What is a Visa?

What is a Visa?
A visa is either an ink stamp or computerized label placed in your passport by the U.S. State Department at a consulate in your country. A visa simply indicates that your application has been reviewed by a U.S. consular officer at an American embassy or consulate, and that the officer has determined you're eligible to enter the country for a specific purpose. Consular affairs are the responsibility of the U.S. Department of State. A visa does not guarantee your entry into the U.S., it simply means you are eligible to apply for entry to the U.S.

A visa allows you to travel to the United States as far as the port of entry (airport or land border crossing) and ask the immigration officer to allow you to enter the country. Only the immigration officer has the authority to permit you to enter the United States. He or she decides how long you can stay for any particular visit. Immigration matters are the responsibility of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

There are two categories of U.S. visas: immigrant and nonimmigrant. Immigrant visas are for people who intend to live permanently in the U.S. Nonimmigrant visas are for people with permanent residence outside the U.S. but who wish to be in the U.S. on a temporary basis.

Which category would my Student Visa be in?
Student Visas are considered "nonimmigrant" visas. Nonimmigrant visas are for people with permanent residence outside the U.S. but who wish to go to the U.S. on a temporary basis — for tourism, medical treatment, business, temporary work, or study. The student visa you are eligible to receive as a MIAD student is an F-1 Nonimmigrant student visa.

U.S. law requires that people who apply for nonimmigrant visas provide evidence that they do not intend to immigrate to the United States. It's up to consular officers at U.S. embassies and consulates to determine eligibility on an individual basis on the merits of each case.

Providing requested documents does not guarantee that you will receive a visa. And, because each person's personal situation is different, people applying for the same visa may be asked different questions and be required to submit different documents. Under U.S. law, the authority to issue or refuse visas is vested solely in consular offices abroad. Consular officers have the authority to decide whether the evidence submitted in support of an application is sufficient to establish an applicant's eligibility for a visa. Consular officers may request additional information or documentation depending on their assessment of each person's situation.

What is the waiting time for visa appointments and processing?
Advance travel planning and early visa application are important, since visa applications are subject to a greater degree of scrutiny than in the past. If you plan to apply for a nonimmigrant visa to come to the United States, we know you'd like to estimate how long you will have to wait to get an interview appointment to apply for a visa. See our "Visa Wait Times for Interview Appointment" information below.

It is important to thoroughly review all information on the specific Embassy's Consular Section website for local procedures and instructions, such as how to make an interview appointment. Consular Websites will also explain any additional procedures for students, exchange visitors and those persons who need an earlier visa interview appointment.

You'll also want to know how long it will take for your nonimmigrant visa to be processed at the Consular Section, after a decision is made by a Consular Officer to issue the visa, and the visa is available for pick-up by you or the courier at the embassy. See the "Wait Times for a Nonimmigrant Visa to be Processed" information, which does not include time required for administrative processing. Some visa applications require additional administrative processing, which requires some additional time. Most administrative processing is resolved within 60 days of application. Applicants are advised when they apply. When administrative processing is required, the timing will vary based on individual circumstances of each case. Therefore, before making inquiries about status of administrative processing, applicants or their representatives will need to wait at least 90 days from the date of interview or submission of supplemental documents, whichever is later.

To check the visa wait in at the consulate near you visit the Visa Wait website, click here.

Once I receive my visa, how do I read and understand it?
Please use the illustrated guide below to learn how to read your new nonimmigrant visa (for travel to the U.S. as a temporary visitor). In addition, as soon as you receive it, check to make sure information printed on the visa is correct (see below). If any of the information on your visa does not match the information in your passport or is incorrect, please contact the nonimmigrant visa section at the embassy or consulate that issued your visa.

Reading Your Visa

After I have my visa, I will be able to enter the U.S., correct?
A visa does not guarantee entry into the U.S. A visa allows a foreign citizen to travel to the U.S. port-of-entry where the the Department of Homeland Security immigration inspector authorizes or denies admission to the United States. See Admissions on the CBP website.

My visa expires in 5 years, what does this mean?
A visa must be valid at the time a traveler seeks admission to the U.S., but the expiration date of the visa (validity period/length of time the visa can be used) has no relation to the length of time a temporary visitor may be authorized by the Department of Homeland Security to remain in the United States. Persons holding visas valid for multiple entries may make repeated trips to the U.S., for travel for the same purpose, as long as the visa has not expired, and the traveler has done nothing to become ineligible to enter the U.S., at port of entry.

What if I still have visa-related questions?
OIPS can answer any immigration questions you might have now or in the future. Please contact us for more information.

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