Obtaining a Non-immigrant U.S. Visa
A step-by-step outline of today’s U.S. visa application procedures
Today, as in the past, most travelers to the U.S. must obtain a visa. The process still includes application forms and interviews as well as the collection and cross-checking of names in a highly sophisticated inter-agency database. These name-checking and registration processes are necessary elements that protect our citizens and our visitors, so please allow for extra time in your travel planning. While individual experience may differ, here are the basic steps you should follow and what you can expect throughout the process.
This Web site has important information about current visa policies and procedures. There are many different types of visas, and this site can help you determine which kind you need and how to obtain it. If you do not have access to the Internet, contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate nearest to you for further information.
2. Make an appointment to visit the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Visa application procedures vary somewhat among Embassies and Consulates, depending on local needs. In most countries, you will need to make an appointment. This can be done by telephone, mail, over the Internet, or in person, depending on circumstances in your country. Wait times for appointments may be longer than in the past. Be sure to ask what fees are required and how they can be paid. Application fees are non-refundable and must be paid before your appointment.
3. Get all your documentation ready. You will need:
- Passport (cannot be expired!)
- Applications. These can be obtained through an Embassy or Consulate or at www.ustraveldocs.com.
- Documents to support your application
- Acceptance letter
- I-20 or DS-2019
- Financial documents
- The amount must be more than $24,857. Print the Guarantor/Sponsor form here.
- Other supporting documents
- Proof of payment of the SEVIS I-901 fee (SEVIS I-797 receipt) You may pay the fee here: http://www.ice.gov/sevis/i901/
4. Submit your application, passport, and supporting documents to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Your application will then be reviewed by the consular officer and, in many cases, by officials in Washington, D.C. For most applicants, the visa is issued within a few weeks. There is no guarantee of obtaining a visa.
5. In some cases, additional reviews will be required. Your information is submitted and checked in the world’s foremost security database, which includes comprehensive information drawn from both U.S. and foreign law enforcement agencies worldwide. If your name or a close variation indicates security concerns, the process will be delayed. Additional steps will vary from requests for additional interviews and information to official registration and fingerprinting. This may add 4–6 weeks to the processing time. Registration upon arrival in the United States is mandatory in many cases but registration can be required in any case regardless of country of origin. See www.ustraveldocs.com for the most current information about who is affected by this requirement.
6. A visa allows you to travel from your country to a port of entry in the U.S. In many cases, that port of entry will be the airport where you land. On the airplane you will be asked to complete a short arrival/departure form. When you deplane, follow directions for non-citizen entry. At the airport, a U.S. official will interview you and verify all of your paperwork. Once admitted, you will receive an immigration stamp and proceed to baggage claim and U.S. Customs.
You may be informed by the consular office before leaving your country if you will be subject to special clearance procedures. Some travelers may be directed to private workstations in the arrivals hall, where special registration, photos and electronic fingerprints will be taken. Additional interviews and verification processes will also be conducted.
For years the United States of America has required that many people wishing to travel to the U.S. to study, visit or conduct business first obtain a visa. Recently, the U.S., like many other countries, has updated visa policies to increase security for citizens and visitors. It is true that some things have changed. Recent events have required the U.S. to modify and intensify some of its visa policies to ensure safety and security. As a nation, the U.S. is working harder than ever to identify and deny entry to those who mean harm to our country.
We hope you enjoy your visit to the U.S. We look forward to having you here.
It is important to remember…
• Some consulates require that personal interviews and appointments be scheduled in advance.
• Processing times can vary significantly depending on type of visa and circumstances and your country or region. Therefore it is important that you contact the closest U.S. Embassy or Consulate as soon as you know you need to travel to the U.S.
• Policies and regulations worldwide will continue to change as new security measures are put into place. Visit https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/study/exchange.html for updates and changes that could affect your travel plans.
For a list of Web sites of U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide and for information about U.S. visa policies and procedures, please visit https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/study/exchange.html.
Information adapted from: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/study/exchange.html.
Last updated: 9/16/2019