a family member who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident

  • Đang chơi bài, which generally requires a job offer from a U.S. employer

Key Steps for Obtaining an Immigrant Visa

  1. Đang chơi bàiIn most cases, someone must “sponsor” you, or file an immigrant petition for you.

  2. Once the petition is approved, and there is a visa available in your category, you apply for an immigrant visa. You do this through a U.S. consulate abroad. Find one in your country in this .

  3. Get a medical examination.

  4. Go to an interview.

  5. You’ll then receive a decision on your application.

Review the details of this .

Another way to seek an immigrant visa is through the Diversity Visa Lottery programĐang chơi bài. This program lets people from countries with low U.S. immigration rates take part in an annual drawing for an immigrant visa.

After You Get Your Immigrant Visa

Once you get your immigrant visa, you’ll have to pay a before you’ll receive your Green Card. The best time to pay the fee is after you pick up your immigrant visa from the U.S. consulate, before you leave for the United States.

When you receive your immigrant visa, you’ll get a sealed packet of documents to give officials at the U.S. port of entry. If you pass inspection, you’ll be admitted to the U.S. as a permanent resident, and will receive your Green Card in the mail.

Don’t Apply for an Immigrant Visa If You’re in the United States

Đang chơi bàiIf you’re already in the U.S., you do not have to apply for an immigrant visa to become a permanent resident. Instead, you can apply for a Green Card through an . This way, you won’t have to return to your home country to complete visa processing. You’ll still have to go through key steps like those required for an immigrant visa application:

  1. Someone must “sponsor” you, or file an immigrant petition for you.

  2. Once the petition is approved, and there is a visa available in your category, you apply for a Green Card from within the U.S.

  3. Get a medical examination.

  4. Go to an interview.

  5. Wait for a decision on your application.

are people who fled their homes for a variety of reasons, including persecution (or the fear of persecution) and war, to find protection elsewhere.

Đang chơi bàiIf you believe you need protection as a refugee, contact the  or another international nonprofit volunteer agency. If these organizations are unavailable to you, contact the nearest .

The refugees' entry process into the U.S. involves many government agencies as part of the , which explains the resettlement and .


Asylum is a form of protection available to refugees. You must meet certain conditions to request . After getting asylum in the U.S., you:

  • Get
  • Become a .
 that makes changes to the immigration policy.

Đang chơi bàiThese agencies provide information to the public about presidential proclamations and Executive orders related to immigration and have the latest information about traveling to the U.S. :

If you are outside the United States, you may be able to find more information from the .

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Last Updated: September 14, 2020