9 FAM 102
9 FAM 102.1
Introduction to Visas (what is a visa?)
(Office of Origin: CA/VO/L/R)
9 FAM 102.1-1 purpose of a visa
A citizen of a foreign country who seeks to enter the United States generally must first obtain a U.S. government-issued visa, which is placed in the traveler’s passport, a travel document issued by the traveler’s country of citizenship. Certain international travelers may be eligible to travel to the United States without a visa if they meet the requirements for visa-free travel (see 9 FAM 201.1). Having a U.S. government-issued visa allows the visa holder to travel to a U.S. port of entry, airport, or land border crossing, and request permission of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspector to enter the United States.
9 fam 102.1-2 Process to obtain a visa
The type of visa an applicant must obtain is defined by U.S. immigration law, and relates to the purpose of travel. There are two main categories of U.S. visas: nonimmigrant visas (NIVs), for temporary travel, and immigrant visas (IVs), for travel to live permanently in the United States. For nonimmigrant visa applicants, there are several steps to apply for a visa. The order of these steps and how to complete them may vary at the U.S. embassy or consulate, but most nonimmigrant visa applicants will need to complete an online Form DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Application, upload a photograph with the application, schedule an interview, provide biometrics, and be interviewed. In general, to be eligible to apply for an immigrant visa, a foreign citizen must be sponsored by a U.S. citizen relative, U.S. lawful permanent resident, or by a prospective employer, and be the beneficiary of an approved petition filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
9 FAM 102.1-3 Traveling to the united States with a visa
While having a visa does not guarantee entry to the United States, it does indicate a consular officer has determined the U.S. visa holder is eligible to seek entry for that specific purpose. DHS/CBP inspectors are responsible for admission of travelers to the United States, for a specified status and period of time. DHS also has responsibility for immigration matters while the visa holder is present in the United States.
9 FAM 102.1-4 Entry into areas under u.s. administration
9 FAM 102.1-4(A) Statutory and Regulatory Authority
9 FAM 102.1-4(A)(1) Immigration and Nationality Act
INA 101(a)(38) (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(38).
9 FAM 102.1-4(A)(2) Code of Federal Regulations
8 CFR 212.1; 22 CFR 40.3.
9 FAM 102.1-4(A)(3) Public Laws
Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008, Title VII, Public Law No. 110-229.
9 FAM 102.1-4(A)(4) Other Sources
A.C.S.A. 41.0502 (American Samoa Code Annotated).
9 FAM 102.1-4(B) American Samoa
a. According to administrative regulations of the Government of American Samoa (A.C.S.A. 41.0502 (American Samoa Code Annotated)), aliens may disembark in American Samoa for visits of less than 30 days provided they have:
(1) A valid passport or other valid travel document issued by a competent authority authorizing return to the country of origin or to some other country;
(2) A round-trip ticket to travel to the alien’s point of origin or to an onward destination; and
(3) Comply with any current requirements of the public health officer.
b. Aliens desiring to remain for 30 days or longer must register and obtain advance permission to enter from the immigration authorities of American Samoa. Such applicants must also include in the documentation of their date and place of entry; activities in which they intend to engage; the length of time expected to remain in American Samoa; and, any police and criminal record. Approval to remain in the territory is granted in 30-day increments only.
9 FAM 102.1-4(C) Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)
Since Guam is a part of the United States as defined in INA 101(a)(38), aliens proceeding to Guam must possess a valid visa, unless they qualify under the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver program (8 CFR 212.1(q)), which also applies to aliens proceeding to the CNMI. Navy clearance is not required for entry into the area. However, cases should be submitted to the Department for action for aliens who desire, but are ineligible under INA 212(a)(3) to enter Guam and who request a waiver under INA 212(d)(3)(A) or are recommended by a United States consular officer for such waiver. The Department may advise the Department of Defense, if appropriate.
9 FAM 102.1-4(D) Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)
Public Law 110-229 of May 2008 amended the INA to include the CNMI in the definition of the United States for immigration purposes. However, 48 U.S.C. 1806(a)(2) provides for a transition period ending on December 31, 2019 in order to provide time to implement this provision.
