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How to get a VISA to visit the United States

Applicants for visitor visas must show that they qualify under provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Visa-seekers must demonstrate that they are indeed classified as visitors under U.S. law.

Demonstrating Visitor Status

The Immigration and Nationality Act automatically assumes that every visitor visa applicant intends to become an immigrant to the US. As a result, applicants for visitor visas have to demonstrate all of the following:

  • The purpose of their trip is to enter the US for business, pleasure, or medical treatment
  • That they plan to remain for a specific, limited time period
  • Evidence of sufficient money to cover travelling expenses in the US
  • Evidence of significant social and economic ties in countries other than the US
  • That they have a residence outside the US, as well as other circumstances that will assure that they will return to their home country at the end of the visit.

Application Process

Applicants for visitor visas usually have to  apply at the American Embassy or Consulate that has jurisdiction over their place of permanent residence. Visa applicants can apply at any US consular office abroad(not only where they live), but it might be harder to qualify for the visa. Visa rules and regulations have become stricter since 9/11, so make sure to apply for your visa well in advance.  The following are the requirements for obtaining a US visa:

  • Interview - As part of the visa application process, an interview at the local US embassy is required for visa applicants from age 14 through 79. Making your appointment for an interview is the first step in the visa application process. The waiting time for an interview appointment for applicants can vary, so early visa application is strongly encouraged.
  • Fingerprinting - During the visa application process, usually at the interview, a digital fingerprint scan will be taken.
  • Application - The Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-156, must be completed and signed. The DS-156 must be the March 2006 date, electronic "e-form application." (http://evisaforms.state.gov/)
  • Supplemental Form - A Supplemental Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-157 provides additional information about your travel plans. This is required for all male applicants between 16-45 years of age. It is also required for all applicants from state sponsors of terrorism age 16 and over, regardless of gender, without exception. The four countries are now designated as state sponsors of terrorism are Cuba, Syria, Sudan, and Iran. Despite these guidleines, a consular officer may require any nonimmigrant visa applicant to complete this form.
  • Passport - A passport valid for travel to the US that is valid for at least 6 months beyond your intended period of stay in the United States (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions).
  • Photo - One (1) 2x2 photograph. (click here for specifications
  • Fees - Nonimmigrant visa application processing fee. Some additional fees may apply.
  • Proof of Visitor Classification - Applicants must demonstrate that they are properly classifiable as visitors under U.S. law by provinding evidence of all conditions listed above ("Demonstrating Visitor Status").  Type of evidence required varies for each applicant.

Visa Ineligibility

The Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-156 lists those who are ineligible under U.S. law to receive visas. In special instances an applicant who is ineligible, but who is otherwise properly classifiable as a visitor, may apply for a waiver of ineligibility and be issued a visa if the waiver is approved. (click here for more info)

Extending Your Visa

If you want to stay beyond the time indicated on your Form I-94, you need to contact the Department of Homeland Security’s Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services to request an application to extend status. The decision to grant or deny this request is made solely by the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services. (Learn more).

Click here for more, up-to-date information.

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