Apply for a U.S. Visa
On this page:
- Visa Descriptions and Qualifications
- When to Apply
- How to Apply
- Supporting Documents
- More Information
If you want to work in the U.S. temporarily as a nonimmigrant, under U.S. immigration law, you need a specific visa based on the type of work you will be doing. Most temporary worker categories require that your prospective employer or agent file a petition, which must be approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the United States before you can apply for a work visa.
All applicants for H, L, O, P and Q visas must have a petition approved on their behalf by USCIS. The petition, Form I-129, must be approved before you can apply for a work visa at the Embassy or Consulate. When your petition is approved, your employer or agent will receive a Notice of Action, Form I-797, which serves as your petition's approval notification. The consular officer will verify your petition approval through the Department of State's Petition Information Management Service (PIMS) during your interview.
You must bring your I-129 petition receipt number and a copy of your Form I-797 to your interview at the Embassy or Consulate in order to verify your petition's approval. Please note that approval of a petition does not guarantee issuance of a visa if you are found to be ineligible for a visa under U.S. immigration law.
Visa Descriptions and Qualifications
H-1B (specialty occupation)
An H-1B visa is required if you are coming to the United States to perform services in a pre-arranged professional job. To qualify, you must hold a bachelor's or higher degree (or an equivalent degree) in the specific specialty for which you seek employment. USCIS will determine whether your employment constitutes a specialty occupation and whether you are qualified to perform the services. Your employer is required file a labor condition application with the Department of Labor concerning the terms and conditions of its contract of employment with you.
H-1B1 Treaty-based Temporary Work Visas
Free trade agreements signed with Chile and Singapore permit qualified Chilean and Singaporean citizens to temporarily work in the United States in certain circumstances. Only Chilean and Singaporean citizens are eligible as principal applicants, although their spouses and children may be nationals of other countries.
Applicants for H-1B1 visas should already have a job offer from an employer in their chosen work area in the United States, but the employer does not have to file Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, and the applicant does not need to obtain a Notice of Approval, Form I-797 form before submitting the visa application. However, the petitioner does need to file an Application for Foreign Labor Certification with the Department of Labor prior to applying for the visa. For more information on the H-1B1 visa, please visit https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/employment/temporary.html
H-2A (seasonal agricultural workers)
An H-2A visa allows U.S. employers to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural jobs for which U.S. workers are not available. An H-2A nonimmigrant classification applies to you if you seek to perform agricultural labor or services of a temporary or seasonal nature in the United States on a temporary basis. A U.S. employer (or an association of U.S. agricultural producers named as a joint employer) must file a Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, on your behalf.
Note: Indian and Bhutanese passport holders are not eligible for H-2A and H-2B visas.
H-2B visa (skilled and unskilled workers)
This visa is required if you are coming to the United States to perform a job which is temporary or seasonal in nature and for which there is a shortage of U.S. workers. Your employer is required to obtain a Department of Labor certification confirming that there are no qualified U.S. workers eligible for the type of employment on which your petition is based.
An H-3 visa is required if you are coming to the United States to receive training from an employer in any field of endeavor, other than graduate education or training, for a period of up to two years. You can be paid for your training and "hands-on" work is authorized. Training cannot be used to provide productive employment and cannot be available in your home country.
If you are the principal holder of a valid H visa, your spouses, including same-sex spouses, and/or unmarried children (under age 21) may receive an H-4 visa to accompany you to the United States. However, your spouse/children are not permitted to work while in the United States.
L-1 (intra-company transferees)
An L-1 visa is required if you are the employee of an international company which is temporarily transferring you to a parent branch, affiliate, or subsidiary of the same company in the United States. The international company may be either a U.S. or foreign organization. To qualify for an L-1 visa, you must be at the managerial or executive level, or have specialized knowledge and be destined to a position within the U.S. company at either of these levels, although not necessarily in the same position as held previously. In addition, you must have been employed outside the United States with the international company continuously for one year within the three years preceding your application for admission into the United States. You may only apply for an L-1 visa after your U.S. company or affiliate has received an approved petition from USCIS, either on a "blanket" or individual basis.
Note: Blanket L-1 interviews are only conducted at the U.S. Consulate General Chennai
If you are the principal holder of a valid L visa, your spouses, including same-sex spouses, and/or unmarried children (under age 21) may receive this derivative visa. Due to a recent change in the law, your spouse may seek employment authorization. Your spouse must enter the United States on his/her own L-2 visa and then submit a completed Form I-765 (obtainable from USCIS), along with an application fee. Your children are not authorized to work in the United States.
Type O visas are issued to people with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business and athletics, or extraordinary achievement in motion picture and television production, and their essential support personnel.
P (artists, entertainers)
Type P visas are issued to certain athletes, entertainers, artists and essential support personnel who are coming to perform in the United States.
A Q visa is required if you are traveling to the United States to participate in an international cultural exchange program for the purpose of providing practical training, employment, and the sharing of the history, culture, and traditions of your home country. You must have a petition filed on your behalf by the program sponsor and the petition must be approved by USCIS.
When to Apply
The Embassy or Consulate may process your H, L, O, P or Q visa application up to 90 days prior to the beginning of employment status as noted on your I-797. However, when making your travel plans, please note that due to Federal regulations, you can only use the visa to apply for entry to the United States starting ten days prior to the beginning of the approved status period noted on your I-797.
