American Tourist Visa and ESTA

  • All visitors to the United States require either a travel authorization or a visa to enter the country.
    If you wish to travel to the United States of 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 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 results:

    Authorization Approved
    The traveller is cleared to travel to the United States with their relevant travel documents (including, but not limited to, a valid passport).

    Travel Not Authorized
    The applicant is not cleared to travel to the United States and should apply for a paper travel visa, if possible.

    Authorization Pending
    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 States.

    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

American Work Visa Categories

  • The majority of American Work Visas are Non-immigrant Visas, and allow foreign workers temporary residency so they may live and work in America.

    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 speciality occupation.

    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 qualifying employees.

    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 occupation.

American Preference Visa: Employment Based

  • 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 Visa Information

  • 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 residency period.

    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.

Students: F1 Visa

  • 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 in America;
    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 in total.

Permanent Immigrant Visas: Family Category

  • 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.

    Non-preference Category
    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.
    Child Visa
    Allows permanent residency for children (including adopted children) of American citizens under the age of 21.
    Parent Visa
    For the parents of American citizens who wish to join their children in America.

    Preference Category
    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.

    Sibling Visa
    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 for residency.

    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 been celebrated.

American Exchange Visitor Visa Program

  • 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;
    Au Pairs;
    Students participating in exchange programs (secondary and university/college);
    Research scholars;
    Pursuing business and industrial training programs;
    Research assistants;
    Summer work/travel;
    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.