For most people around the world, wanting to go to the US means that they need a visa. The reasons for wanting to go differ from just visits for tourism or business, working, studying, or permanently moving there. The country attracts a wide range of people who have various goals and want to achieve “the American dream”. However, there are many barriers and one of them is getting a visa.
US Visa Application
To apply for a US visa you will follow a straightforward application procedure. The US visa application is done at a US Consulate or Embassy in your country of residence following these simple steps:
- Check if you need a visa.
- Choose the type of US visa you will apply for.
- Fill in Application Form DS-160.
- Pay your application fee.
- Schedule visa interview.
- Compile the document file.
- Attend the visa interview.
- Wait for processing.
Check if you need a visa
Citizens of 39 visa waiver countries do not need to apply for a visa to USA. To find out if you need to apply for a US visa, you can use this tool:
Choose the visa type
The second step of the US visa application is to choose the type of US visa that you want to get. Since there are differences depending on the type of US visa you want to get, you should pay extra attention to choosing the right type of visa to apply for.
Fill in Application Form DS-160
Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application is the US visa application form that you must fill out if you are applying for a US nonimmigrant visa. The form can be found online on the website of the US consulate from which you are applying.
You can fill the DS-160 form online through the Consular Electronic Application Center.
What does the form DS-160 contain?
The application form DS-160 consists of two parts. The first part contains questions about personal information as:
- Full name
- Marital Status
- Date & Place of Birth
- Mobile number
- Passport number
- Passport book number
- Family information
- Work, etc.
The second part of the online application form consists of questions on security and background information as:
- if you have ever been arrested or convicted for an offense or crime.
- If you have ever engaged in a conspiracy to violate, any law relating to controlled substances.
- if you have ever been involved in money laundering.
- if you ever ordered, incited, committed, assisted, or otherwise participated in genocide, etc.
Pay your US visa application fee
The next step of the US visa application is paying the US visa application fees.
The Machine Readable Visa Fee for visa applicants depends on the type of visa one applies for. The schedule is tiered as follows:
- MRV Fee – $160
- Petition Based Applicants (H, L, O, P, Q, R) – $190
- E-1, E-2 & E-3 visa applicants – $205
Keep in mind that the visa fee is non-refundable if you decide to cancel your appointment or if your visa application is rejected.
In addition to US visa application fees, you could also be asked to pay US visa issuance fees. Visa issuance fees are determined by the relationship that the US has with your home country. This means that some applicants will have to pay them and some will not. Their amount varies from country to country.
To be able to proceed with your application, you must pay all the necessary fees and retain the receipts for proof.
Schedule US visa interview
All US nonimmigrant visa applicants between 14 and 79 years old are required to go through a US visa interview. To have this mandatory interview, you must schedule an appointment with the US consulate or embassy from which you are applying. Since they might have a high workload and the wait time can range from days to weeks, you must make sure to schedule your interview as early as possible.
The moment that you submit your Form DS-160, you should make an appointment for your interview. You will then get an interview confirmation letter which you must bring on the day of the interview.
Compile the document file
In addition to your application form or Form DS-160, you must also submit documents required for USA visa application which prove to the US consulate that you meet the requirement for the nonimmigrant visa you are applying.
Attend the visa interview
The final step in the US visa application process is the US visa interview. You must appear on time at the interview with all your supporting documents. The official who will interview you will ask questions about your background and other relevant details based on the visa you have applied for. If you are going to the US to work, then the interview might be longer than if you were going only for a visit.
Wait for processing
After the visa interview, you must wait for your application to be processed. Processing times depend on the type of US visa you applied for, but they can range from a few days to a few months. When your visa is processed, you will find out whether you were approved or denied. You should only make travel arrangements after your visa is approved and not run the risk of making expenses in case it is denied.
Do Visitors to the United States Have to Purchase Health Insurance?
Visitors to the United States are not obliged to purchase health insurance. However, due to the high costs of the healthcare system in the United States, you are strongly recommended to have some health insurance coverage purchased before visiting.
The treatment of a broken leg or broken arm will cost you $2,500, while staying at a US hospital for one night may cost over $10,000, on average.
US Visa Application From Different Countries
Applicants from the UK
If you are a citizen of the United Kingdom, you can travel to the US without a visa. However, this does not hold for all UK residents. To apply for a visa for USA from UK, there are some specific procedures that you must take.
