Important Information on Travel Visa Procedures

The American Society for Microbiology invites and welcomes scientists from every part of the world to participate in the ASM meetings and conferences, as well as the International Fellowship Program.  When planning to attend a meeting or pursue a fellowship in the US or for visits to the US in general, please allow ample time for visa processing, as the application process can take several months in some countries.

Temporary International Visitor Requirements
All international visitors (foreign nationals) entering the U.S. are generally required to present a valid visa or passport issued by a U.S. Consular Official. 

Nonimmigrant visas are for international travelers, (citizens of other countries), coming to the U.S. temporarily for a wide variety of reasons, including tourism, business, medical treatment and certain types of temporary work. This visa allows you to travel to a U.S. port-of-entry (airport, for example) and request permission of the Department of Homeland Security immigration inspector to enter the U.S. A visa does not guarantee entry into the U.S.  While in the U.S., temporary visitors are restricted to the activity or reason for which their nonimmigrant visa was issued, with few exceptions. The type of visa needed is defined by immigration law, and relates to the principal purpose of your travel. The Consular Officer at your embassy or consulate will decide what kind of visa you need, when you apply.  To find out if you need a Visa, or for more information on the application process, you may wish to visit the National Academies website.

If you are required to obtain a visa, you must begin by completing an Electronic Visa Application form (form DS-156) from the U.S. State Department. Upon completion of this form, schedule an appointment with the U.S. Embassy in your country for an interview about the purpose of your visit.  You will be required to have your completed application, passport, a photograph, and supporting documents for this appointment.  You must also pay an application fee, currently $100. The visa allows you to travel to a U.S. port-of-entry where an official will again look at your travel documents before granting you permission to enter the country. For more information on the application process, please visit the National Academies web site.  

The leadership of the National Academies is working with the U.S. Government to develop better Visa application and processing. If anyone in your group is experiencing difficulties obtaining a visa, please report the case to the National Academies by completing an online questionnaire.

When you apply for your visa to attend an ASM meeting, you will be required to show a letter of invitation from the meeting organizer or US host specifying the subject, location, and dates of the activity.  Please note that ASM does not provide the required proof of travel and coverage of local expenses.  You will need to furnish this separately.

A passport is an internationally recognized travel document that verifies the identity and nationality of the bearer. A valid passport issued by the visitors home government is required to enter and leave the United States. Passports should be obtained in the visitors home country. Only the U.S. Department of State has the authority to grant, issue or verify United States passports.

Citizens of Canada, Mexico, and Bermuda
Currently, Canadian citizens need proof of both their identity and citizenship in order to apply for entry into the U.S. Citizens of Canada traveling to the U.S. do not require a nonimmigrant visa, except under unique circumstances. Citizens and permanent residents of Mexico generally must have a passport and a nonimmigrant visa or Border Crossing Card (also known as a "Laser Visa"). A visa and passport are not required of a Mexican national who is in possession of a Form DSP-150, B-1/B-2 Visa and Border Crossing Card, containing a machine-readable biometric identifier, issued by the Department of State and is applying for admission as a temporary visitor for business or pleasure from contiguous territory. If the traveler is not coming from the Western Hemisphere, a passport is required.

Citizens of the British Overseas Territories of Bermuda do not require a visa unless they have a criminal ineligibility, or have previously violated the terms of their immigration status in the United States. Currently, citizens of Bermuda need proof of both their identity and citizenship in order to apply for entry into the U.S.

ALL persons traveling by air between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda are required to present a valid passport or Air NEXUS card.

Arriving in the U.S.
On the airplane, you will be asked to complete a short arrival/departure form. You will need your visa and/or passport handy. You will need to present your visa and/or passport at the port of entry in the United States. Most often that port of entry will be the airport where you land.

When you deplane, follow signs for non-citizen entry. At that location, a Department of Homeland Security official will interview you and verify all of your paperwork. Under the US-VISIT Program of the Department of Homeland Security, most people arriving in the U.S. will submit to a finger scan of the two index fingers and a photograph. Once admitted, you will receive an immigration stamp and proceed to baggage claim and customs. For information about arriving in the U.S., including arriving by land or sea, see US-VISIT.

Upon arrival in the U.S., certain foreign citizens are required to register under Special Registration, which is the National Security Entry Exit Registration System (NSEERS) program. Registration under NSEERS is a distinct process from US-VISIT.