Learn how to apply for a US visa step by step as well as about the different types of US visas.
You may require a U.S. visa if you are travelling there for business, pleasure, or other purposes. There are many types of visas available based on your purpose of travel, but they all allow you to temporarily reside in the United States. You might not even require a visa in some circumstances.
It is advised to apply well in advance of the anticipated travel dates because visa applications, interviews, and processing periods can take some time.
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Steps to Apply for a U.S. Visa
Travellers can apply for a visa to the United States at a consulate or embassy in their home country by completing these steps:
- Determine if you need a visa.
- Choose the type of visa to apply for.
- Complete the appropriate application form.
- Pay the application fee.
- Compile and submit relevant documents.
- Schedule and attend the visa interview.
- Wait for processing.
Depending on the embassy or consulate you apply via, the procedure and order of procedures may vary. In order to ensure that the procedure goes as smoothly as possible, some travellers opt to hire immigration lawyers.
Do You Need a Visa?
You might not require a visa or any other kind of authorization to enter the United States if you are from Canada, the UK, or Australia. If not, see if your nation is a part of the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP) for the United States.
International passengers from any of the 39 member nations are eligible for waivers under this programme. Visitors under the VWP are required to obtain authorised travel authorisation using an e-Passport and the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation.
It’s possible that you will need to apply for a tourist or transit visa if your nation isn’t included in the VWP list.
US Visa Types
U.S. visas are grouped into four main categories:
- Temporary non-immigrant visa.
- Permanent (immigrant) work visa.
- Student and exchange visitors.
- Temporary visit for business.
There are roughly 185 different types of U.S. visas under these headings. The United States government issues B-1 and B-2 visas for academic, vocational, training, tourist, and business purposes. A combination visa is available to travellers who are going somewhere that requires a B-1 or B-2 visa.
The amount of time that visa holders can stay in the country before having to depart is the main distinction between the various sorts of visas. The duration of a visa is between three months and three years.
1. Temporary Non-Immigrant Visa
Temporary non-immigrant visas are neither permanent or indefinite and are meant for travellers visiting the United States for employment lasting a specific amount of time. Before foreign nationals can apply for a work visa under this category, a prospective employer must submit a petition to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which then needs to be granted.
Many different types of employees may be eligible for this visa, and each may have to submit an application for a separate classification.
2. Permanent (Immigrant) Workers
Each fiscal year, the USCIS awards around 140,000 immigrant visas, commonly known as green cards, to noncitizens who wish to work in permanent positions in the country with their spouses and children. Candidates for this kind of visa may be qualified for permanent residency if they have the required qualifications in terms of education, work experience, and abilities.
Applicants often need to have a prior job offer from a qualified U.S. firm. The five types of employment-based visas are:
- First preference EB-1;
- Second preference EB-2;
- Third preference EB-3;
- Fourth preference EB-4, and;
- Fifth preference EB-5.
These employment classifications are based on U.S. national interest and general labor qualifications.
3. Student and Exchange Visitors
Academic and vocational students, as well as those participating in cultural or educational exchange programmes, are eligible for student and exchange visitor visas. These are not the same as immigrant visas. Student visas are classified into the following categories:
- F-1: Academic students.
- F-2: Spouses and children of F-1.
- F-3: Canadian or Mexican national academic commuter students.
- M-1: Vocational students.
- M-2: Spouses and children of M-1.
- M-3: Canadian or Mexican national vocational commuter students.
- J-1: Exchange visitors.
- J-2: Spouses and children of J-1
4. Temporary Visit for Business
Temporary visit visas for businesses are designed for professionals visiting the United States for short-term purposes related to business. Applicants must establish that the aim of their journey is genuine and offer a plan for a particular time period of no more than six months. They must also have enough money to cover their travel expenditures.
Business visits that are eligible include:
- Consulting with business associates;
- Negotiating contracts;
- Short-term professional training;
- Transiting through the U.S.;
- Settling an estate, and;
- Travelling for a professional conference.
Complete Application Form
Nonimmigrant visa applicants must fill out a DS-160: Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application.
Depending on the reason for their visit, certain people may be required to fill out additional paperwork, such as:
- DS-156E: Nonimmigrant Treaty Trader/Investor Application
- DS-157: Supplemental Nonimmigrant Visa Application
- DS-158: Contact Information and Work History for Nonimmigrant Visa Applicant and;
- DS-2019: Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status
Personal information is needed for these applications, such as your full name, birth date, and place of birth, as well as your job title and marital status. Information about security and background is verified using additional application sections.
Pay the Application Fee
In order to submit documents for review, U.S. visa applicants must pay processing fees that vary based on the type of visa requested.
The processing costs for visa applications are:
- Non-Petition-Based Non-Immigrant Visa: $160
- Petition-Based Visa Categories: $190
- E – Treaty Trader/Investor, Australian Professional Specialty Category Visa: $205
- K – Fiancé or Spouse of U.S. Citizen Category Visa: $265
- Border Crossing Card: $160 for those aged 15 and older, $15 for those under 15
Travellers may be charged extra fees based on their individual circumstances. This could include charges for diversity visa lotteries, immigrant visa petitions, and other specialised services.
Even if your application is cancelled or denied, fees are not refundable.
You must submit the required application form together with supporting documentation to substantiate the information you supply. Applications might need the following documents:
- Valid passport.
- One photograph.
- Receipt of visa processing application fee payment.
- Social media details from the last five years.
- Previous U.S. visas.
- Travel itinerary.
- Invitation letter.
- Sponsorship documents.
- Property documents.
- Employment documents.
- Family documents, such as birth certificate and marriage certificate.
- Physician letter.
Documents proving acceptance to a U.S. educational institution or an employment offer from a U.S. firm may be required for other types of visas. Keep a copy of these documents for both the application and the interview.
Visitors must schedule a visa interview after submitting their application. If a traveller is under 13 or over 80, they are normally not obligated to perform an interview.
Your visa interview will be scheduled at the US Embassy or Consulate in the country where you live. You can complete your interview elsewhere, but getting a visa outside of your home country may be more challenging.
Interview wait periods vary depending on location, season, and visa category, so it’s best to apply early. Applicants can view the expected wait times for nonimmigrant visa interview appointments, and certain applicants may be qualified to waive the in-person interview requirement.
Wait for Processing
Applicants must wait for their application to be processed after a thorough interview. The anticipated wait time does not account for administrative processing or the time needed to return passports to applicants because processing timeframes can vary.
The consular office may advise the applicant if their application has been denied or needs more administrative processing after the interview. The length of administrative processing varies depending on the particulars of each case and the type of visa requested. The consular officer decides whether the applicant is eligible for the visa they have requested at the conclusion of the administrative processing phase.
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