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United States of America (USA) - Visas

Visas are required for anyone who wants to live in the United States, and whilst people from the European Union can remain in the country for up to 90 days at any one time, you will still need a visa. The visa rules in the US are not as straightforward as the European Union and there is quite a set of hoops to jump through.

Entry Requirements

The Open Door entry requirement to the US requires a valid passport from your native country and a visa.

The 90-day period for visa-waiver countries has certain conditions attached to it. A return ticket will have to be produced and can only gain entry if travelling on business or visiting on a tourist trip. At entry ports, an official from Homeland Security will check your documents and decide whether to permit you entry into the country.

Passports must be of a machine-readable nature. Since 2004 when a bio-metric passport was the only passport on which a person could be allowed entry, if a passport cannot be read by the machine, the holder will be refused entry.

Residency Visa

This type of visa has two primary types. One is a permanent resident’s visa and the other is a temporary visa. A temporary resident visa is an immigrant’s visa and the permanent visa has non-immigrant status. The permanent visa allows any foreigner to live in the USA for a set period of time and you can bring your spouse and any children and they have a right to be educated in the country. You can also work, as can your spouse.

A temporary visa means you have a much shorter period of time in which to remain in the country and these visas are usually issued for a specific reason such as a job posting. These applications don’t take as long as a permanent visa, but if you’re applying via London, then the process is reportedly slow so you need to apply as soon as possible.

The temporary visa is usually applied for before entry into the US and is at the US Consulate in your home country. There is a fee for this application and this is payable at the time of the interview. Passports must have validity for the length of the visa and you will be deported if your paperwork is not in order.

There are various elements to the temporary visas:

B1 - Business

This type of visa allows you to undertake certain business dealings with a commercial interest. You’re not allowed to take on any other work as this would be considered an illegal act. This type of visa can last for periods of up to one year. It can be that your company has offices in the US and you’re only able to work for that company. Should you cease employment for any reason, then you must immediately make arrangements to leave the country. On entry on this visa, you will be questioned by a port official and asked how long you will be staying, the reason and you will be required to provide your residential address for the duration of your visa.

Construction workers are no longer allowed to enter under a B1 visa unless they are training a US company in a niche area.

B2 – Tourist visa

This is for tourists who are visiting the US and not from a VWP (Visa Waiver Program) country and can be extended for periods of up to 12 months. No work is permitted on this visa.

H Visa – Temporary Employment Visas

H –visas are issued to aliens who are wishing to enter the US under temporary terms with a view for temporary employment or training purposes.


This visa is for those who are entering the country to receive training from a US employer. There are variations to this visa for those who are receiving medical training or fashion industry training. These visas can be extended for periods of up to three years at any one time. The maximum time for H-Visas is six years on any one visa.


This visa is issued to those who are coming to the US when a native US citizen cannot be found to perform training to a work-force.


This visa is issued to aliens who are coming to the US and not training in the medical profession or a vocational-based training program.


These visas are for the spouse and children of the H1-3 visas and no work can be undertaken while on this visa.

L – Visas for aliens who have worked for a period of time for one employer

L visas are issued to those who are coming to the US with a good solid history of working for the same employer in their home country and in order to provide their services, they have to work in the US for any company within their niche area.

There are various further L visas which range from 1 whereby the employee must display a certain area of niche ability or specialised knowledge for a US employer.

The L2 visa is for spouse and children of L1 visa holders and people are prohibited from working on this visa.

O - Extraordinary Ability Visa

This is for highly-skilled people in a vast range of areas such as education, arts, sciences, sport and business and these can be issued for long periods of time. As with all O visa holders, they are allowed to bring their spouse or children and they will be allowed entry on the L2 visas.


These are issued to athletes and entertainers. These can be groups or individuals and are in the US with a view to remaining for entertaining, such as starring in a musical that shows for a time in the US or a sporting event. Children and spouses are allowed entry on the P1 – visa for individuals or groups. P2 visa will be issued to those under an exchange program in the performing arts and the P3 is for a coach as part of a group or an individual who teaches a particular skill that has a unique cultural aspect. P4 – for children and spouses of P1-3 holders.

Q – Visas

This is an international arrangement where a foreign student comes under the international foreign student program where a foreign student lives with an American family and shows them his/her culture in order for Americans to learn an alternative way of life. These visas are highly limited and are seen less frequently.

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