Passport, Visa & Permits to San Francisco



You must have a valid passport to travel abroad. The process and cost associated with getting a passport can be high so start the process at least six months before you plan to leave. Different countries have different processes for obtaining a passport so contact your local government to find out the process. When entering the USA, your passport may be turned down if it expires within six months of your entry so take care of renewals before leaving as well.

For travel that lasts less than three months, no more than a passport is required (Visa Waiver Pilot Program) for citizens of the following countries: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Korea, San Marino, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Visitors entering on the Visa Waiver Pilot Program cannot work or study while in the United States, must have a round-trip ticket, and cannot stay longer than 90 days or change their status to another category .


A visa is permission to enter the United States if a visitor wishes to stay longer than 90 days or if the visitor's citizenship does not belong to one of the countries listed above. Only a certain number of visas are granted each year and depend on the original country (i.e. Only 195,000 H1-B visas were available for 2001). Foreign citizens must apply for a visa at an American embassy or consulate abroad.

For an overview of some common visa types:

B-1 or B-2 Visa- The "visitor" visa is a nonimmigrant visa for persons desiring to enter the United States temporarily for business (B-1) or for pleasure or medical treatment (B-2). To be eligible one must submit:

  • An application, Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-156, completed and signed.   A Supplemental Nonimmigrant Visa Application , Form DS-157 provides additional information about your travel plans. Submission of this completed form is required for all male applicants between 16-45 years of age.
  • One (1) 2x2 photograph.
  • Current, valid passport or travel document
  • Application fees. All applicants must pay the $100 application fee. Some applicants must also pay an issuance fee
  • Evidence of funds to cover expenses in the United States
  • Evidence of compelling social and economic ties abroad

The F-1 student visa- To obtain a student visa you must first complete an I-20 application which states that you have financial means to support yourself and are accepted into an educational program. The United States Immigration and Naturalization Service requires all F-1 students to take 18 hours of classes per week to maintain F-1 status. When you enter the United States on an F-1 student visa, you will usually be admitted for the duration of your student status.

H1B visaEmployment Visas- This visa may be issued to individuals who seek temporary entry in a specialty occupation as a professional. Some examples of "specialty occupations" include accountant, computer analyst, engineer, financial analyst, scientist, architect or lawyer. The petition can be approved with a combination of college or university course work plus three years work experience for each year of university education missing.

H-2B Visa- allows guest workers to come to the United States from around the world to live and work. An international beneficiary who is offered a job by a U.S. employer may enter the U.S. for a temporary time of specified duration to fill the offered position. The employment must be a one-time need based upon low U.S. worker availability, seasonal, or cyclical needs.

The H-3 visa - for an alien coming to the United States to receive training from an employer in any field other than graduate education or training. This covers a specific course of job-related training that has been planned in the United States which may include employment incidental to the training period.

J-1 visa -if the individual does not qualify for an H visa classification, he or she may qualify under the J-1 category. The J-1 visa can be used by any U.S. companies primarily in an entry-level position to gain work experience and training in his or her field. The primary purpose of the alien's J-1 visa is to improve his or her knowledge of American techniques and operation in any U.S. industry and take this experience back to their home country to utilize upon returning home. A person must have at least one year of experience or a degree in the field in order to qualify for a J-1 visa. The J-1 visa is valid for the length of time the employer requires the alien's services, up to a maximum of 18 months with no renewal.

Green Card

To stay permanently in the US, you must obtain a Green Card as evidence that you are of lawful permanent resident status in the United States.

A Lawful Permanent Resident can apply for United States citizenship, or naturalization, after five years of residency. This period is shortened to three years if married to a U.S. citizen, or four years if permanent residency was received through political asylum. Lawful Permanent Residents may submit their applications for naturalization as much as 90 days before meeting the residency requirement. Citizens are entitled to more rights (and obligations) than permanent residents (who are still classified as aliens in this respect). Lawful Permanent Residents generally do not have the right to vote, the right to be elected in federal and state elections, the ability to bring family members to the United States (however permanent residents are allowed to sponsor certain family members), or eligibility for certain federal government jobs. Male permanent residents between the ages of 18 and 26 are subject to registering in the Selective Service System. Permanent residents pay taxes on their worldwide income, like U.S. citizens. Certain conditions that may put a permanent resident in deportation proceedings do not apply to U.S. citizens.

An alien with a green card application can obtain two important permits while the case is pending. The first is a temporary work permit known as the Employment Authorization Document (EAD), which allows the alien to take employment in the United States. The second is a temporary travel document, advance parole, which allows the alien to re-enter the United States. Both permits confer benefits that are independent of any existing status granted to the alien. For example, the alien might already have permission to work in the United States under an H1-B visa.

Another way to gain a green card is through the system called the Green Card Lottery. Each year, around 50,000 immigrant visas are made available through the Diversity Visa (DV) program. These are available to people who were born in countries with low rates of immigration to the United States (fewer than 50,000 immigrants in the past five years). Applicants can only qualify by country of birth, not by citizenship. Anyone who is selected under this lottery will be given the opportunity to apply for permanent residence. They can also file for their spouse and any unmarried children under the age of 21. As the name indicates, this is an unlikely method of gaining a Green card and more traditional methods offer better results.

The official government website for immigration can be found here: This site offers tips on immigrating, forms for visas, passports, etc., practice citizenship tests, and many other resources.

Update 2/01/2009


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Green Card

The United States of America makes available 55,000 permanent resident visas (Green Cards) through the Green Card Lottery Program each year. Applicants are selected in a random, computer-generated drawing.. Now, you can submit your Green Card Lottery Application directly online.

More informations on the Immigration department of the USA.

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