What is the general policy for people who wish to obtain visas to come to the United States (U.S.)?
For nonimmigrant visas, generally, the applicant will make an appointment at a convenient U.S. Embassy or Consulate and pay the application fee. The applicant will have an interview in-person with a consular officer, who will ask questions and review documentation to determine whether the applicant qualifies for a visa. After the interview, and any necessary administrative processing, if the applicant qualifies the U.S. Embassy or Consulate issues a visa.
Applicants for immigrant visas, wishing to reside permanently in the U.S. must first be the beneficiary of a petition filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Petitions are most often based on family relationship or employment, but can also be self-generated by investors. After the petition is approved, the State Department’s National Visa Center notifies the beneficiaries to schedule an interview with a consular officer at an embassy or consulate. If the consular officer determines the applicant is qualified, and there are no security concerns, the U.S. Embassy or Consulate will issue an immigrant visa.
After reviewing this page, please, find out more about both the immigrant and nonimmigrant visa process at the State Department’s visa main page.
Do different U.S. Embassies and Consulates have different standards for approving visas?
No. The procedures for processing visa applications may vary, but the same standards under U.S. law and policy apply at each U.S. Embassy and Consulate where one applies for a visa.
Somalia does not have a U.S. Embassy. Where can those traveling on Somali passports apply for nonimmigrant visas?
Those traveling on Somali passports may make appointments and apply for nonimmigrant visas at any nonimmigrant visa issuing post. However, if you do not speak English or a language commonly spoken in the country where you plan to apply, you should be aware that the interviewing officers’ lack of familiarity with local conditions in your country may make it more difficult to demonstrate your qualifications for a visa. Many Somali nonimmigrant visa applicants choose to apply at U.S. Embassy Nairobi and U.S. Embassy Djibouti.
I heard that the U.S. doesn’t accept Somali passports or other documentation, can I still travel?
Yes, there is a process for both NIV and IV applicants to receive visas, even though the U.S. does not recognize Somali travel documents. Residents and citizens of Somalia wishing to travel to the U.S. on a Somali-issued travel document should see the Reciprocity Tables for more information on document availability.
Why do some countries only receive single entry visas?
Current visa validities are based on reciprocity for Americans traveling to an applicant’s home country. Similarly, the visa validity for citizens of Somalia is based on type of visa and reciprocity for Americans traveling to those countries. To learn more see the Reciprocity Tables by country.
How long may I stay in the U.S. on my student visa?
When you enter the U.S. on a student visa, you will usually be admitted for the duration of your student status. That means you may stay as long as you are a full time student, even if the F-1 visa in your passport expires while you are in America. For a student who has completed the course of studies shown on the I-20, and any authorized practical training, F-1 students are allowed an additional 60 days to prepare for departure from the U.S. or to transfer to another school.
If I am student with a single entry visa or my visa has expired, will I be able to renew my visa to continue my studies if I leave the U.S. for a trip?
If you depart the U.S. during the course of your studies with a single entry visa or an expired visa you will need to be interviewed again by a consular officer and qualify for a new student visa. Generally, continuing students who can show that they are in good standing in their academic programs should be able to qualify for new student visas to return and resume their studies. Continuing students should be prepared to provide evidence of progress in their program, along with evidence on continuing ability to cover tuition and living expenses. You should make an appointment for your interview as early as possible, so any additional processing required can be completed before your next academic term begins.
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