BISO Home > IVO Homepage > Travel to the United States
APPLY EARLY! Visa applicants are advised to apply as soon as they decide to travel to the United States and at least 2 to 3 months in advance.
We encourage applicants to bring their resume with the list of published articles and research topics to the interview as well.
Frequently asked questions:
Do I need a visa to travel to the United States?
How do I apply for a visa?
What can I do if my visa is delayed or denied?
What should I do once I arrive in the United States?
All international visitors regardless of country of origin must present a passport or secure document when entering the United States. Most travelers to the United States must hold a valid visa and a passport that is valid six months longer than the intended visit.
This page is intended to provide general information to individuals planning to visit the United States temporarily.
The purpose of the visit determines what type of visa will be needed. Visitors planning to visit or attend a meeting will most likely apply for a B1/B2 visa. They should contact their U.S. host or meeting organizer for assistance and information not included here. Sponsored visitors, such as students and researchers, will most likely apply for F-1 or J-1 visas. The university’s or sponsor’s international office is their best resource. More information on this can be found at the State Department website: http://travel.state.gov/visa/visa_1750.html
Visa Waiver Program (VWP)
Citizens of 34 countries do not need a U.S. visa for business or tourism visits of 90 days or less. However, if you will be receiving any compensation for your services or activities (i.e. lectures, presentations, etc.), you may need to apply for a visa. Contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your country for more information.
Citizens of all VWP countries must now have machine readable passports to enter the United States. Detailed information on these passport requirements is available at the Department of Homeland Security website
For additional details and updates on the Visa Waiver Program, see the State Department’s Visa Waiver Program website.
Additional Information on Visas and Other Entry Requirements
Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative
Documentary Requirements for Entry to the United States
As a standard part of the visa process, the State Department is now requiring that consular officers interview almost every applicant. Some consulates may have a long wait for an interview so applicants should contact the consulate to schedule an interview as early as possible. Furthermore, many visa applications are sent to the State Department in Washington, D.C. to be reviewed by several agencies. Because of the number of visa applications and the need for thorough security reviews, the process can take several months. Therefore, it is advisable for travelers to apply for their visas as early as possible (at least three to four months before the visa is needed). Contact the nearest U.S. consulate or embassy in your country for details on visa application procedures at that post.
More information on applying for visas can be found on these websites:
U.S. Nonimmigrant Visas
Visa application status
Committed to encouraging international scientific exchange and collaboration, the International Visitors Office has been collecting data on the problems that scientists and engineers are experiencing with visa applications. This data will be analyzed and used in ongoing efforts to increase scientific freedom. If you or someone you know has experienced difficulties in applying for a visa, you can report your case to us by submitting a Visa Questionnaire. We will review your case and contact you if we are able to assist in any way.
Due to increased security measures, many applicants must now appear for a personal interview at the U.S. consulate. Applicants should take this into consideration and start the process as early as possible since some consulates may have long waiting times for interviews (several weeks to a month). Scientists and students will most likely experience delays due to a security review process known as Visa Mantis which is required for applicants with a background in one of the sensitive technologies on the Technology Alert List. The Visa Mantis review is not a new procedure. However, the number of applications being reviewed overall has increased significantly, leading to delays in the processing of applications. Please bring your resume with the list of published articles and research topics to the interview.
If your visa application is subject to further administrative processing, you may check your visa application status online by visiting the Consular Electronic Application Center. If you are a scientist, a scholar, or a student traveling to the U.S. for the purposes of science, and your visa is delayed over 21 days, you are encouraged to report your visa case to our office via our online IVO visa survey.
All visa denials must be accompanied by a written statement citing the reason for the denial. While the decision of the consular officer is final, in many cases, an applicant can reapply for a visa if he has additional information that was not provided with the previous application. For further information on visa denials and how to reapply for a visa after a denial, see the State Department’s page on visa denials.
All travelers arriving in the United States at the port of entry are met by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers who examine each passport and visa. While the visa issued by the consulate allows a visitor to apply for admission to the United States, the final decision is made by the immigration officer. Visitors should be prepared to explain what they will be doing during their visit, where they will stay, and when they plan to return to their country. As of May 2013, an automated Form I-94 record will automatically be generated by CBP. You will be provided an admission stamp on your passport that is annotated with date of admission, class of admission and admitted-until date. The electronic arrival/departure record can be obtained at www.cbp.gov/I94. Further information about I-94 automation can be found here.
U.S. VISIT Program
U.S.-VISIT biometric procedures apply to all international travelers holding a non-U.S. passport or visa. This also applies to all visitors under the Visa Waiver Program. For further information see the Department of Homeland Security U.S.-VISIT Program.
Visa Validity, Single and Multiple-entry Visas, Length of Stay
The visa validity date is the time period during which the applicant must use the visa to enter the United States. A person with a multiple-entry visa valid for one year can make several trips to the United States during that year. Some people will be issued single-entry visas only; therefore if they travel outside the United States they must apply for another visa before they return. The visa validity date has nothing to do with the length of stay which is determined by the immigration official at the port of entry.
Medical care in the United States can be very expensive. All visitors should carry adequate health insurance valid for the duration of their stay in the United States.
Driving in the United States
Visitors who wish to rent cars must have a major credit card and a valid driver’s license from their own country. In some cases, an international driver’s license may be required. Contact the car rental company directly for specific information.
Required Change of Address Notice
Visitors staying in the United States longer than six months must notify the U.S. government of any change in their residential address within ten days or face serious consequences. Address notification should be made directly to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) using their required form.
Federal law requires that all non-U.S. citizens carry evidence of their lawful status with them at all times. This is especially important for all travel, international or domestic. It is advisable to keep copies of all pages of the passport, visa, I-94 Arrival-Departure card, and supporting documents such as DS-2019 forms, in a safe place in case of loss of the original documents.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the end of the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS). This special registration process is no longer required.
Return to IVO Homepage | To comment on this Web page or report an error, please send feedback to BISO Site Manager.