Understanding the Requirements and Application Process
Visas are official documents that make the bearer qualified to enter a country. US visas are issued to foreign citizens who want to travel to the United States.
The visas are granted by the U.S. Embassy in your country of nationality or citizenship and only serve as eligibility for entry into the United States. An inspector from the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) then scrutinizes your visa at the port of entry and can choose to approve or deny you entry into the country.
Once approved, the CBP inspector issues an admission stamp (Form I-94) indicating the last date to leave the country. Keep this document safe because it proves that you have permission to be in the country.
Types of U.S. Visas
There are two visa categories:
1) Nonimmigrant Visa
For temporary travel to the country. There are different categories of visas for non-immigrants depending on their purpose of travel. For instance, business visitor visas are in the B-1 category while diplomat and tourist visas are in categories A and B-2 respectively.
2) Immigrant Visa
For persons who want to immigrate to the US. The purpose of immigration determines the category in which the visa will be awarded.
A major requirement for an immigrant visa is sponsorship by U.S. citizens or employers. The sponsor initiates a petition with the Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and obtains approval before the immigrant visa application can begin.
The U.S. Visa Application Process
- Fill in the visa application form (DS-260).
- Pay the non-refundable visa processing fee.
- Submit the application form with the supporting documents. The National Visa Center (NVC) receives and vets all applications and documents for completeness.
- Once qualified, the NVC works with your country’s U.S. consulate office to schedule an appointment for your interview. Applicants can use the Global Support Services (GSS) to reschedule and schedule their appointments.
- Complete all requirements for the interview, such as a medical examination by a Panel Physician.
- Attend the interview in person. Carry a copy of your NVC appointment letter and the required documentation.
- For approved visas, the Embassy will give instructions on when and how you can collect the passport and visa.
You can make group appointments if you are traveling as a group of 5 or more people sharing the same itinerary.
Ensure that you check the interview rules and guidelines provided by your country’s U.S. consulate office. In some countries, applicants cannot carry the following items to their appointment:
- Battery-operated devices or electronic devices such as cameras and computer tablets
- Oversized handbags, shoulder bags, purses, backpacks, suitcases, or travel bags
- Food items
- Sealed packages
- Cigarettes, lighters, or cigars.
- Sharp objects, explosive materials, or weapons
Can My Visa Application be Rejected?
Yes, the U.S. embassy or consulate can reject your visa application under Section 214(b). You can reapply for the visa if you wish. However, you will not receive a refund of the application fee.
How Do I Verify My Nonimmigrant Visa?
The information on your passport and visa must match. Confirm the following visa details:
- The passport number on the visa matches with your passport
- Correct spelling of your name
- Correct spelling of the issuing country
- The correct date of birth
- Visa type and class match the category of visa in which you applied
The additional information you may verify includes:
- Entries: ‘M’ implies multiple entries into the U.S.
- Annotation: Gives more information about the visa
- Expiration date: This is the validity period for the visa.
Can My Visa Be Waived?
Tourist or business travelers with e-passports who want to enter the U.S. without a visa for a 90-day stay or less (visitor B visa category) can apply for a waiver under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Check your country of nationality or citizenship to see if you qualify.
The CBP retains the right to grant or deny entry into the country even with a waiver.
What If My Visa Is Denied?
The consular officer will explain the reasons for your disqualification. In some cases, you can apply for an ineligibility waiver and the consular officer can advise you further.
The requirements and application process for U.S. visas may seem strenuous, but following all the steps and providing the necessary documentation increases your chances of success. Once you receive your visa, ensure you travel before the printed expiration date.