What kind of visa should my family & friends obtain?

The visa type necessary for your family and/or friends to visit the U.S. will depend on the individual’s relationship to you and what country they are from.

Inviting Spouse and Children

If you would like to bring your spouse and/or children (under the age of 21) to the U.S. for a longer period of time during your studies, a dependent visa may be a better option.

Inviting Parents, Friends, & Other Non-Dependent Relatives To The U.S.

Generally, a citizen of another country who wishes to enter the United States for a temporary stay must apply for a visitor visa. The “Visitor Visa” allows foreign nationals to enter the U.S. principally for the purposes of tourism or short-term business.

Under visitor immigration classifications, foreign nationals are eligible to enter the U.S. as B-1 visitors for business, as B-2 visitors for tourism, as B-1/B-2 visitors for a combination of tourism/business, or as part of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) for visitors from specially-designated countries that are exempt from the B visa requirement.

If your family members/friends would like information on applying for a visitor visa, please refer them to the Department of State’s website. Unfortunately, UMFK cannot advise on visitor visas.

B Visa

If a B visitor visa is required, your visitor should review the website of the consulate or embassy they intend to apply for their US visa to be aware of the visa application process and for any updates on their services. To find the website of the consulate or embassy nearest them, they can review this listing of websites of US Embassies, Consulates, and Diplomatic Missions. For more information about B-1/B-2 visas, refer to the U.S. Department of State Visitor Visas.

Visa Waiver Program (VWP):

The Visa Waiver Program allows visitors from certain countries to visit the U.S. for pleasure or business for up to 90 days without a visa. For a complete list of participating countries, please visit the Department of State site. Visitors must meet certain requirements to participate in the program. Those coming on the VWP do not need to visit a U.S. consulate and obtain a B visa, but they must register and receive clearance for their travel through ESTA several days before their travel date to the U.S.Visa waiver travelers will instead be required to register their travel plans in the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) a minimum of 72 hours before departure.

Individuals who enter the U.S. on the Visa Waiver Program are not eligible to change status, nor may visitors apply for an extension of their stay beyond 90 days. Individuals who previously experienced visa denials or who believe they might be ineligible for a visa should contact their local U.S. embassy or consulate before traveling on the Visa Waiver Program.

Documents Needed for a Visitor Visa

Minimally, the following documents are required by the Department of State to apply for a B-1/B-2 visitor visa:

Additional Documentation

To help strengthen the B-1/B-2 visa application, it is generally recommended to advise your family and friends to take these additional documents with them to their visa appointment to help clarify that their visit is temporary and/or is for a specific occasion (i.e., graduation ceremony) and that the visitor will be supported financially while visiting the U.S. Most importantly, the applicant must demonstrate their proof of ties to the home country to prove that the visitor does not intend to immigrate to the U.S.

Recommended Documentation for International Visitors:

  • Copy of your I-20, Visa Stamp, and I-94 record (if applicable)
  • Enrollment Verification Letter from the UMFK University Registrar Services
  • A personal invitation letter in English, which should include the following information:
    1. Your name
    2. Your school name
    3. Relationship to the applicant(s)
    4. Name of the applicant(s) whom you are inviting
    5. The purpose of the visit (for example, vacation, attend graduation, meet a new baby)
    6. The dates (even approximate dates) of the visit
    7. What financial support you are offering (for example, cost of travel, room and board)
  • Here is a sample personal invitation letter for B visitors. You can change out the bold/bracketed information with your relevant information. Sign the letter in blue ink where you see “[Your Signature]” and then send the letter to your friend/family member as a scan or original (preferred) by mail. This can be on white paper and does not need university letterhead.
  • Proof of financial support. If you stated in your personal invitation letter that you are going to provide any financial support for the visit, you need to furnish your relatives with appropriate documentation. This could be a letter verifying employment and/or a bank statement showing not just your current balance(s), but also the history of the account, making clear that the current balance is not the result of a recent, large deposit. Include information about the date the account was opened and the average monthly balance. You may also need to submit Form I-134 Affidavit of Support. If your visitors will pay for their expenses themselves though, you are not required to complete Form I-134.
  • Proof of ties to home country may include economic, social, family, or other commitments showing that the visitor intends to return home after a temporary stay in the U.S.
    • Special Note: The reason U.S. consular officers most frequently deny B-2 visa applications is lack of evidence of strong ties to the visitor’s home country. Under U.S. law, consular officers are not supposed to issue a B visa if they do not believe the applicant has ties that will bring him or her back home. For more information on this matter and about B-1/B-2 visa denials, refer to the U.S. Department of State’s Visitor Visa Denials page. Examples of proof of ties to home country include:
      • Proof of employment – a letter from the employer indicating that this individual is currently employed and taking time off, but is due back at their job on a specific date
      • Proof of property ownership – house, apartment, or a business
      • Proof of contact with other family members in the home country
      • Proof of finances – bank statement, stocks, property
  • If visiting for commencement, orientation, or a special event, they should bring proof of the event. Examples of this proof include a letter from your Academic Advisor or Registrar (umfkreg@maine.edu) confirming that you are completing your degree this spring/fall/summer, copies of commencement ceremony tickets or invitations, etc. In addition, students may also present a printout from the UMFK Commencement or Orientation webpage to prove that graduation/orientation ceremonies are being held during the time that they will be visiting UMFK. If they are coming for a conference or special event, they should bring proof of this instead (or as well).

