US Visa Application Process and Requirements – 6 Easy Steps to Apply for United States(USA) Visa
If you are planning on visiting the United States, you must understand its visa policy. Unless you are from a country that is included in the Visa Waiver Program, you must apply for a visa to be able to enter and stay in the US. In this article learn more about how to apply for USA Visa, USA visa application process and requirements, USA visa fees, USA visa types, United States of America standard tourist and visitor visa application. In this article learn more about how to apply for US Visa, US visa application process and requirements, US visa fees, US visa types, DS 160 form, USA Visa appointment, ESTA visa, US standard tourist and visitor visa application.
The following countries are included in the US Visa Waiver Program:
- Citizens of Taiwan must have a national ID number
- Only British citizens are eligible
Even if you do not have to apply for a visa for the US because you are a citizen of any of the above countries, you still need to apply for an ESTA – Electronic System for Travel Authorization which determines if you are eligible to travel to the US.
Please be aware, you ONLY qualify for visa-free travel to the US, under the Visa Waiver Program. if you are a citizen of any of the above countries. If you are a permanent resident who is not a citizen, you must apply for a visa to be able to visit the US.
Under the Visa Waiver Program, you may enter and stay in the US for tourist or business purposes for a maximum of 90 days.
Most visitors to the US come from the following countries:
Who Needs to Apply
Unless you have any of the following statuses, you DO need to apply for a visa to be able to enter and stay in the United States:
- A permanent resident of the US
- A citizen of the Compact of Free Association (Micronesia, Marshall Islands and Palau)
- A citizen of Canada, including those applying for TN status (work authorization) at the border
- A British Overseas Territories citizen with a connection to Bermuda
- A citizen of countries included in the Visa Waiver Program (see above)
- A citizen of the Bahamas or a British Overseas Territories citizen with a connection to the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands or Turks and Caicos Islands
- Holders of Form I-512 (Authorization for parole of an alien into the US)
If you are someone who needs to apply for a US visa, you must be able to prove the following things:
- Your reason for traveling to the US is for an intended purpose
- You plan to remain for a specific time
- You are a resident of your own country and you have ties to that country meaning you will return there at the end of your trip
If you obtain a visa for the US, the expiration date is nothing to do with how long you can stay in the country. Rather, it is the last day on which you can enter. When you arrive, the immigration inspector will determine how long you are permitted to stay in the US. For tourist visas, it’s generally for 6 months.
Types of Visas for the US
There are many types of US Visas, but they can be split into 2 categories:
- Non-Immigrant visa – these are temporary visas for the purposes of tourism, business, work, visiting family or studying. You are permitted to stay in the US for a period of up to 6 months
- Immigrant visa – you would apply for this type of visa if you wish to live in the US on a permanent basis
If you are planning to visit the US on a temporary basis, you will need to apply for a non-immigrant visa for any of the following purposes:
|Purpose of Travel||Visa Category||Required: Before applying for visa*|
|Athlete, amateur or professional (competing for prize money only)||B-1||(NA)|
|Au pair (exchange visitor)||J||SEVIS|
|Australian professional specialty||E-3||DOL|
|Border Crossing Card: Mexico||BCC||(NA)|
|CNMI-only transitional worker||CW-1||(USCIS)|
|Diplomat or foreign government official||A|
|Domestic employee or nanny – must be accompanying a foreign national employer||B-1||(NA)|
|Employee of a designated international organization or NATO||G1-G5, NATO||(NA)|
|Foreign military personnel stationed in the United States||A-2|
|Foreign nationals with extraordinary ability in Sciences, Arts, Education, Business or Athletics||O||USCIS|
|Free Trade Agreement (FTA) Professional:|
|H-1B1 – Chile|
H-1B1 – Singapore
|International cultural exchange visitor||Q||USCIS|
|Medical treatment, visitor for||B-2||(NA)|
|NAFTA professional worker: Mexico, Canada||TN/TD||(NA)|
|Performing athlete, artist, entertainer||P||USCIS|
|Professor, scholar, teacher (exchange visitor)||J||SEVIS|
|Speciality occupations in fields requiring highly specialized knowledge||H-1B||DOL then USCIS|
|Student: academic, vocational||F, M||SEVIS|
|Temporary agricultural worker||H-2A||DOL then USCIS|
|Temporary worker performing other services or labor of a temporary or seasonal nature||H-2B||DOL then USCIS|
|Tourism, vacation, pleasure visitor||B-2||(NA)|
