How to get a visa and what you need to know

Nonimmigrant visas are for visitors planning to stay in the United States for less than a year, while immigrant visas are for those seeking to settle there permanently. Visas that do not allow permanent residence can be issued for business (B-1), tourism (B-2), or both (B-1/B-2).

All international visitors to the United States, with the exception of Canadians and those participating in the Visa Waiver Programme, are required to obtain a tourist visa in advance from a U.S. consulate or embassy outside of the country. The vast majority of applications will require a face-to-face meeting, so candidates should plan accordingly.

Interview wait times can take weeks to months. If your application is accepted, you may have to wait a few days up to a few weeks for your visa to be issued. The waiting times for scheduling interviews at various embassies and consulates can be researched online.

Nonimmigrant visa interviews require a completed DS-160 application form and confirmation page. In addition to the $185 processing fee, you’ll need to submit a recent photo. You should bring your receipt for the payment to the meeting. There may be a reciprocity fee associated with the issuance of your visa.

Unless an exception applies due to an agreement between the United States and your home country, your passport must be valid for at least six months after your departure date. In order to apply for a visa, you must provide evidence of sufficient funds (or show that a US resident will provide support), a return or onward ticket, and “binding obligations” (such as family ties, a home, or a job) that will ensure your safe return to your home country.

Due to these regulations, it is recommended that people apply for a US tourist visa prior to leaving their home country, rather than attempting to obtain one while abroad.

The widely-used B-2 nonimmigrant visitor’s visa allows for multiple entries and can be used for tourism or visits with friends and family. The duration of your visa’s validity is subject to the criteria of the country from which you are applying. At the time you receive your admission stamp or Form I-94, which specifies your arrival and departure dates, US immigration officers will determine the exact length of time you are permitted to remain in the country.

You’ll need a special visa if you want to work or study in the United States, and your employer or school should handle the paperwork for you.

Before your visit ends, you must submit a request to extend your stay using Form I-539. Do not overstay your welcome without my express permission. Deportation and/or indefinite exclusion from the country is a real possibility. At least 45 days prior to your scheduled departure, submit your request.

It all comes down to immigration officials.

US immigration officers have the authority to refuse admission to the country or to impose conditions on admission regardless of the terms of a visitor’s visa or ESTA authorization.

If you expect questions about your itinerary and financial stability, be prepared to provide an itinerary, a proof of onward or return travel, and a major credit card.


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