- All visitors to the United States, except for Canadian and Mexican
passport holders, require either a travel authorization or a visa
to enter the country.
If you wish to travel to America as a tourist you will be required
to either apply online for an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel
Authorization), or hold an American B1 or B2 travel visa.
ESTA Online Application
ESTA is the new Electronic System for Travel Authorization. If you
hold a passport from a Visa Waiver Program country, you must apply
online for an ESTA before you travel to the United States.
Note: An approved ESTA is NOT an American tourist visa. While it
provides travelers from Visa Waiver Program countries with an authorization
to enter the United States on a short-stay visit for the purposes
of business or tourism, it does not meet the legal or regulatory
requirements to serve in lieu of a USA visa.
Visa Waiver Program(VWP) countries
Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Malta, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom
Tourist and Business Visitor Visas
If you are not from a Visa Waiver Program country, or if you wish
to stay in the United States for more than 3 months, you must apply
for a Tourist Visa (B2), or a Business Visitor Visa (B1).
The ESTA is mandatory for all passport holders from Visa Waiver
Countries, including the European Union. An ESTA is valid for multiple
entries. To apply for an ESTA you must hold a valid passport.
- ESTA - Electronic System for Travel Authorization
As of January 2009, the United States (US) Department of Homeland
Security implemented a mandatory Electronic System for Travel Authorization
- the ESTA - for visitors from countries currently part of the US
Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The ESTA can be obtained by making an
online ESTA application.
What is the ESTA?
An approved ESTA is an authorization to travel, NOT an American
tourist visa. While it provides travellers from Visa Waiver Program
countries with an authorization to enter the United States on a
short-stay visit for the purposes of business or tourism, it does
not meet the legal or regulatory requirements to serve in lieu of
a USA visa.
Who is required to have ESTA authorization?
Nationals of countries which are part of the Visa Waiver Program
will need to apply in online for clearance to travel to the United
States before they fly. The US ESTA system will process visa applications
against law enforcement and immigration databases to screen for
potential threats to the United States.
How long will it take for an ESTA application to be processed?
For most travellers, ESTA processing will take 1-3 business days.
Even if travel is not authorized under ESTA, the system will provide
clear instructions to help travelers apply for a paper travel visa
to visit the United States. ESTA applications will have one of three
The traveller is cleared to travel to the United States with their
relevant travel documents (including, but not limited to, a valid
Travel Not Authorized
The applicant is not cleared to travel to the United States and
should apply for a paper travel visa, if possible.
The request required further detail for a decision to be made.
If an ESTA application is approved, it is valid for multiple entries
into the United States. An ESTA is valid for up to two years, or
until the traveler's passport expires.
Please note that an ESTA is mandatory, but does not guarantee admission
into the United States at the port of entry. An ESTA only authorises
a traveler to board an air or sea carrier to travel to the United
The final decision to authorize entry will be made by U.S Customs
and Border Protection (CBP) at the port of entry.
Travelling to the USA? Make sure you have your ESTA before you travel
- The majority of American Work Visas are Non-immigrant Visas, and
allow foreign workers temporary residency so they may live and work
Each visa class differs in their duration of stay, although in some
instances visa holders are able to extend their stay in America
providing they meet the requirements for an extension.
Specialty Workers (H1B Visa)
Applies to foreigners entering America to perform services in a
Temporary Skilled or Unskilled Workers (H2B Visa)
This category facilitates the entry of foreign workers who wish
to enter America to engage in non-agricultural employment which
is seasonal, intermittent, a peak load need, or a one-time occurrence.
Intracompany Transferees (L1 Visa)
The L1 category applies to foreigners who work for a company with
a parent, subsidy, branch, or affiliate in America. Applicants must
be employed in America in a managerial or executive capacity (L1A
Visa) or as a person with specialised knowledge (L1B Visa).
Employment-based Preference Visas
The employment based visa preference system allows American employers
to petition the USCIS for permanent residency on behalf of certain
Temporary Skilled Visa for Australian Nationals (E-3 visa)
The E-3 Visa category is specifically for nationals of the Commonwealth
of Australia. Applicants must be employed in America in a specialty
- The employment based visa preference system allows American employers
to petition the USCIS on behalf of certain qualifying employees.
Preference categories are based around a numerical limit which determines
the availability and waiting period of each preference category.
Many preference visa categories are oversubscribed. This means this
system is often backlogged and employees often have to wait several
years to be allocated a visa.
- The preference categories are as follows:
First Preference (EB1)
Priority Workers, including aliens with extraordinary abilities,
outstanding professors and researchers, and certain multinational
executives and managers.
Second Preference (EB2)
Members of professions holding advanced degrees or persons of exceptional
ability in the sciences, arts, or business who will substantially
benefit the national economy, cultural or educational interests
or welfare of America.
Third Preference (EB3)
Skilled workers, professionals and other qualified workers.
Fourth Preference (EB4)
Special immigrants (including ministers of religion).
Fifth Preference (EB5)
Investors (employment creation immigrants).
Schedule A Workers
Health care workers and aliens of exceptional ability.
