What is the purpose of a visa in a passport?

Any foreign citizen is generally required to obtain a U.S. visa prior to entering the United States. There is an exception to this rule for Canadian citizens. A U.S. visa allows an individual to travel to any U.S. port of entry and request permission from the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection inspector to enter the country. This visa is placed within the foreign national's passport at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate abroad. Whereas the passport itself serves as a travel document issued by the home country, the visa is a travel document issued by the United States and evidencing that a consular officer abroad has found the individual eligible to seek admission to the U.S.

There are two categories of visas - nonimmigrant visas which are issued to those travelling to the U.S. on a temporary basis and immigrant visas which are given to those who intend to establish a permanent residence in the U.S.

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