Special Note for Visitors From China

Travelers with a 10-year B1/B2, B1, or B2 visa in a People’s Republic of China passport are required to enroll in the Electronic Visa Update System (EVUS) in order to be admitted to the United States in B1 or B2 status. Travelers using passports from Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR, Taiwan, or any passport other than a People’s Republic of China passport are not affected by the EVUS enrollment requirement. Please review the EVUS enrollment information for further details.

FAQ & Important Reminders

Biometric Data and the US-VISIT Program Reminder

In 2004, visa officers at U.S. consulates and immigration officers at U.S. Ports of Entry began gathering “biometric” data. This data is collected when persons apply for both non-immigrant and immigrant visas and upon entering and exiting the U.S. Biometric data, in this case, simply refers to the photographs along with digital “inkless” fingerprints. This information is kept electronically by the U.S. government and is included in the SEVIS tracking system. The intent of the U.S. government is to have an electronic tracking system of non-citizen’s entries and exits to and from the U.S.

One thing UMFK wishes to point out to students and scholars and their visitors is that precise entry and exit information will be kept electronically. This means that anyone who “overstays” his or her visit to the U.S. will have that information immediately available to immigration officers. If you have visitors who come in B-1 or B-2 status, or who may come on the Visa Waiver Program, remember that they are allowed to be in the U.S. only until a specific date (usually 6 months, but sometimes less), which is stamped in the passport upon entering the U.S. If the B visitor does not leave the U.S. by that date, they will be considered to have “overstayed” the visit to the U.S. (unless steps were taken to extend their visit before that date). Consequences of overstaying a visit to the U.S. may vary from a “review with immigration officials to removal from the United States or even a bar from future entry, depending on the individual circumstances.”

Health Insurance Reminder

Be sure your visitors have health insurance that will cover them while in the United States. Most guests will require “major medical coverage,” which is health insurance that goes into effect if they are unexpectedly hospitalized as a result of an accident or an illness. Most local healthcare providers in the Fort Kent area do not accept foreign health insurance plans. Without coverage, your guests could experience financial devastation if hospitalization becomes necessary.

How long can people in B-2 status stay in the United States?

The length of a visitor’s initial permission to stay in B-2 status is determined by the officer at the port of entry. The maximum initial period is six months. People who want to remain longer must apply for an extension with USCIS. There is no specified limit on the number of extensions allowed. Be aware that the USCIS requires at least four months to process an application for an extension in B-2 status. That does not mean your visitors must apply for an extension four months in advance. Their obligation is to make sure the USCIS receives the extension application before their current stay expires.

Can my parents, friends, & other non-dependent relatives get an I-20?

No. Extended family and friends, including parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, and uncles, are not eligible for a dependent F-2 visa; therefore, I-20 forms are not issued to non-dependent family and friends. If you wish, you may send your relatives a copy of your I-20 form, but they should not submit it to the consular officer unless asked for it. Do not send your original I-20 to your parents, other non-dependent relatives, or friends. You should keep the form yourself.