American Visa Application - Requirements,Cost,Processing Time & Interview Tips


To travel to America you need to get an American visa. Getting an American visa is an easy process,all you need to do is to provide all the necessary requirement needed for the visa processing. So in this post you will get to  know the necessary American visa requirements and the application process.

 

This post is to answer most frequently asked questions such as:

 

How to apply for an American visa

Requirements to apply for an American visa

Cost of an American visa

How long is needed to process an American visa

American visa interview tips

 

Documents needed when applying for an American visa
Enforced compliance of the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) requirement for VWP travelers is in place. Therefore, VWP travelers who have not obtained approval through ESTA should expect to be denied boarding on any air carrier bound for the United States.

A valid ESTA approval is required for all Visa Waiver Program (VWP) to travel to the United States. The Department of Homeland Security, Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is a free, automated system used to determine the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the VWP.

It collects the same information as the paper I-94W form that VWP travelers fill out en route to the United States. ESTA applications may be submitted at any time prior to travel. An ESTA authorization generally will be valid for up to two years.

Authorizations will be valid for multiple entries into the United States. DHS recommends that travelers submit an ESTA application as soon as they begin making travel plans.

Visas for Mexican and Canadian NAFTA Professional Workers
North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) creates special economic and trade relationships for the United States (U.S.), Canada and Mexico.

The nonimmigrant NAFTA Professional (TN) visa allows citizens of Canada and Mexico, as NAFTA professionals, to work in the U.S. in a prearranged business activity for a U.S. or foreign employer.

Permanent residents, including Canadian permanent residents, are not able to apply to work as a NAFTA professional.

Requirements for Professionals from Mexico and Canada to Work in the U.S.
Professionals of Canada or Mexico may work in the U.S. under the following conditions:Applicant is a citizen of Canada or Mexico;Profession is on the NAFTA list;Position in the U.S. requires a NAFTA professional;Mexican or Canadian applicant is to work in a prearranged full-time or part-time job, for a U.S. employer (see documentation required).

 Self employment is not permitted;Professional Canadian or Mexican citizen has the qualifications of the profession.

*Mexican citizens require a visa to request admission to the U.S. (A USCIS approved petition is not required.)

Applying for a Visa
As part of the visa application process, an interview at the embassy consular section is required for visa applicants from age 14 through 79, with few exceptions. Persons age 13 and younger, and age 80 and older, generally do not require an interview, unless requested by embassy or consulate. The waiting time for an interview appointment for applicants can vary, so early visa application is strongly encouraged.

During the visa application process, usually at the interview, an ink-free, digital fingerprint scan will be quickly taken. Also, because each student’s personal and academic situation is different, two students applying for same visa may be asked different questions and be required to submit different additional documents.

All applicants for a student visa must provide:
– Form I-20A-B, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status. For Academic and Language Students or Form I-20M-N, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student Status for Vocational Students. You will need to submit a SEVIS generated Form, I-20, which was provided to you by your school.You and your school official must sign the I-20 form.

All students, as well as their spouses and dependents must be registered in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), an Internet-based system that maintains accurate and current information on non-immigrant students and exchange visitors and their dependents (F/M-2 visa holders).

Your school is responsible for entering your information for the I-20 student visa form into SEVIS. Students will also have to pay an SEVIS I-901 fee for each program of study. Questions regarding your exchange program should be directly to your program sponsor;

- A completed application, Nonimmigrant Visa Applicant,Form DS-156, together with a Form DS-158. Both forms must be completed and signed. Some applicants will also be required to complete and sign Form DS-157. A separate form is needed for children, even if they are included in a parent’s passport. The DS-156 must be the March 2006 date, electronic “e-form application.” Select Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form DS-156 to access the electronic version of the form DS-156.

- An interview at the embassy consular section is required for almost all visa applicants. The waiting time for an interview appointment for applicants can vary, so early visa application is strongly encouraged. During the visa interview, an ink-free, digital fingerprint scan will be quickly taken, as well as a digital photo. Some applicants will need additional screening, and will be notified when they apply.

- A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant’s intended period of stay in the United States (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions). If more than one person is included in the passport, each person desiring a visa must complete an application.

- One (1) 2×2 photograph. See the required photo format explained in nonimmigrant photograph requirements;

- A MRV fee receipt to show payment of the visa application fee, a visa issuance fee if applicable and a separate SEVIS I-901 fee receipt. While all F-visa applicants must pay the MRV fee, including dependents, only the F-1 principal applicants must pay the SEVIS fee.