How to Apply
For Nonimmigrant Visa applicants:Determine your visa type by reading Common Nonimmigrant Visas. Each visa type explains the qualifications and application items. Choose the visa type that applies to your situation.
Be sure to also review the Visa Waiver Program. If your country participates in the Visa Waiver Program, you do not need to apply for a visa if you are travelling for business or pleasure and will only be staying in the Unites States for 90 days or less.
Note: If you are under 14 or over 79 years old, or if you previously received a U.S. visa that expired within the last 48 months or 12 months and you are returning to the United States for the same purpose of travel, you may be able to obtain a visa without coming to the consulate for an interview. Click here to learn more
The next step is to complete the Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application (DS-160) form.Be sure to read the Guidelines for Completing the DS-160 Form carefully. All information must be correct and accurate. Once the form is submitted, you cannot make any changes. If you need assistance, please consult an immigration lawyer or translator. The call center cannot help you complete your DS-160. You will need your DS-160 number to book your appointment.
Note: If denied visa previously please complete a new Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application (DS-160) form.
Once you have determined the correct visa type and completed the DS-160, you must pay the visa fee. The visa fee page lists the visa types and correlating visa fee in US dollars and native currency.
To pay your visa fee, read the Bank and Payment Options page. This page explains how to make your visa fee payment. You will create a profile and must keep your receipt number to book your visa appointment
You are almost ready to schedule your visa appointment! Now you will need to login to your profile with the same credentials you used to pay your visa fee. Once you are in the system, you will see your dashboard.Click on Schedule Appointment on the left-hand side menu. This will start the process for scheduling your appointment.
You must schedule two appointments, one for the Visa Application Center (VAC) and one for the visa interview at the Embassy or Consulate.
First, schedule your visa interview appointment at the Embassy or Consulate.
Second, schedule your appointment at a Visa Application Centre. This appointment will allow you to go to one of the five Visa Application Centre locations to have your fingerprints and photo taken. This appointment must be at least 1 day before your visa interview appointment at the Embassy or Consulate.You will need three pieces of information in order to schedule your appointment:
- Your passport number
- The date you paid your fee
- The ten (10) digit barcode number from your DS-160 confirmation page
As you go through the process you will be able to select your visa type, enter personal data, add dependents, select your document delivery location, confirm visa payment, and schedule your appointment.
For your Visa Application Centre appointment, you will need to bring:
- A passport valid for travel to the United States with validity dates at least six months beyond your intended period of stay in the United States (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions). If more than one person is included in your passport, each person desiring a visa must submit an application.
- Your DS-160 confirmation page.
- Your appointment confirmation page.
- One photograph as per U.S. visa specifications if the applicant is under 14 years of age. See the Photos and Fingerprints page for more details.
Following your visit to the Visa Application Centre to have your photo and fingerprints taken,you will then visit the U.S. Embassy or Consulate on the date and time of your visa interview. You must bring :
- A printed copy of your appointment letter,
- Your DS-160 confirmation page
- Your current and all old passports
- Supporting Documents as per your visa type
- If you are an L-1 applicant on a blanket petition, you must pay a fraud prevention and detection fee (more information about this fee is here).
- The receipt number printed on your approved I-129 petition. Paper copies of the I-797 are not required at the interview.
Applications without all of these items will not be accepted.
Note: Children under 14 years of age are not required to attend the appointment at the Visa Application Centre or visa interview at the Embassy/Consulate. Accompany/Guardians/Parents can carry the above documents
In addition to these items, you must present an interview appointment letter confirming that you booked an appointment through this service. You may also bring whatever supporting documents you believe support the information provided to the consular officer.
Caution: Do not present false documents. Fraud or misrepresentation can result in permanent visa ineligibility. If confidentiality is a concern, you should bring your documents to the Embassy or Consulate in a sealed envelope. The Embassy or Consulate will not make your information available to anyone and will respect the confidentiality of your information.
Consular officers look at each application individually and consider professional, social, cultural and other factors during adjudication. Consular officers may look at your specific intentions, family situation, and your long-range plans and prospects within your country of residence. Each case is examined individually and is accorded every consideration under the law.
If you are a first time visa applicant, you may save time by bringing the following documents to your interview:
- Evidence that establishes your job qualifications, including any university diplomas.
- Original letters from current and previous employers detailing your position and projects you worked on and how long you worked with your employers.
- you will be deputed to a client site, original letters from the client and any intermediate vendor(s) confirming your services are expected
- If you are currently working and holding H-1B status, you should bring:
- pay slips from your current or most recent place of employment
- bank statements covering the preceding twelve months of employment in the United States
- the names and current phone numbers of the personnel managers at your present and previous places of employment
- federal tax forms 1040 and W-2 for all the years which you have been employed in the United States
- your resume or CV
Your dependents should bring all required documents for any nonimmigrant visa, plus:
- An original marriage (for your spouse) and/or birth certificate (for unmarried children under 21), as applicable
- A letter from your spouse's employer confirming his or her continued employment
- If your spouse is currently working in the United States on an H1-B visa, his/her pay slips for the current calendar year and federal tax returns (IRS Form 1040 and W-2s) for all the years in which he/she has been employed in the United States on the H-1B visa
For more information about H, L, O, P and, Q visas, visit the Department of State's Temporary Workers webpage.