|Training in a program not primarily for employment||H-3||USCIS|
|Treaty trader/treaty investor||E||(NA)|
|Transiting the United States||C||(NA)|
|Victim of criminal activity||U||USCIS|
|Victim of human trafficking||T||USCIS|
|Non-immigrant (V) visa for spouse and children of a lawful permanent resident (LPR)||V||(NA)|
|Renewals in the US – A, G, and NATO Visas||(NA)|
*What the abbreviations above mean – Before applying for a visa at a US embassy or consulate, the following is required:
- DOL – The US employer must obtain a foreign labor certification from the US Department of Labor, prior to filing a petition with USCIS
- USCIS – US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approval of a petition or application (The required petition or application depends on the visa category you plan to apply for)
- SEVIS – Program approval entered in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)
- (NA) – Not Applicable – Additional approval by another US government agency is not required prior to applying for a visa
Depending on your nationality, visas can be issued from a single entry or multiple/unlimited entries:
- A visa issued for a single entry can be used once only
- A visa issued for multiple entries can be used unlimited times before the expiry of the visa
The US Department of State’s website has more information on the above categories of visas, so you should spend time learning about which one you need to apply for.
If you are unsure, you can use the visa wizard to determine which visa you should apply for. Just input your nationality and purpose of travel:
The visa wizard will tell you what type of visa you need:
When to Apply for Your US Visa
Visa applications for the US have different processing times, so you should check with the visa office. You can find a list of US embassies and consulates located in different countries on the US Embassy’s website. You will be able to check the website of the embassy or consulate you are going to be dealing with for processing times.
As a general rule, visa applications could take anything from 3-6 weeks to be processed, but some applications could take longer depending on the type of visa you are applying for and your nationality. It’s advisable to apply well in advance of your departure date to allow enough time for your visa to be processed.
Where to Apply for Your US Visa
You may apply for your US visa at the US Embassy or Consulate located in your country. The US Department of State has a list of all the US visa offices located across the world. Go to their website and click on: “Find US Embassies and Consulates”:
You will be directed to the website of the US Embassy where you will find a list of countries. Enter your country and you’ll find the relevant visa office:
How to Apply for Your US Visa
The US Department of State’s website has comprehensive information about US visas, so you should take a look at that before you apply for your visa. Click on: “Get US Visas”:
Scroll down to “Travel to the United States” and click on the purpose of stay that is correct for you:
Then, scroll down for information on how to apply:
There are a number of steps involved in applying for a US visa, so before you start, you should check the website of the visa office you are dealing with. In order to apply for your US visa you will:
- Complete the online visa application form – DS-160. For further information about completing this click here
- Upload a photograph. See guidelines for acceptable photos
- Schedule an interview at your local embassy/consulate in order to submit your application and supporting documents. Please note, wait times for appointments vary by location, time of year, and type of visa. You can check times on the US State Department’s website
- Pay the fee – you may have to pay the fee prior to your appointment, but the embassy/consulate you are dealing with will confirm this
- Gather required documentation – you must prepare all the relevant documents for your visa application. Check with the relevant embassy/consulate as to what they are
- Attend your appointment
If you are a citizen of a country which is included in the Visa Waiver Program, you will need to apply for an ESTA – Electronic System for Travel Authorization. You should use the official website of the Department of Homeland Security to do this. You should aim to do this at least 72 hours prior to your departure date.
What Documents to Prepare
You will find a list of what documents to prepare for your visa on the website of the embassy/consulate you are dealing with. It’s worth spending time checking what you need before you start this step because if you submit an application with anything missing, your visa application could be rejected.
The US Department of State’s website has a list of required documents you can refer to, but it’s still advisable to check the relevant embassy/consulate’s website for this information.