- Students who are authorized for Optional Practical Training (OPT) must have an I-20 endorsed for OPT, and provide a USCIS-issued Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

All applicants should be prepared to provide:
Transcripts and diplomas from previous institutions attended;
– scores from standardized tests required by the educational institution such as the TOEFL, SAT, GRE, GMAT, etc.;
– financial evidence that shows you or your parents who are sponsoring you have sufficient funds to cover your tuition and living expenses during the period of your intended study. For example, if you or your sponsor is a salaried employee, please bring income tax documents and original bank books and/or statements. If you or your sponsor own a business, please bring business registration, licenses, etc., and tax documents, as well as original bank books and/or statements.

American visa applicants with dependents must also provide:
- Proof of the student’s relationship to his/her spouse and/or children (e.g., marriage and birth certificates.);
– it is preferred that families apply for F-1 and F-2 visas at the same time, but if the spouse and children must apply separately at a later time, they should bring a copy of the student visa holder’s passport and visa, along with all other required documents.

Additional Information for American visa applicants
- No assurances regarding the issuance of visas can be given in advance. Therefore final travel plans or the purchase of non refundable tickets should not be made until a visa has been issued.

Unless previously canceled, a visa is valid until its expiration date. Therefore, if the traveler has a valid U.S. visa in an expired passport, do not remove the visa page from the expired passport. You may use it along with a new valid passport for travel and admission to the United States.

The time required to issue an American visa
Advance travel planning and early visa application are important, since visa applications are subject to a greater degree of scrutiny than in the past. If you plan to apply for a nonimmigrant visa to come to the United States, we know you ’d like to estimate how long you will have to wait to get an interview appointment to apply for a visa.

It is important to thoroughly review all information provided by your Embassy’s Consular Section for local procedures and instructions, such as how to make an interview appointment. Your Consulate will also explain any additional procedures for students, exchange visitors and those persons who need an earlier visa interview appointment.
You’ll also want to know how long it will take for your nonimmigrant visa to be processed at the Consular Section, after a decision is made by a Consular Officer to issue the visa, and the visa is available for pick-up by you or the courier at the embassy. Some visa applications require additional special clearances or administrative processing, which requires some additional time. Most administrative processing is resolved within 60 days of application.

Most special clearances are resolved within 30 days of application. Applicants are advised when they apply. When additional special clearances or administrative processing is required, the timing will vary based on individual circumstances of each case.

How and where to apply for an American visa
Recently, the U.S. has updated its visa policies to increase security for our citizens and visitors. It will likely take you longer to get a visa than it used to, and you will find that a few new security measures have been put into place.

The validity of an American visa valid for
10 years. Some visas are valid for multiple entries.
The length of stay in the USA is determined by US immigration officials at the time of entry, but is generally 6 months.
For extensions and further information, apply to the US Immigration & Naturalisation Service.

When you enter the United States on a student visa, you will usually be admitted for the duration of your student status. That means you may stay as long as you are a full time student, even if the F-1 visa in your passport expires while you are in America. For a student who has completed the course of studies shown on the I-20, and any authorized practical training, the student is allowed the following additional time in the U.S. before departure:

F-1 student – An additional 60 days, to prepare for departure from the U.S. or to transfer to another school.
– M-1 student – An additional 30 days to depart the U.S. (Fixed time period, in total not to exceed one year). The 30 days to prepare for departure is permitted as long as the student maintained a full course of study and maintained status. An M student may receive extensions up to three years for the total program.

Other important information on entry into America
Entering the U.S. - Port of Entry A visa allows a foreign citizen coming from abroad, to travel to the United States port-of entry and request permission to enter the U.S. Applicants should be aware that a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. The Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have authority to permit or deny admission to the United States. Student visitors must have their Form I-20 in their possession each time they enter the United States. Students should review important information about Admissions/Entry requirements by the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection. Upon arrival (at an international airport, seaport or land border crossing), you will be enrolled in the US-VISIT entry-exit program. In addition, some travelers will also need to register their entry into and their departure from the U.S. with the Special Registration program. If you are allowed to enter the U.S., the CBP official will determine the length of your visit on the Arrival-Departure Record (Form I-94). Since Form I-94 documents your authorized stay in the U.S., it’s very important to keep in your passport.

Staying Beyond Your Authorized Stay in the U.S. and Being Out of Status
- You should carefully consider the dates of your authorized stay and make sure you are following the procedures under U.S. immigration laws. It is important that you depart the U.S. on or before the last day you are authorized to be in the U.S. on any given trip, based on the specified end date on your Arrival-Departure Record, Form I-94. Failure to depart the U.S. will cause you to be out-of-status. 

