Most foreign nationals who come to the U.S. must obtain a visa at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy overseas. There are both immigrant and non-immigrant visas. Immigrant visas are given to those foreign nationals who have been granted permission to reside and work permanently in the United States.
Non-immigrant visas are issued to foreign nationals who are coming to the U.S. for a specific reason and for a temporary period of time. There are currently more than 40 different types of non-immigrant visas. It is the duty of the U.S. Consular Officer to determine the most appropriate visa for the visit and to decide to approve or deny the visa application. The Consular Officer has sole discretion in this matter and is trained to detect individuals attempting to enter the U.S. fraudulently, or whom they believe intend to remain here on a permanent basis. Under federal law, an individual applying for a non-immigrant visa must show proof of adequate financial resources for the duration of the visit, provide evidence of close ties to the home country, and convince the Consular Officer that he/she has no intention of remaining in the U.S. permanently.
Visas are used to gain entry to the U.S. in a particular immigration status. They are issued for varying lengths of stay and may be for single or multiple entries. The visa is placed in the foreign passport and contains the following information: full name, date and place of birth, citizenship, visa type, number of entries, date of visa issuance, expiration date of the visa and the Consular post at which the visa was issued. Each visa contains a unique number found on the upper right hand corner of the document.
The length of a visa is based upon reciprocity between the U.S. and the home country of the foreign national. Thus, the visa may not be granted for the entire period of time foreign national plans to be in the U.S. A visa is an entry document only and while it may be used to enter the U.S. while it is valid, it does not indicate how long a foreign national is permitted to stay in the U.S. The length of stay is determined by an Immigration Officer or Inspector at the port of entry and the date is specified on the Form I-94, Record of Arrival and Departure. It is the I-94 card (not the visa) combined with other immigration documents which authorize the length of time a foreign national is permitted to remain in the U.S.