Visa Types

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Overview

Generally, a citizen of a foreign country who wishes to enter the United States temporarily must obtain a nonimmigrant visa Citizens of qualified countries may be able to visit the United States without a visa under the Visa Waiver Program (the Russian Federation does not currently participate in this program).

A visa does not guarantee entry to the United States. A visa simply indicates that a U.S. consular officer has determined that you are eligible to apply for entry to the United States for a specific purpose. According to U.S. visa laws and regulations, most nonimmigrant visa applicants must demonstrate to the consular officer that they have strong ties to their country of residence and must show that they intend to depart the United States after their temporary stay.

Some of the most commonly issued nonimmigrant visa types are described below. A full list of visa types is available here.

Business / Tourism Visa (B1/B2)

The B-1/B-2 visitor visa is for people traveling to the United States temporarily for business (B-1) or for tourism or medical treatment (B-2). In most cases, the B-1 and B-2 visas are combined and issued as one visa: the B-1/B-2.

Fees: $160 application fee, reciprocity fees depending on country of citizenship. Russian nationals can receive single or multiple entry visitor visas valid for the period of up to three years, and pay no reciprocity fee.

Documents to Bring: The consul will be more interested in what you have to say rather than what documents you present. However, you may choose to bring any evidence that can help to demonstrate your purpose of travel, your strong ties to Russia, and a pattern of business or tourism travel to other countries. Examples could include previous passports, proof of your income and assets, and letters from business associates explaining your planned travel.

More information on this visa type

Student Visa (F, M)

The F visa is for students who have been accepted to a U.S. college or university, private secondary school, or approved English language program. The M visa is for students traveling for non-academic or vocational study. Be in touch with your school regarding which visa type is appropriate for you. If you are traveling for tourism, but will also take part-time classes (less than 18 hours of instruction per week), you may be able to travel on a B2 tourist visa.

Fees: $160 application fee, reciprocity fees depending on country of citizenship. Russian nationals can receive student visas valid for up to one year and pay no reciprocity fee.

Documents to Bring: For an F or M visa, you must present an approved form I-20 from your school or university. You must also show proof that you have paid your SEVIS fee, which you may do online. Beyond these required documents, the consul will be most interested in what you have to say. However, you may choose to bring any evidence that can help to demonstrate how your plan of study makes sense, your ability to pay your tuition, and a pattern of business or tourism travel to other countries. Examples could include previous passports, proof of your income and assets, and records of your grades at schools where you have studied in the past.

More information on this visa type

Work Visa (H, L, O, P, Q, R)

If you want to work in the United States temporarily as a nonimmigrant, you need a specific visa based on the type of work you will be doing. There are different visas for professionals in specialized fields (H1B), workers transferring to a company office in the United States (L), athletes and entertainers (P), cultural exchange workers (Q), religious workers (R), and people with extraordinary talent or skill (O). All applicants for work visas must have a petition, Form I-129, approved on their behalf by USCIS before applying at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Fees: $190 application fee, reciprocity fees depending on country of citizenship. With some exceptions, Russian nationals can receive work-based visas for the length of their petition, up to a maximum of two years.

Documents to Bring: You must present the receipt number printed on your approved I-129 petition. It may also help to bring a printed copy of your petition to show the consular officer. Beyond these documents, the consul will be most interested in what you have to say. However, you may choose to bring any evidence that demonstrates your qualifications for the job you have been hired to do in the United States. Examples could include a current resume, letters from your employer, and records of your educational degrees.

More information on H, L, O, P, and Q visas

More information on religious worker (R) visas

Exchange Visitor Visa (J)

The exchange visitor program visa is designed to promote the interchange of persons, knowledge, and skills in the fields of education, arts, and sciences. Participants include students at all academic levels; professional trainees; teachers; professors coming to teach or do research at institutions of higher learning; research scholars; and international visitors participating in organized people-to-people programs.

