United States Visa enables you to work, study, visit or permanently reside in the United States. The U.S government issues various visas to foreign nationals based on the reason for their travel. The purpose of traveling could vary from study-related to tourism and work.
Members of countries included in the Visa waiver program do not need a visa to travel to the U.S for business or visit. However, the time limit for this visa-less travel is three months. Some countries included in the Visa waiver program are – Greece, Germany, France, Netherlands, United Kingdom, and Taiwan.
Other countries involved in the waiver program are included here
Although citizens of these countries do not need a visa to travel, they must gain approval to travel through an Electronic System for Travel Authorization.
United States visa for other foreign nationals not covered by the waiver program are classified into Non-immigrant and Immigrant Visa
U.S. Visa Application Procedures for Non-Immigrants
The Non-Immigrant Visa is a temporary visa that expires after a given period depending on the purpose of the visa.
Once you have confirmed your eligibility for the Non-immigrant Visa, you would need to follow these steps:
Fill the DS-160 Form
The DS-160 Form is a mandatory form for every visa applicant under this category to fill for entry into the U.S.
The form would require you to provide your necessary details such as – Name, Nationality, Marital status, Number, Email Address, and Work and Education Details
In the second part of the form, you would provide information about your criminal background if you have any.
For access to the DS-160 form, visit https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/
On the form page, select your country of origin and ‘start application’ to begin the process.
Payment of Application Fees
The amount you will pay for your visa fees depends on the visa type you are applying for. However, all applicants would pay a non-refundable MRV fee before the U.S. Visa application of a non-immigrant visa. It is non-refundable whether your visa is accepted or denied.
On the U.S site, the MRV fee is stated in U.S. dollars, but you would have to pay in your country’s local currency.
Appointment for Visa Interview
If you are between the age of 14 – 79, you can schedule a visa interview appointment with the United States Embassy. This stage follows after you have completed the previous steps.
U.S. official Visa website does not support scheduled advance appointments with the embassy due to extended wait time caused by a massive backlog.
You have to find out the wait time required for an appointment with the embassy in your city. You can confirm the wait time here – https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas.html/.
However, ensure that the city you type into the box provided on the web link, as shown below, is the city in your country with a United States Embassy.
In emergency cases, the consular section could move the interview date forward. Unforeseen situations such as a funeral, medical emergency, or school start date may trigger this change. The applicant must provide evidence for an earlier appointment.
Administrative processing is not involved in the time scheduled for an appointment. In the event of administrative processing, your wait time might increase.
Ensure you have the original documents and the photocopies required for your interview. You can also carry whatever additional documents you deem necessary when going for your interview.
Wait for the Processing of Visa
After the interview with the U.S. Embassy, your visa application would be sent for processing. Processing your Visa application status spans from 3 to 8 weeks.
The pending processing time can last as long as six months for applicants who need to apply for a waiver of ineligibility to get a Visa.
If your visa is approved, the U.S. consulate will return your original documents in two days.
However, your application can be denied due to specific reasons observed by the U.S embassy:
- Insufficient information provided for visa
- Ineligibility for visa category applied for
- Dubious criminal background
- Inadmissibility by the law
An explanation backed by a legal section will be sent to you if your visa application is rejected. Based on the reason you were denied a visa, the embassy could advise you to apply for a waiver of ineligibility.
The United States Visa Application Procedure for Immigrants
Immigrant visas authorize you to reside permanently in the U.S. It has no expiry date like the Non-immigrant Visa.
The United States Immigrant Visa is divided into two:
- Immediate Relative or Family-Sponsored
For Immediate Relative or Family Sponsored Visas, we have:
- U.S. Spouse Visa
- Immediate Family Members of U.S Citizens
- Immediate Family Members of Lawful Permanent Residents
- Fiance Visa
- Children of K-1 Visa Holders
- Spouse of a Green Card Holder
- Children of K-3 Visa Holder
- Intercountry Adoption of Orphan Children by U.S Citizens
To obtain an Immigrant Visa, follow these steps:
- Submit your visa petition with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigrant Services. If you are applying directly from the U.S., fill this Petition for Alien Relative (https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/immigrate/the-immigrant-visa-process/step-1-submit-a-petition.html#ExternalPopup).
However, if you are filling this form from outside the U.S., then click https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/immigrate/the-immigrant-visa-process/step-1-submit-a-petition/filing-petitions-outside-the-us.html
- Once your petition has been submitted and approved, your application would then be transferred to the National Visa Center for processing.
- The National Visa Centre would then send you a welcome letter via your email. Once your welcome message has been received, you would be required to make some fee payment –Affidavit of Support and Immigrant Visa fee.
- Next, you would fill an online application form –DS-260 form. This form is unique to the immigrant visa.
- After filling the DS-260 form, you must submit specific civil documents issued by the official authority of your country for visa application.
- Scan your civil documents and submit them to the Official U.S immigration site.
- National Visa Center would send you a letter of interview appointment and you would have to prepare for your interview. However, ensure you check this list before you attend the interview:
- Complete your medical examination
- Register for Courier Service and fulfill other pre-interview instructions
- Collect all the required documents
- Fill in the public charge Questionnaire
- If you have the above documents with you, then boldly attend your interview and wait for your result. Your visa application might be approved or denied. If accepted, check https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/immigrate/the-immigrant-visa-process/step-10-prepare-for-the-interview/step-12-after-the-interview.html
for what you must do immediately, but, if denied, a legal explanation would be sent to you.
How do I get a refund for my denied application?
You will not receive a fee refund if your visa application is rejected. The fee charged for your visa is for its processing, which was accomplished. The visa processing fee is non-refundable.
If my visa is approved, would I be guaranteed entry into the U.S.?
Guaranteed entry into the country is finally authorized by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection immigration inspector.
The U.S. Visa approval only authorizes you into the port-of entry. It is up to the Department of Homeland Security to deny or admit you into the country.
What do I do if my visa is damaged?
You will have to reapply for a new visa at a U.S. embassy or Consulate in the event of a damaged Visa.
What do I do when my Non-immigrant Visa expires?
When your visa expires, you need to reapply again.
Though, there are exceptions for applicants who do not need to attend an interview while their visa is reviewed.
COVID 19 Guidelines
Presently, entry is not allowed into the United States due to the raging global pandemic. U.S. Citizens, permanent residents, and immediate family members of both categories are an exception to this entry restriction.
The President Trump administration has also placed a ban on various visas authorizing entry into the country. This ban has currently led to a freeze in visa application processes.
Specifically, stringent restrictions apply to individuals present in the following countries for about two weeks – China, Iran, France, U.K., Brazil….
In agreement with the Canadian and Mexican governments, the U.S has limited all discretionary travels until further notice.
For individuals allowed into the state, basic COVID 19 guidelines given by airlines and hotels must be strictly followed.
Yearly, Many non-immigrants and immigrants across the world apply for a U.S visa. However, lack of proper guidance has led to high visa rejection rates.
Therefore, this compiled guide is necessary to scale through the step by step process of procuring a U.S. Visa.