Are you planning to travel to the United States but somehow unsure about the visa application process? The USA Visa Application process can feel very difficult for first-timers.
Well, let us walk you through step-by-step what to expect. Read on for tips ensuring your visa success from start to approval so you can focus on the fun part. This post breaks down everything you need to know as a first-time applicant, from eligibility to documentation to next steps after submission.
Types of US Visa
The two most common visas for temporary visitors are:
Tourist Visa (B-2): For personal travel, tourism, visiting friends/family, or receiving medical treatment. Valid up to 6 months per entry.
Business Visa (B-1): For meetings, conferences, training, consultations etc. Valid up to 6 months per entry.
In some cases a combination B-1/B-2 visa may be issued allowing both tourist and limited business activities.
These visas generally permit multiple entries over a set time period, often 5-10 years depending on country. Each stay is capped at 6 months maximum before needing to exit the US.
Having a valid visa does not guarantee entry however – border officers make the final admissibility determination. Terms and costs are subject to change.
How to Apply for a US Visa
Follow these key steps when applying for your tourist or business visitor visa:
- Prepare Required Documents
Gather a current valid passport, 2×2 inch passport photos, bank records, travel itineraries, letter of invitation if applicable, and other evidence supporting your trip purpose and ability to fund it.
Ensure your passport has at least 2 blank pages and additional validity of 6+ months beyond the end date of your intended US trip.
- Complete Online Visa Application (Form DS-160)
Provide detailed personal and travel information through the DS-160 form on the US Department of State website. Save the confirmation barcode page.
- Schedule a Visa Interview Appointment
Pay the non-refundable visa application fee then book an interview slot at your nearest US embassy or consulate using the system on the website.
- Attend Interview & Submit Documents
Bring your documents, photos, and application barcode to your appointment and submit biometrics if required. Answer officer questions about your trip plans clearly.
- Receive Decision
If approved, passport with visa inside is returned from 2 days up to a week later depending on processing timelines. Check status online.
Submitting accurately completed applications with strong supporting documents ensures the best chances for swift approvals.
Breaking Down the US Visa Costs
Plan for these expenses when budgeting for your visa application:
- Visa Application Fee: $160 (subject to change)
- Interview Scheduling Fee: Typically $10+
- Document Scanning Fee: Up to $20 per document
- Expedite Fee (Optional): $60+
- Travel to Embassy/Photos: Variable per applicant
Payment can be made online by credit/debit card after filing DS-160. Consulates accept cash, cards, certified checks, or money orders. Include fees for any dependents also applying.
Gathering Documents Needed For Your Visa Interview
In addition to the completed DS-160 application form and receipt of fee payment, provide:
- Original Passport + Photocopy
- Passport Photos x2
- Financial Evidence like current bank statements, tax statements, payslips etc evidencing ability to fund trip/stay
- Roundtrip Ticket Booking or detailed travel itinerary
- Proof of Accommodations – hotel bookings etc
- Letter of Invitation from US host, if applicable
- Previous US Visas/Passports if you have any
Double check you have one copy of every document – do not provide original financial records and documents unless explicitly requested later.
Securing appointment slots may take weeks/months depending on seasonality of travel so schedule early once paperwork is complete.
Where Should I Submit My US Visa Application and Booking My Interview?
Although the DS-160 application form is completed and submitted online, you must attend an in-person visa interview at the closest US Embassy or US Consulate to your current residence.
Interviews are required for most visa applicants excluding certain renewal cases.
Find your designated interview location and make an appointment online through the CGIS scheduling website indicated on your region’s US embassy website.
Arrive 30 minutes early on the date of your interview. Dress professionally and avoid wearing too much perfume or accessories that could cause metal detector issues.
If nervous, remember consular officers simply want to confirm eligibility – be direct and consistent explaining your reason for visiting the US. Bring any additional documents if desired. Answer additional questions politely.
After Submitting Your US Visa Application
Once you’ve completed your interview and biometrics/document scanning as requested:
- Your passport will generally be ready for collection within 2-7+ days depending on the consulate.
- Check VFS Global’s US Visa status check page searchable by passport number to see application progress updates. It will show when ready for collection.
- If facing an outright visa denial, carefully review the refusal paperwork stating reasons, then strategize if/how to address those concerns before reapplying.
- Upon securing your passport with visa, double check all details engraved match your application! Review validity dates.
With the full process outlined from documents to interview tips, you now have knowledge to tackle your US visa application smoothly. Just allot plenty of lead time and closely follow each step to maximize success chances.