OBTAINING A U.S. VISA

Generally, a citizen of a foreign country who wishes to enter the United States must first obtain a visa, either a non-immigrant visa for temporary stay, or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. If you plan to volunteer for 90 days or less, the Visa Waiver program may apply (scroll down for more information).

It’s important to contact the SCI branch or partner organization in your country about visa requirements before you apply for any type of visa so that you can get advice on obtaining the correct type. To find a branch in your country, use the branch locator. If your country does not have an SCI branch, you may contact an SCI partner organization. (If you need help finding a partner organization, contact one of the SCI USA offices, the long term exchange group at: lteg(at)scimail.org (insert @ symbol when you email) or SCI International at: info@sciint.org

If you plan to volunteer in the U.S. for longer than 90 days, please apply for a B-1 or B-2 visa. These non-immigrant visitor visas are required for persons who want to enter the United States and plan to stay for more than 90 days for business (visa category B-1), tourism, pleasure or visiting (visa category B-2), or a combination of both purposes (B-1/B-2).  NOTE: F, M, or J visa’s are not appropriate for volunteer work. A SEVIS number is not required for a B visa.

There are several steps to apply for a visa. The order of these steps and how you complete them may vary depending on the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you apply. Once you obtain your official invitation documentation, consult the US Embassy or Consulate website for the country  where you will apply for specific instructions on the application process.

If you plan to volunteer in the U.S. for 90 days or less, you may  be eligible for entry through the Visa Waiver Program. It’s important to check with the SCI branch or partner organization in your country about visa requirements before you apply so that you are sure to obtain the correct type of visa. However, generally speaking, travelers coming to the U.S. for business (visa category B-1), tourism, pleasure or visiting (visa category B-2), or a combination of both purposes (B-1/B-2) for 90 days or less from qualified countries may be eligible to travel without a visa if they meet the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) requirements. Currently, 38 countries participate in the VWP. For a list of participating countries and additional information on VWP requirements, as well as links to apply for entry to the U.S. under the VWP see the Department of State’s website.