Why Does the USA Require Visas for Citizens of Some Countries and Not Others?

Why Does the USA Require Visas for Citizens of Some Countries and Not Others?

            The ease with which you can enter the USA depends largely upon your home country. You may have heard stories about some travellers not requiring visas and other travellers being required to go through a lengthy visa process in order to travel to the U.S. If you are considering travelling to the United States for travel, pleasure, business, or school purposes, it is very important to know before departing your home country whether or not you need a visa to enter the United States. This article explains why citizens from some countries are required to obtain visas to enter the United States while others do not.

            In general, most foreign nationals wishing to travel to the United States are required to obtain a visa. However, there are a number of main exceptions that are important to note as it can save you a lot of time and expense if you fall into one of the exempt categories. The majority of the exemptions for visas apply to citizens from other high-income countries or countries that are close in proximity to the United States.

            The first exemption to being required to obtain a visa to travel to the United States is called the Visa Waiver Program, or VWP for short. This program allows citizens from 39 participating countries an exemption for the visa when travelling to the United States for business or tourism. Many European countries, such as Spain, Italy, Germany, and Greece and included in this list. Other wealthy countries, such as New Zealand and Japan are also included. The full list of the 39 participating countries can be found here. Citizens of eligible countries on this list are not required to obtain a visa but still must obtain a valid travel authorization before they depart. In order to do this, you must complete an ESTA application online, which can be found here. There is a small fee associated with this form and you will need an e-Passport in order to use the VWP program. This program permits citizens from those 39 countries to enter the U.S. for business meetings, academic conferences, or personal for up to 90 days without going through the B1/B2 visa application process or obtaining us visa. If you are from an eligible country for the VWP program but plan to stay longer than 90 days in the United States, you will need to apply for a visitor (B1) visa.

            Aside from the countries that participate in the VWP program, there are additional citizens who do not require visas. Citizens of the United States who are re-entering the United States never require a visa to enter the USA. Rather, they are required to show valid government identification, such as a driver's license or passport. Anyone who is considered a lawful permanent resident of the United States is also exempt from obtaining a visa to enter the United States, instead, they must have their green card available to show to U.S. immigration officials upon their arrival.

            Canadian citizens are also exempt from the requirement of obtaining a visa for most work and travel. Canadian citizens are allowed to travel to the United States for up to 182 days without needing a visa. A visa is required though for Canadians who wish to immigrate to the United States, who plan to pursue higher education in America, or for Canadians who wish to work in the United States.

            Likewise, because Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States, Puerto Rican citizens are subject to different requirements. Puerto Ricans are not required to obtain a visa. Additionally, anyone from the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam is also allowed to enter the United States for short-duration trips without US visa. However, anyone planning to stay more than 90 days must obtain a visa.

            If you are a citizen from another country not included in the VWP program, you will need to apply for a visa to visit the United States. Visitor visas are available for short-term visits, such as the B-1 visa for business purposes (e.g., to attend a scientific conference or to negotiate a business contract), a B-2 tourist visa (for vacations, visiting friends, obtaining medical treatment, etc.) or the combined B-1/B-2 visa if the purpose of your trip combines professional and leisure plans. All of these visas mandate that the visa holder not engage in paid employment, study, or take up permanent residence in the USA. You may also apply for an immigrant visa if you plan to permanently reside in the United States or a student visa to pursue an academic degree separately from the short-stay visas. Additional information regarding the process of applying for US visa and the USA visa application can be found at this site.

            The visa requirements for the United States are complex. Citizens for some countries, such as those included in the VWP and Canada are exempt from needing visas for short trips to the United States, while most other foreign nationals must obtain a B1 or B2 visa before arriving in the United States. In general, any foreign national planning to stay in the United States for more than 90 days is required to obtain a visa, with few exceptions. At VisaUSA Now, we can help you complete your B1/B2 visa application if needed.