The information below provides answers to frequently asked questions that are specifically pertinent to visa applicants who are citizens of Cuba, Iran, and Syria, since these four countries are designated as State Sponsors of Terrorism.
We received several emails about visa applicants with prior service in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). On a case-by-case basis, the Department of State can request that the Department of Homeland Security grant waivers for nonimmigrant visa applicants with past mandatory military service in the IRGC.
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.
Iran does not have a U.S. Embassy. Where can Iranians apply for nonimmigrant visas?
Iranians may make appointments and apply for non-immigrant visas at any non-immigrant 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. We have Farsi-speaking consular officers in Dubai, Yerevan and Ankara, and many Iranian non-immigrant visa applicants choose to apply at those posts.
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 (example: an Iranian’s visa validity to the U.S. is 3 months just as an American traveling to Iran’s visa validity is 3 months). Similarly, the visa validity for citizens of Cuba, Sudan and Syria 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.
Single Entry and Expired Student Visas
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.
- View Visa Categories for Immigrants and Nonimmigrants
I served mandatory military service in the IRGC. Will that impact my visa application?
The IRGC was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in April 2019, and has been involved in violence and terror for decades. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), foreign nationals who provide material support to a terrorist organization or who have certain ties to a terrorist organization as set out in the INA are (a) ineligible for U.S. visas, (b) ineligible for admission to the United States, (c) ineligible for asylum status or to receive other immigration benefits under U.S. law, and (d) are potentially removable from the United States.
On a case-by-case basis, the Department of Homeland Security may, on request from the Department of State, grant a waiver that permits issuance of a non-immigrant visa to an applicant ineligible due to the designation of the IRGC as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. No such waiver is available for immigrant visa applications.
Iran must cease its support for terrorism, including by using the IRGC to spread terror and violence across the Middle East and beyond.