9 FAM 102.1-4(E) Wake Island and Midway Island
a. Wake Island: Wake Island is generally not open to visitors and is used by the U.S. Federal Government only; they manage the island.
b. Midway Island: Midway Island is an unincorporated territory of the United States and is owned and is administered by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (Executive Order 13022, signed in 1996). Visitors are common to the island now and there is a tourist presence there.
9 FAM 102.1-5 Departure from the United States
a. Need to Ensure Departure from United States Recorded:
(1) As of October 2010, CBP automated the Form I-94W and as of May 2013, CBP automated Form I-94 in the air and sea environment. Paper I-94 and I-94W may be issued in the air and sea environment under special circumstances and are still used at land border ports of entry. If a traveler returns home with their Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Form I-94 (white) or Form I-94-W (green) in their passport, it is possible that their departure was not recorded properly.
(2) If the traveler departed by a commercial air or sea carrier (airlines or cruise ships), their departure from the United States can be independently verified, and it is not necessary to take any further action, although holding on to the outbound (from the United States) boarding pass - if they still have it - can help facilitate their reentry to the United States.
(3) If the traveler departed by land, private vessel, or private plane, they will need to take steps to correct the record. If the traveler does not validate a timely departure from the United States or cannot reasonably prove they departed within the time frame given when they entered the United States, the next time they apply for admission to the United States, DHS CBP may conclude they remained in the United States beyond their authorized stay. Their visa may be subject to cancellation or the traveler may be returned immediately to their foreign point of origin.
(4) Under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), visitors who remain beyond their permitted stay in the United States cannot reenter the United States in the future without obtaining a visa from a U.S. Consulate. If the traveler is a Visa Waiver Program visitor who traveled by land to either Canada or Mexico for an onward flight, it is particularly important for them to register their timely departure if their green I-94W was not taken when they exited the United States. If they fail to do so and arrive at a U.S. port-of-entry seeking admission under the Visa Waiver Program without a visa, CBP officers may order their immediate return to a foreign point of origin.
(5) Note: Not all VWP travelers receive I-94W forms. VWP travelers crossing the land boarder usually receive the form but air travelers usually do not. If the traveler is a VWP visitor and left the United States by an air or sea carrier, their departure is independently verifiable and they do not need to contact CBP to verify their departure.
b. Recording Departure from the United States After the Fact:
(1) If the traveler failed to turn in their I-94 Departure Record, they should send it, along with any documentation that proves they left the United States to:
Coleman Data Solutions or Coleman Data Solutions
Box 7965 3043 Sanitarium Road, Suite 2
Akron, OH 44306 Akron, OH 44312
Attn: NIDPS (i-94) Attn: NIDPS (i-94)
(U.S. Postal Service) (FedEx or UPS)
(2) Travelers should not mail their departure Form I-94 or supporting information to any Consulate or Embassy, to any other DHS CBP office in the United States, or to any address other than the one above. Only at this location is CBP able to make the necessary corrections to its records to prevent inconvenience to the traveler in the future. The Akron, Ohio office does not answer correspondence, so the traveler should not ask for confirmation that their record has been updated.
(3) To validate departure, DHS CBP will consider a variety of information, including, but not limited to:
(a) Original boarding passes the traveler used to depart another country, such as Canada, if they flew home from there.
(b) Photocopies of entry or departure stamps in the traveler’s passport indicating entry to another country after they departed the United States (the traveler should copy all passport pages that are not completely blank, and include the biographical page containing the photograph.)
(c) Photocopies of other supporting evidence, such as:
(i) Dated pay slips or vouchers from an employer to indicate they worked in another country after they departed the United States;
(ii) Dated bank records showing transactions to indicate the traveler was in another country after they left the United States;
(iii) School records showing attendance at a school outside the United States to indicate the traveler was in another country after they left the United States; or
(iv) Dated credit card receipts, showing the traveler’s name, with the credit card number deleted, for purchases made after they left the United States to indicate they were in another country after leaving the United States.
(4) The traveler should include a statement in English to assist CBP in understanding the situation and correcting their records quickly. The statement will not be acceptable without supporting evidence as noted above. The traveler must mail legible copies or original materials where possible. If the traveler sends original materials, they should retain a copy of the materials. DHS CBP cannot return original materials after processing.