Citizens of qualified countries may be able to visit the U.S. without a visa under the Visa Waiver Program. Generally for all others to enter the United States you must first obtain a visa. There are two types of visas. The first is a nonimmigrant visa for temporary stay. The second type is an immigrant visa for permanent residence.
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.
A nonimmigrant visa is used by tourists, business people, students, or specialty workers who wish to stay for a particular period of time in the United States to accomplish specific purposes. 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.
In general, if you wish to immigrate to the United States you must have a petition approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before applying for an immigrant visa. The petition is filed either by a qualified relative or a potential employer at a USCIS office in the United States. If you have an approved petition and a priority date that is current for processing (when applicable) you are eligible to apply for an immigrant visa or K nonimmigrant visa.
Effective February 1, 2013, all individuals issued Immigrant visas overseas must pay a $165.00 USCIS Immigrant Fee before traveling to the United States.
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