Staying beyond the period of time authorized by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and being out-of-status in the United States is a violation of U.S. immigration laws, and may cause you to be ineligible for a visa in the future for return travel to the U.S. 

Staying unlawfully in the United States beyond the date Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have authorized–even by one day–results in your visa being automatically voided, in accordance with INA 222(g). Under this provision of immigration law, if you overstay on your nonimmigrant authorized stay in the U.S., your visa will be automatically voided. In this situation, you are required to reapply for a new nonimmigrant visa, generally in your country of nationality. 

For non immigrants in the U.S. who have an Arrival-Departure Record, Form I-94 with the CBP admitting officer endorsement of Duration of Status or D/S, but who are no longer performing the same function in the U.S. that they were originally admitted to perform (e.g. you are no longer working for the same employer or you are no longer attending the same school), a DHS or an immigration judge makes a finding of status violation, resulting in the termination of the period of authorized stay.

What Items Do Returning Students Need when applying for an American visa
All applicants applying for renewals must submit:

- A passport valid for at least six months;
– an application Form DS-156, together with a Form DS-158. Both forms must be completed and signed. Some applicants will also be required to complete and sign Form DS-157. Blank forms are available without charge at all U.S. consular offices.
– a receipt for visa processing fee. A receipt showing payment of the visa application fee for each applicant, including each child listed in a parent’s passport who is also applying for a U.S. visa, is needed;
– a new I-20 or an I-20 that has been endorsed on the back by a school official within the past 12 months.

All applicants applying for renewals should be prepared to submit:
- A certified copy of your grades from the school in which you are enrolled;
– financial documents from you or your sponsor, showing your ability to cover the cost of your schooling.

Students Away from Classes More Than Five Months
Students in or outside the U.S., who have been away from classes for more than five months, will likely need a new visa to enter the U.S.

Can I work in USA as a student?
Under an F-1 student visa, work is generally not permitted

What to know before applying for an American visa

 

1) When planning your trip, do not make the mistake of thinking your travel agent or the airline will be able to tell you if you need a visa. Make sure you find out for yourself. You can find out if you need a visa by going to the U.S. State Department website: http://travel.state.gov/visa/visa_1750.html, there is a lot of terrific information to be found here including notes for Americans on safety and security overseas.

2) Make sure your passport has at least 4-6 blank pages, your visa won't need that many but many of the consulates require at least two blank pages; this is an easy excuse for them to give you a hard time. If you need more pages they're easy to get through the National passport processing office. You can find information the process on the State Department's website.

3) Make sure your passport isn't going to expire for a while. The passport's expiration date must be greater than six months from the date of entry for the visa you are applying for. If your passport does not meet the requirements, you must renew your passport.

4) Your visa application. This is where you really need the assistance of a good travel visa service. You'll find that many of the visa applications are quite confusing. There are language usage differences that may have you scratching your head. If you are not sure, ask, do not guess, errors on forms can be costly.

5) Passport photographs. This is one I had a particularly difficult time getting my boss to do. Go to your post office or perhaps you have a drug store or photo processing store that takes passport photographs, get them, and if you are traveling a lot get a lot of extra photos. Most often you are required to submit two passport photographs with your visa application. You may get away with only providing one, you may get away with submitting a digital you took and printed on photo paper. It's not worth the risk. Get the extra photos.

6) Include your travel itinerary. Most applications require you include your travel plans as proof of entrance and exit dates. This would be the itinerary you get with your tickets or from the airline/travel agent.

7) Make sure you make copies of everything you send the consulate or visa travel service. This doesn't include your passport of course, but it's a good idea to make a copy of the first page in your passport just for your records. You will be sending your passport with your visa application and other paperwork.

8) Include a copy of your driver's license. This isn't a hard and fast rule, but just good policy. A lot of times a country may require this but neglect to mention or they may decide they want more identification information. This is a "Just in Case" preventative measure.

9) Do not forget the fee. If you are using a visa travel service, most likely you can simply provide your credit card number. If you are not, you will most likely have to provide a check for their fee as most of the consulates do not take credit cards.

10) A key challenge is the decision to appear at the embassy or consulate or simply overnight your application and materials to the appropriate place. In many cases, there won't be an option as the embassy or consulate is too far to travel to. If you are doing this on your own and are able, it may be prudent to go to the embassy or consulate yourself. Base your decision dependent on your time and patience level.

11) Finally, hire a travel visa service. These services are reasonable, quick and experienced. You do not save money doing it yourself and you certainly don't save hassle. Your travel visa service is there to help you with everything from completing forms to emergency turn-around times. Don't just go with any service. Investigate. I recommend Visa HQ www.visahq.com, for their experience and customer service.

