Why do I need a visa to enter the U.S.?

For most people who want to travel to the United States for work, education or pleasure, they must first obtain a visa. A visa does not necessarily mean the holder will enter the country, but it allows him or her to request permission to enter at a border crossing or other port of entry. Since there are numerous types of visas, the traveler will apply based on his or her purpose for coming to the country. 

Travelers with a passport containing a U.S. visa have already obtained eligibility to seek entry from the U.S. Consulate or Embassy in his or her country. Visa holders may remain in the United States for a limited time, so if they are seeking citizenship, they must follow the guidelines for applying for that change in their status. The visa card will note the date the visa expires along with other information about the traveler, including: 

  • Name 
  • Home country 
  • Birth date 
  • Type of visa 
  • Passport number 
  • Details about the traveler’s purpose, such as the school they are attending 
  • How often the traveler may seek entry into the country. 

Visas allow the U.S. government to control who comes into the country and how long they can stay. A traveler with a visa has already gone through many steps to prove he or she presents no danger to the citizens of the country. The process for obtaining a visa can be long and complex, but many who come to the United States through this path find it is worth the effort.