Fees: $160 application fee, reciprocity fees depending on country of citizenship. Conditions vary based on your program, but Russian nationals do not pay a reciprocity fee and can receive exchange visas valid for up to three years. Applicants whose programs are funded by the U.S. government do not pay the application fee.

Documents to Bring: You must present an approved form DS-2019 and proof that you have paid your SEVIS fee, which you may do online. (Participants in U.S. government funded exchanges do not need to pay the SEVIS fee). Beyond these documents, the consul will be most interested in what you have to say. However, you may choose to bring any evidence that can help to demonstrate your purpose of travel, your strong ties to Russia, and a pattern of business or tourism travel to other countries. Examples could include previous passports, proof of your income and assets, and letters explaining your planned exchange program.

More information on this visa type

Transit / Crew Visa (C1/D)

The transit visa (C) is for travelers passing through the United States enroute to a foreign destination who do not have a valid B1/2 visa. The crew visa (D) is for crew members serving onboard a sea vessel or aircraft in the United States. Crew members of an aircraft or ship that will be transiting through the United States or its waters generally use a combination transit/crew visa (C-1/D).

Fees: $160 application fee, reciprocity fees depending on country of citizenship. Russian nationals, members of sea and air crews can receive multiple entry transit/crew visas valid for up to two years and pay no reciprocity fee.

Documents to Bring: If you are applying for a transit visa, you must present your tickets demonstrating planned travel through the United States, along with any required visas for your onward destination. Beyond these required documents, the consul will be more interested in what you have to say rather than what documents you present. If you are employed as a crewmember, you may choose to bring any evidence that can help to demonstrate your employment and your strong ties to Russia. Examples could include previous passports, work ID, and letters confirming your job.

More information on this visa type

Journalist and Media Visa (I)

The media visa (I) is for "representatives of the foreign media," such as reporters, film crews, editors and persons in similar occupations, traveling to the United States to engage in their profession. Still photographers do not need this type of visa—they may travel on a B1 visa, as long as they receive no income from a U.S. source.

Fees: $160 application fee, reciprocity fees depending on country of citizenship. For Russian nationals, I visas are generally issued for a single entry within 3 months of receipt. Journalists stationed on long-term assignment in the United States may receive a multiple entry, 1-year visa, and pay no reciprocity fee.

Documents to Bring: You should present a letter from your employer that gives your name, your position held within the company, and the purpose and length of your stay in the United States. Besides this letter, the consul will be more interested in what you have to say rather than what documents you present. However, you may choose to bring any evidence that can help to demonstrate your purpose of travel, your strong ties to Russia, and a pattern of business or tourism travel to other countries. Examples could include previous passports, proof of your income and assets, and copies of your past work.

More information on this visa type

Domestic Employee Visa (B1, A3, G5)

This category of visa is for domestic employees (including cooks, butlers, chauffeurs, housemaids, and nannies) accompanying or following an employer to the United States. If the employer is a diplomat (A1/A2) the domestic employee should apply for an A3 visa. If the employer works at an international organization and holds a G visa, the domestic employee should apply for a G5 visa. If the employer is an American citizen or holds any other nonimmigrant visa, the employee should apply for a B1 visa.

Fees: A3 and G5 applicants are not required to pay any application fees. B1 applicants must pay a $160 application fee and reciprocity fees depending on your country of citizenship. For Russian nationals, receipt of a 3-year multiple entry B1 visa doesn’t require a payment of a reciprocity fee.

Documents to Bring: You should present a copy of your employer’s visa (or, in the case of U.S. citizens, their passport), along with an employment contract for the period of travel that meets the requirements found on this page. You should present a signed copy of the contract in English and, if you do not speak English, in Russian. Besides these required documents, the consul will be more interested in what you have to say rather than what documents you present. However, you may choose to bring any evidence that can help to demonstrate your purpose of travel, your eligibility for this type of visa, and your strong ties to Russia. Examples could include previous passports or a letter from your employer.

More information on this visa type