Because of the ever-lingering fear of terrorism, foreigners needing visas to travel to the US should plan ahead. However, there is a reciprocal visa-waiver program in which citizens of certain countries may enter the USA for stays of 90 days or less with a passport but without first obtaining a US visa. There are 27 countries included in this plan, including Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the UK (for a complete list, visit www.cbp.gov). Under this program you must have a round-trip ticket that is nonrefundable in the USA, and you will not be allowed to extend your stay beyond 90 days. ***For information on the updated requirements for the Visa Waiver Program see the US Visa section of this website.***
Other travelers will need to obtain a visa from a US consulate or embassy. In most countries, the process can be done by mail. Visa applicants may be required to ‘demonstrate binding obligations’ that will ensure their return home. Because of this requirement, those planning to travel through other countries before arriving in the USA are generally better off applying for their US visa while they are still in their home country – rather than after they’re already on the road.
The Non-Immigrant Visitors Visa is the most common visa. It is available in two forms, B1 for business purposes and B2 for tourism or visiting friends and relatives. The validity period for US visitor visas depends on which country you’re from. The length of time you’ll be allowed to stay in the USA is ultimately determined by US immigration authorities at the port of entry. Non-US citizens with HIV should know that they can be excluded from entry to the USA.
Finally, all visa information is very likely to change, as the federal government is actively making changes all the time due to security situations. For updates on visas and other security issues, you can visit the government’s visa page (www.unitedstatesvisas.gov), the US Department of State (www.travel.state.gov) and the Travel Security Administration (www.tsa.gov).