Guidelines for US Visa

How to apply for US visa? - Everything you need to know!

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The USA is a unique country with all the diversity of people, cultures, and languages. There is a lot to discover and learn about the United States. However, the United States of America has its popularity when it comes to traveling to the US when you need to obtain a visa. 

Since millions of people are trying to immigrate to the US every year, the US has a different, comprehensive, and on-point formal visa system for the non-Americans. If you are looking to get your visa stamp on your passport with ease and enter the United States. This article is just for you!

Do you need to get a visa for the US?

There are a number of visa programs available for the US. You should be checking each one of them to see which one fits the most to your situation. Only, then you should be applying for a US visa

Generally speaking, the majority of the world needs a visa to be eligible to enter the US. Of course, there are some exceptions for the citizens of some specific countries. Nevertheless, here is a list of countries that needs to obtain a visa to be eligible for entering the US.

Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Aruba, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, hina, Colombia, Comoros, Congo Democratic Republic, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, East Timor, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Qatar, Republic of Congo, Republic of Korea, Republic of Kosovo, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Vatican City, Venezuela, Vietnam,  Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Who is considered exempt from the US Visa?

According to the US foreign policy, the exemptions for the US visa are made clear. There are 39 countries in which the citizens of these countries are allowed to enter US territory without a visa for a period of shorter than 90 days. If you are a citizen of the countries that are listed on the Visa Waiver program, you will not need to obtain a US tourist visa or any other short-stay visa to enter the US.

Here’s a list of countries that are exempt from getting a short term visitor visa for the US:

  • Andorra (1991)
  • Australia (1996)
  • Austria (1991)
  • Belgium (1991)
  • Brunei (1993)
  • Chile (2014)
  • Czechia (2008)
  • Denmark (1991)
  • Estonia (2008)
  • Finland (1991)
  • France (1989)
  • Germany (1989)
  • Greece (2010)
  • Hungary (2008)
  • Iceland (1991)
  • Ireland (1995)
  • Italy (1989)
  • Japan (1988)
  • South Korea (2008)
  • Latvia (2008)
  • Liechtenstein (1991)
  • Lithuania (2008)
  • Luxembourg (1991)
  • Malta (2008)
  • Monaco (1991)
  • Netherlands (1989)
  • New Zealand (1991)
  • Norway (1991)
  • Poland* (2019)
  • Portugal (1999)
  • San Marino (1991)
  • Singapore (1999)
  • Slovakia (2008)
  • Slovenia (1997)
  • Spain (1991)
  • Sweden (1989)
  • Switzerland (1989)
  • Taiwan (2012)
  • United Kingdom (1988)

*On the list above, there are years in brackets next to the name of countries which indicates when these countries are exempt from getting a visa to enter the US. Poland is the last country to be eligible for this program. Poland has joined the Visa Waiver program in 2019.

There are some other programs that allow you to enter the US without a visa, or even without a passport! For instance, Non-VWP citizens are exempt from the US visa and they do not have to apply to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization.

If you are a citizen of Canada, you can freely enter the US territory without a passport or visa, just with your ID / Driving license.

However, if you are a citizen of Bermuda, you are going to have to have your passport with you when you are entering the United States. Nevertheless, you will not need a visa or a stamp in your passport for short-term stays.

How to apply for a US visa?

The US visa application can be tricky due to the various types of visas that are offered by the department of US foreign relations.

However, all steps are made clear for your ease and convenience. The first step you are going to take is to apply online to schedule an appointment with the US embassy in your country.

On the second step, you are required to fill in the DS-160 form. This form consists of two parts. In the first part, there is some personal information of yours which will not be a problem for you.

On the other hand, what you should be really careful about is your US visa photo requirements. The US has strict photograph rules which you should be aware of.

On the second part of the DS-160 form, you are obliged to fill in information about your past such as your record of crime (if you have any), if you have a violation of marriage, if you have ever done money laundering, and if you have ever been a part of genocide. These may seem scary but rest assured. These are there to protect you and your rights in the US.

After the second step, the third step is going to be the visa process fee.

There are different types of fees according to your visa type. Here’s a list of fees you are going to be paying for your nonimmigrant type of visa:

  • Non-petition Based Visas $160
  • Petition Based Visas $190
  • E Visas $205
  • K Visas $265

There is a different policy for the non-petition and petition type of visas. If your visa type is going to be an immigrant type of visa, the price list below applies: 

  • US Visitor Visas (B-1 visa and B-2 visa) $160 Non-Petition Based
  • C-1 visa for transits to the US $160 Non-Petition Based
  • D visa for airline or ship crewmembers $160 Non-Petition Based
  • F visa for students and academics $160 Non-Petition Based
  • I visa for media and journalists $160 Non-Petition Based
  • J visa for exchange visitors (excluding those applicants sponsored by the US government) $160 Non-Petition Based
  • M visa for vocational students $160 Non-Petition Based
  • TN TD visa for NAFTA professionals $160 Non-Petition Based
  • T visa for victims of human trafficking $160 Non-Petition Based
  • U visa for victims of criminal activity $160 Non-Petition Based
  • H visas for temporary workers (H-1B visa, H-1B1 visa, H-2A visa, H-2B visa, H-3 visa, H-4 visa) $190 Petition Based
  • L visas for intracompany transfers (L-1 visa, L-2 visa) $190 Petition Based
  • O visas for persons with extraordinary abilities (O-1, O-2, O-3 visa) $190 Petition Based
  • P visa for athletes, entertainers, and artists $190 Petition Based
  • Q visa for international cultural exchanges $190 Petition Based
  • R visa for religious workers $190 Petition Based
  • E visa for traders and investors (E-1 visa, E-2 visa, E-3 visa) $205 Petition Based
  • K visa for a fiancé or spouse of a US citizen $265.00 Petition Based

What type of visa should you apply for?

There are almost 200 US visa types that you can apply for. