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Immigration Law Blog

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Exceptions to the US Entrance Visa Requirements

Normally, when foreign nationals want to enter the United States, they must obtain special authorization, called a visa which grants them permission to enter through the borders.  The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) is a program through which foreign nationals may enter the United States without a visa.   

VWP designates specific countries whose nationals (citizens) may enter the United States without a visa, for a period of up to 90 days for the purposes of business or pleasure.  To enter the United States under the Visa Waiver Program, the foreign national must register online via the

Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)

prior to traveling and must present a valid, machine-readable passport at the port of entry.

Activities prohibited during travel via the Visa Waiver Program include study for credit, or work. Thirty-seven countries participate in the Visa Waiver Program.  See Department of State’s

Visa Waiver Program

page for a complete list.

Nationals of the designated countries are ineligible to participate in the Visa Waiver Program if they have previously been denied a visa, been found ineligible for a visa, or have failed to comply with the conditions of admission to the United States under a previous visa.

Other Exceptions to the U.S. Entrance Visa Requirement
Canadian nationals do not need visas to enter the United States unless they are entering as treaty investors (in which case they need E visas) or fiancées (in which case they need K visas).

Re-entry after travel to Canada or Mexico does not require a new visa in certain circumstances.  This is known as the “visa revalidation program” which is subject to the following:

 

  • The traveler may not be a national of Iran, Syria, Sudan or Cuba.
  • The traveler entered the U.S. with a valid visa, travelled to Canada or Mexico for less than 30 days, and has a valid I-94 with time left on it after the re-entry.
  • Holders of F, M or J visas must present valid documents showing continued status.
  • The traveler must be able to show the passport that has the nonimmigrant visa in it that was used for the prior entry.
  • The traveler must also have a passport valid for the current entry (if the passport with the nonimmigrant visa in it has expired).

If you are planning to use the visa revalidation program, it is advisable to consult a knowledgeable immigration attorney before departing the United States for Canada or Mexico to ensure that you meet all requirements for re-entry.


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