Who Needs a Nonimmigrant Visa?

As a general rule, an alien who wants to travel to the United States as a nonimmigrant needs a nonimmigrant visa. For some non-immigrant visa categories, an alien can obtain the visa directly from a U.S. consulate or embassy without having to first apply with, and receive approval from, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) For other non-immigrant visa categories, an alien has to obtain approval from the USCIS prior to applying for a visa at a U.S. consulate. In those instances, one must be ready to produce evidence of USCIS approval to a U.S. embassy or consulate.Please click here for information regarding the types of visas that require USCIS approval. Aside from evidence of approval from the USCIS, there are other forms and documents an alien must bring to a U.S. embassy or consulate when applying for a visa.Please click here for information regarding the forms and documents needed for a visa application at a U.S. consulate).

The following are categories of nonimmigrants seeking entry into the United States who do not need a visa for admission.

  1. A Canadian non-immigrant: Canadian citizens, and Canadian residents who are citizens of another Commonwealth nation, are exempt from the visa requirement for the purposes of tourism, limited business activity, and work activity under certain provisions of NAFTA. For more information see our article on TN statushere.

  2. Visa Waiver Pilot Program: This is a special program allowing nonimmigrants from designated countries to enter the United States for the purposes of tourism and short-term business. Please click here for information regarding the qualifications for the visa waiver pilot program.

  3. Visit of an alien,who is in a valid legal status in the U.S.,to Canada or Mexico: A visa is not needed for entry into the United States from Canada or Mexico if:

        1. The alien had a valid non-immigrant legal status in the U.S., such as B-1, F-1, or H-1, before leaving the U.S. and going to Canada or Mexico.

        2. The alien left the U.S. for Canada or Mexico, and came back to the U.S. within thirty days.

          Note: In actuality, this is not an exception to the visa requirement but is considered an extension of the alien's expired visa. Please click here for more information regarding third country visas.

(Updated 10/08/12 by NT)

For more information on non-immigrant visas, please click on the following links: