Should I buy my plane ticket before getting a visa?

We do not require or recommend purchasing tickets before applying for a visa. Travelers should not make any final arrangements and payments unless they have a visa in hand. Committing funds to a trip does not in any way compel a consular officer to issue an applicant a visa if s/he is not qualified.

I changed my name. Is my US visa with my old name still valid?

If your name has legally changed through marriage, divorce, or a court ordered name change, you will need to obtain a new passport.  Once you have a new passport, the Department of State recommends that you apply for a new U.S. visa to make it easier for you to travel to and from the United States.

I did not turn in my I-94 when I left the United States. What should I do?

This process is being automated but if you received a paper I-94 and you returned home with your Form I-94 (white) or Form I-94W (green) Departure Record in your passport, it is possible that your departure was not recorded properly. Do not give your I-94 or I-94W to the U.S. Embassy or any other office.

If you departed by a commercial air or sea carrier (airlines or cruise ships), your departure from the U.S. can be independently verified, and it is not necessary to take any further action, although holding on to your outbound (from the U.S.) boarding pass can help facilitate your reentry next time you come back to the United States.

If you departed by land, private vessel or private plane, visit the Customs and Border Protection web site for further instructions.

What will happen when I enter the U.S.?

Your airline should give you a blank Customs Declaration form 6059B. Only one Customs Declaration is required for a family traveling together.

A visa does not guarantee entry into the United States, but allows a foreign citizen coming from abroad to travel to a U.S. port of entry and request permission to enter the United States. The Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have authority to permit or deny admission to the United States, and determine how long a traveler may stay. At the port of entry, upon granting entry to the United States, the Customs and Border Protection officer will determine the length of stay permitted. Previously, travelers received a paper I-94 (record of admission) with this information. This process is now automated. The traveler will be provided with a CBP admission stamp on their travel document that shows the date of admission, class of admission, and admitted-until date. If a traveler needs a copy of their I-94 for verification of alien registration, immigration status or employment authorization, it can be obtained from www.cbp.gov/I94. You can review information about admission on the CBP Website. The Department of State’s Consular Affairs website has more information about duration of stay.

How do I read and understand my visa?

As soon as you receive your visa, check to make sure all your personal information printed on the visa is correct. If any of the information on your visa does not match the information in your passport or is otherwise incorrect, please contact the issuing authority (i.e. the U.S. Embassy) immediately.

The expiration date of your visa is the last day you may use the visa to enter the U.S. It does not indicate how long you may stay in the U.S. Your stay is determined by the Department of Homeland Security at your port of entry. As long as you comply with the Department of Homeland Security decision on the conditions of your stay, you should have no problem.

Further information about interpreting your visa can be found at the Department of State’s Consular Affairs website.

What is “administrative processing?”

Some visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after your interview with a consular officer. You are advised of this possibility when they apply. This web page on the Consular Affairs website has more information about administrative processing.

My passport has expired, but the U.S. visa in it is still valid. Do I need to apply for a new visa?

No. If your visa is still valid you can travel to the United States with your two passports (old and new), as long as the visa is valid, not damaged, and is the appropriate type of visa required for your principal purpose of travel. (Example: tourist visa, when your principal purpose of travel is tourism). Also, the name and other personal data should be the same in both passports, (unless the name change was due to marriage). Your nationality, as indicated in the new passport, must be the same as that shown in the passport bearing the visa.

If your name changed due to marriage, you can travel to the United States with both passports as well as your marriage certificate.