 

 

Applying for an American Visitor Visa
The visitor visa is a type of nonimmigrant visa for persons desiring to enter the United States temporarily for business (B-1) or for pleasure, tourism or medical treatment (B-2). International travelers with visitor visas comprise a large portion of temporary visitor travel to the United States every year.

Students, temporary workers, journalists and persons planning to travel to the U.S. for a purpose other than that permitted on a visitor visa, must apply for a different visa in the appropriate category.Travel Without a Visa - Foreign citizens traveling for visitor visa purposes only, from certain eligible countries may also be able to visit the U.S. without a visa, through the Visa Waiver Program if they meet requirements, including having a valid Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) approval. Additionally, citizens of Canada and Bermuda traveling for visitor visa purposes don’t need a visa, with some exceptions.

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables nationals of certain countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. The program was established in 1986 with the objective of eliminating unnecessary barriers to travel, stimulating the tourism industry, and permitting the Department of State to focus consular resources in other areas. VWP eligible travelers may apply for a visa, if they prefer to do so. Not all countries participate in the VWP, and not all travelers from VWP countries are eligible to use the program. VWP travelers are screened prior to admission into the United States, and they are enrolled in the Department of Homeland Security’s US-VISIT program.

 

How to prepare for an American visa interview

 

1. Prepare a “grab bag” of documents frequently requested

Get a clearbook to hold all the documents that embassies usually require and make at least five copies of each of these documents. Usually, the embassy will need to look at the original copy for verification purposes and then just keep a photocopy. Make sure that your photocopies are clear. It will save you the trouble of having to photocopy another clearer copy while at the embassy

Documents to include in this clear book are:

·         Birth certificate (must be certified by the National Statistics Office)

·         Marriage certificate* (if annulled, you will probably need a copy of your Marriage Certificate annotated by the NSO certifying that the marriage was declared null and void.

·         Latest Income Tax Return

·         For business owners, include business permits, business license and (audited) financial statements

·         Photocopies of previous visas you have been issued

·         ID pictures: Different embassies will have different size requirements, so when you have your picture taken, have the picture reproduced in different size dimensions. I suggest you get one picture taken in the standard 2x2 white background and one in the US visa size and Schengen size. (Note that for all visa requirements, both ears must be shown and women should not be wearing earrings.)

·         Proof of income and ownership such as land titles and or car registration documents

Keep all your old passports with other visa stamps as reference. It may not fit in the clear book, but it should be made part of your visa app “grab bag.

2. Keep a list of the countries you’ve visited

Update the list of countries you've visited the way you would update your CV. Many embassies require you to list the countries you have visited within a certain number of years. Some embassies will specify a time frame, some will not, so it is best to start from countries you have visited from 5 years back. Keep a soft copy of this list in your computer and update it each time you travel.

3. Make a checklist of the visa application requirements – and triple check that!

When applying for a Schengen visa via the Italian embassy, for example, a checklist of requirements (which you can download along with the visa application form) is mandatory in the list of documents to be presented to the visa processing center. It is not a standard requirement for all countries, but a checklist is definitely a good thing to have on hand. Make one of your own if your destination country does not require it.

Double and triple check each requirement, line by line if you have to. It will be worth the trouble because there are varying specifications for each country.

Look out for fine print like required payment mode: Is a manager’s check required? Can you pay in Philippine pesos, US dollars or Euros? Tip is to pay in US dollars so you will not be subject to currency fluctuations. Remember to check for exact amount, e.g. if it says $58, bring $58 as some embassies will not offer change.

Double check the location of the visa processing centers as their addresses on the application forms may not be updated.

4. Have a standard template for letters of introduction to consuls

Embassies may require you to prepare a letter to the consul to introduce yourself and state your reason for travel. Make a standard template for this letter of introduction, save on your “Travel Docs” folder and just fill in whenever you need to apply for a visa.

This cover letter should have:

·         Header with your name, contact details and if available, your visa application reference number

·         Reason for travel

·         Duration of stay

·         Mention of other countries you have visited

·         How you will fund your trip

·         Day by day travel itinerary as an attachment

5. Make your travel agent your travel buddy

Find a travel agent you can trust and make him or her your travel buddy. She can act as a semi-one-stop shop and help you book tickets and hotels that you won't have to pay for yet (you will want to wait till you get the visa before paying for a ticket or hotel), and facilitate travel insurance.

 

Hope this post has been helpful and that it has answered most of your questions.

 

Question tags.

How to apply for an American visa

Requirements to apply for an American visa

Cost of an American visa

How long is needed to process an American visa

American visa interview tips

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