- Passport valid for at least 6 months beyond your period of stay in the United States
- Non-immigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160 confirmation page
- Application fee payment receipt (if you are required to pay before your interview)
- Photo – You will upload your photo while completing the online Form DS-160
- Proof of the purpose of your trip
- Proof that you will depart the US after your trip – evidence of employment, employer letter, family ties, residence, long term plans, travel itinerary etc
- Proof of sufficient funds to pay for your trip OR proof that someone else will be covering the costs
- Certificate of eligibility for non-immigrant (F-1/M-1) student status for academic and language/vocational students – I-20
- Transcripts, diplomas, degrees, or certificates from schools you attended and standardized test scores required by your US school
- Receipt Number for your approved petition as it appears on your Petition for a Non-immigrant Worker, Form I-129, or Notice of Action, Form I-797, from USCIS
- L Visa Applicants – If you are included in an L blanket petition, you must provide Form I-129S
If you’re planning to obtain your flight reservation for visa without paying for the ticket, all you have to do is follow the 3 simple steps below:
- Visit the Visa Reservation website to choose the right package
- Submit the travel details and make the payment online
- Receive flight itinerary in email
The Visa Appointment Requirements
When you attend your appointment, you will submit your application and supporting documents to the visa officer who will examine them. He/she will determine whether you qualify for a US visa. You may be asked additional questions if any of the information you have stated needs to be clarified.
You will also need to provide biometric data which is a scan of your fingerprints.
If you have not already paid the fee, you will do so at your appointment.
After the interview, the visa officer may inform you that your application requires further administrative processing in order to reach a decision. Timescales will vary depending on the circumstances of your application.
US Visa Fee
|Type of Visa||Fee|
|Visitor Visa: Business, Tourism, Medical treatment (B)||$160|
|Transiting the United States (C1)||$160|
|Student, Academic (F)||$160|
|Exchange Visitors (J)||$160|
|Students, Vocational (M)||$160|
|Other Visas||Varies. See the US Department of State’s website|
Visa Application Decision
You will be notified when there is a decision about your visa application and you can collect your passport from the visa office or have it mailed back to you. If your visa has been approved, you will find it inside your passport. If it has been rejected, this means you are ineligible for a US visa. Some ineligibility reasons include:
- Application form not fully completed
- Inadequate proof of financial support
- Previous criminal convictions
- Past overstay in the US
- Eligibility for the visa was not established
How to Appeal the Decision
If you are ineligible for a visa, you may be able to apply for a waiver. The visa category that you are applying for will determine whether a waiver of ineligibility is available. The consular officer interviewing you will tell you if you may apply for a waiver and will provide detailed instructions for how to apply.
1) Do I need a visa for the US?
If you are a citizen of a country which is not part of the Visa Waiver Program or you do not have any of the above nationality statuses, you do need a visa to be able to enter and stay in the US
2) What is an ESTA?
This is an Electronic System for Travel Authorization. If you are a citizen who does not need a visa for the US, you must apply for an ESTA which will determine your eligibility to enter the US prior to your arrival
3) Once my visa is approved, will I be able to enter the US?
Not necessarily. The approved visa does not guarantee that you will be able to enter the country. It will be at the discretion of the immigration authorities at border control
4) My passport is damaged. Can I still apply for a US visa?
No. You must obtain a new passport before applying for your visa
5) My visa application has been refused. Can I get a refund of the fee?
No. The visa fee is to cover the costs of processing your application, so it will not be refunded in the event of a rejected application
6) My visa application requires further administrative processing. What does this mean?
Administrative processing is when your application needs further processing in order for a decision to be reached. After this additional processing, the visa officer may be satisfied that you are eligible for a visa, however, they may conclude that you remain ineligible for the visa
7) How do I read my visa?
Take a look at the illustration below to learn how to read your visa. In addition, as soon as you receive your visa, check to make sure it is correct. If there are any issues, you need to contact the embassy/consulate immediately.
8) Can I send my application by mail?
No. You must appear in person in order to submit your application and provide the necessary biometric data, so you need to schedule an appointment with the relevant embassy or consulate
If you need to apply for a US visa, there are several things that you must do:
- Understand what type of visa you need to apply for
- Apply well in advance of your departure date
- Understand where you need to apply
- Prepare the required documents
- Attend the appointment to submit your application
- Receive your visa
At Visa Reservation, we strive to simplify the visa process by providing free visa consultations, cover letter templates and no objection letter templates for our clients from US, UK, Canada, Philippines, India, China, UAE, Europe, Nigeria and globally. We also offer flight itinerary for visa, travel medical insurance, hotel reservations for visa , Book Visa Appointment, Travel Guides, Visa Interview Guides and many more. To learn more about how we can help you with our visa services, please feel free to contact us today.