Applicants from Canada
Although Canadians do not need a visa nor an ESTA to travel to the US, Canadian residents who are not citizens of one of the 38 Visa Waiver Countries, should apply for a US visa from Canada to visit the US.
Applicants from Australia
Australian residents who are not citizens of a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program, should apply for a visa for USA from Australia.
Applicants from UAE
UAE is not part of the Visa Waiver Program, therefore, its citizens need to apply for a US visa. To learn how to apply for a US visa from UAE visit the following articles:
Applicants from Qatar
As Qatar is not part of the Visa Waiver Program, Qatari citizens, as well as residents, might have to apply for a US visa. To learn how to apply for a US visa from Qatar, visit this article.
Applicants from the Philippines
To be able to travel to the US, Philipines citizens and residents need to obtain a US visa. Learn the details of the US visa application in Philippines in this article.
Applicants from India
India is not part of the Visa Waiver Program therefore Indian citizens need to get a visa for USA. Read here about the process of applying for a US visa in India.
US Immigrant Visa Application Process
The second type of US visas, the immigrant visas have a different type of US visa application requirements. They too start at a US consulate or embassy and you have to follow these guidelines for application for US visa which is of an immigrant type.
File the petitions
If you are applying for an immigrant visa based on family reunion or employment, the family or employer in the US must submit a petition for you at USCIS. This petition will be reviewed by the responsible authority and you must only wait to find out whether it will be approved or not. You cannot take any further steps without an approved petition, since if it is denied, all your efforts and payments will not be counted.
If your petition is approved, you will be directed to the National Visa Center (NVC), which will require you to go through more steps in order to get to your visa interview. You will receive a letter from the NVC which will have important information that guides you through the application process. Amongst that important information are your NVC Case Number, Beneficiary ID Number, and Invoice ID Number.
Choose an agent
The agent will serve as your point of contact for your visa matters. You must formally and legally select an agent to be able to proceed with the immigration visa application. You can choose yourself as an agent or you can choose an attorney, friend, family member, or sponsoring employer.
To choose your agent you must file Form DS-261, Choice of Address and Agent to the NVC which will take at least 3 weeks to be processed.
Pay the US immigrant visa fees
There are at least two fees you have to pay when applying for a US immigrant visa:
- Immigrant Visa Application Processing Fee
- Affidavit of Support Fee
You can pay these fees by credit card or check and you will need to complete this step online based on the guidance found in your NVC letter. You will also need your NVC Case Number and Invoice ID Number to proceed with this step.
Submit US immigrant visa application form
If you are applying for an immigrant visa you should fill Form DS-260, Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration. You should not complete your immigrant visa application until you are invited for the interview and your date is current. To file for the Form DS-260 you will need your NVC Case Number, Beneficiary ID Number, and Invoice ID Number. At the end when you submit it, you will get a confirmation page and number.
You will have to give personal details as:
- Full name in English characters
- Full name in Native Alphabet
- Date of Birth
- Place of Birth
- Home Address
- Phone number
- Family information: Parents, spouse/previous spouse, children
- Previous US Travel Information
There are also a couple of questions on security and Background related to:
- Medical and Health information,
- Criminal Information
- Security Information
- Immigration law violation information
- Miscellaneous, etc.
Click here for a full DS-260 application form in pdf, so you can prepare the answers in advance.
All answers must be in English, with English letters, in both application forms. Most of the questions are mandatory, but there are some other optional questions that you can choose not to answer. At the end of the application, there is a “Sign Application” button which you should click on. If you do not click on this button it may result in US visa refusal.
After you fulfill the form, submit it and print the confirmation page. Take this page with you when you attend the interview as proof of submitting the application.
Submit supporting documents for US immigrant visas
Besides the standard required documents, depending on the type of immigrant visa you are applying for, you might be asked to submit additional ones. Note that all documents must be in English and those that are not must be accompanied by an official and notarized translation. You must submit these documents to the NVC based on the information you have received on the letter.
Attend your interview
Based on your current date, the NVC will schedule your visa interview with you and any accompanying family members. This is usually done one month in advance to give applicants time to prepare documents and prepare for the interview. At the interview, you will be asked questions by an official and it will be determined whether you are eligible and meet all the requirements for a US immigrant visa.
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