The numerical limits decrease in order of preference, meaning the
first preference is allocated more places for migration than the
second preference and so on. The availability of each employment
based visa is also limited by the employee's country of origin,
as the Department of State will halt migration from a specific country
once their quota for migration has been reached.
- American Business Visas are temporary Non-immigrant Visas which
can be for either a short business stay for the purpose of gathering
information, attending meetings and conferences, or a longer business
commitment such as investment in a business.
Business Visitor (B1) Visa
This visa is for business visitors to America who intend to conduct
business meetings, court hearings and engage in professional or
commercial undertakings which will not result in financial gain.
Treaty (E) Category
The E Visa category requires applicants to be nationals of countries
with which America has a commercial trade treaty, and as such their
intention would be to enter America to engage in trade or invest
in an American business.
Treaty Trader (E1) Visa
This visa facilitates the entry of business people into America
who wish to engage in trade and establish trade links between America
and their country of nationality.
Treaty Investor (E2) Visa
For foreign investors who wish to enter America to direct and develop
the operations and information systems of an American enterprise
or business in which they have invested, or is actively involved
in the process of investing a substantial amount of capital in America.
Business Immigrant Visa
Every year, the USCIS provides 10,000 Investor (EB5) Visas for eligible
investors who are able to establish a commercial presence in America.
These visas allow permanent residency after a 2 year conditional
Investor (EB5) Visa
This visa category is for qualified individuals seeking permanent
resident status on the basis of their engagement in a new commercial
enterprise in America.
- The American Student (F1) Visa is a temporary Non-immigrant Visa
which allows a person to enter America for the purpose of undertaking
a full time academic program. Generally, obtaining an F1 Visa is
a straightforward process although it can be difficult if the visa
applicant is from a country with a history of visa fraud.
- The F1 Visa is valid for the duration of the proposed academic
program, known as the duration of status, so long as the visa holder
remains enrolled in the educational institution and does not violate
the conditions of their visa.
- In order to be eligible, the foreign student must:
Be coming to America for the purpose of full-time study (minimum
of 12 semester hours on the university level or equivalent);
Hold an offer of study from an approved educational institution
Hold a valid passport;
Be able to prove they have sufficient funds to pay for their tuition
and maintenance for the duration of the program, although in certain
the student may be granted permission to work if the employment
meets certain criteria;
Be proficient in the use of the English language, or be enrolled
in a course of study which will enable this; and
Intend to return to their country of abode once the visa expires.
Foreign students partaking in study in an American educational institution
may also participate in practical training throughout the duration
of their visa, providing this training does not exceed 12 months
- American Family Visas are permanent Immigrant Visas, meaning genuine
applicants under this category may obtain permanent residency in
America if they meet qualifying requirements.
Family migration is based around 2 general categories; one is based
on a preference system and the other offers permanent residency
regardless of the demand for Immigrant Visas. The latter, the Non-preference
Category, is for immediate relatives of American citizens.
Fiancee's of American citizens will need to apply for a temporary
non-immigrant K1 Visa if they wish to join their partner in America.
Certain immediate relatives of American citizens may receive permanent
visas without regard to the preference system of visa allocation.
- Spouse Visa
Facilitates the entry of foreign spouses of American citizens.
Allows permanent residency for children (including adopted children)
of American citizens under the age of 21.
For the parents of American citizens who wish to join their children
Relatives of American citizens may apply for migration under a preference
system of visa allocation, that is, there is a numerical limit on
the amount of applicants who successfully obtain residency.
For the brothers and sisters of American citizens. You may be any
age to apply for this visa.
Adult Child Visa
Facilitates the entry of children of American citizens who are over
the age of 21, both unmarried and married (although an unmarried
child has a higher preference allocation).
Temporary Non-immigrant Status
Visa holders who are in America on a non-immigrant visa may apply
to become a permanent resident at a later stage if they qualify
Fiancee: K1 Visa
Facilitates the entry of foreign fiancees of American citizens.
The holder of this visa may gain permanent immigrant status through
an American Spouse Visa at a later stage after the marriage has
- The American Exchange Visitor Visa Program allows foreign visitors
to enter America on a temporary basis for the purpose of undertaking
education or training. These educational or training visas help
foreign persons upgrade their practical skills and knowledge in
their field of employment or study.
- Exchange Visitor (J1) Visa
The J1 Visa is a temporary non-immigrant visa which allows a foreign
employee to be actively engaged in on the job training under circumstances
equivalent to that of an American employee in the same situation.
This visa is available for:
Foreign medical graduates or physicians undertaking graduate medical
education or training;
Students participating in exchange programs (secondary and university/college);
Pursuing business and industrial training programs;
Foreign nationals who are recognized as potential leaders or experts
to engage in observation tours, discussions, consultation, professional
meetings, and training; and Organisations authorised by the Department
of State (DOS) to sponsor foreign nationals for training.
The American Exchange Visitor Visa allows the visa holder to remain
in America for the duration of their course of study or program,
providing they remain a bona fide temporary resident.