What is a Visa?

To enter the United State a person must be granted permission based on an immigration petition or status. A visa is a conditional authorization granted to a person who files a petition with the appropriate embassy, consulate, or with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). A visa allows a person to request admission to enter the United States. It is important to understand that the term of a visa is different from the term that a person is allowed to stay in the United States under the immigration status granted with the visa. When a person enters the country, her passport is stamped. The stamp in the passport, together with the term stated in the traveler's I-94, establish the term a person can stay in the United States. However, the term of the visa is the term during which a person can continue to request admission. 

Who is responsible to approve a visa?

In general terms, it is the consular officer in charge of a foreigner's case who makes a decision as to whether a visa will be granted or not. However, in family-based petitions, the approval of a visa involves too the USCIS.  

Can I enter the United States once I have a visa approved?

When a visa is approved, the petitioner receives it in her passport. Then, the passport together with the visa must be presented to a patrol officer at a port of entry. In general terms, a person with a visa is allowed to enter the United States. However, if there are any inconsistencies with the papers or the conduct of the traveler and her visa, the patrol officer is allowed to deny admission to the United States. For this reason, traveling to the United States would have with her not only her passport, visa, and identification, but also those documents previously filed and which support the petition of the visa or the purpose for which a person is traveling. 

What types of visas exist?

Let's take a look at some of the most common non-immigrant visas. 

Visitor visa B1/B2

The visitor visa B1/B2 is granted to those who intend to come to the United States for a temporary period of time to travel, visit family members, or to engage in business transactions that do not involve the performance or retribution of services or labor. 

Student visa F1

This is the visa typically granted to foreign students who come to the United States to engage in undergraduate and graduate programs. 

Temporary worker visa

When a U.S. employer requires specialized labor or services that are only performed on a seasonal form, the U.S. employer may request a work visa for a prospective employee.  

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