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Visa and Passport Information for Scientists

General Visa and Passport Information for Scientists Traveling to the United States

As part of security procedures, applications for visas are being sent to the State Department in Washington, D.C., where they are reviewed. We advise scientists traveling to the United States to apply for a visa as early as possible (at least six months before visa is needed).

It is advised that you check with your local U.S. Consulate or embassy as soon as possible to find out what the earliest date is that you can apply for a visa and to schedule an appointment. Please see the web links section below. Because of the number of visas being processed and the need to be thorough with the reviews, this can take as long 8 weeks, especially for the countries that are listed on the State Sponsors of Terrorism List. If you are traveling from one of the countries on this list it is strongly advised that you begin your visa application process at least 6 months in advance of the meeting.

Some foreign attendees do not need to seek a visa to travel to the United States for a meeting. In order to qualify, the attendee must be a citizen of any of the countries on the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). For a list of the participating countries of the Visa Waiver Program, please see the web link below. All of the citizens who participate in the Visa Waiver Program are required to have a Machine-Readable Passport (MRP) in order to travel to the United States. If you do not have a MRP, you will have to apply for a visa.

Please note that all foreign visitors entering the United States will be fingerprinted and photographed upon arrival.

     Visa and Passport Resources

Preparing for your Visa Interview

To help you prepare for your visa interview at your local U.S. Consulate or embassy, you will need to gather several documents which will help facilitate your visa application.

  • Apply for visa at least six (6) months in advance of the meeting.
  • Provide your entire trip itinerary, including travel to any countries other than the United States, at the time of visa application.
  • If completion of travel plans is contingent upon early approval of the visa application, specify this at the time of the application.
  • Provide proof of scientific status.
  • Provide proof of intention of attending the conference (example: registration receipt)
  • Provide evidence that you are intending to return to your country of residence. This includes such things as:

Family ties in current country of residence
Property ownership
Bank account (s) Employment contract or statement from employer showing that the position will continue after the dates of the meeting
School enrollment documentation

  • Provide conference website information.
  • Ask for a letter of invitation to attend the meeting.

For security reasons, letters of invitation can only be sent to individuals who have registered for the conference. Click here to contact the APS Meetings Department for more information and to request an invitation letter.

Please note that the American Physiological Society is not able to send letters of invitation directly to any U.S. Consulate or embassy via mail, fax, or email. The letter of invitation does not include your registration fee or any financial help for attending the meeting. Requirements vary by passport-issuing country and citizenship (not merely residency).

For the most current requirements and those specific to your situation, please click here to check with your local U.S. consulate or embassy or the U.S. Department of State Visa Services Information Web site.

Visa Problems

For further help with gaining a visa to travel to the United States, you may wish to contact The National Academies of Sciences, who can help with questions, interview notification help, a questionnaire help form for those who have been denied a visa or interview, handy tips on what to expect once you arrive in the United States. Click here to visit The National Academies website.

Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)

The Department of Homeland Security has introduced the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) requirement for all visitors traveling to the United States. To review the Department of Homeland Security website for further information on the ESTA program, click here to view the ESTA Fact Sheet.

All foreign nationals will be expected to submit the ESTA authorization via a secure online system at least three days prior to their planned travel date. The information that needs to be provided includes the typical questions that are found on the I-94W paper form that is typically completed on board the aircraft.

According to the ESTA Fact Sheet, once you have received authorization to travel to the United States under the VWP, it will be valid for multiple trips and for up to two years or until the visitor’s passport expires. However, even if you are approved for authorization to travel to the United States, it does not guarantee admittance at the port of entry. Furthermore, if you fail to register your travel through the ESTA system, you may find that you are denied boarding; experience delays with processing, or be denied at a U.S. port of entry.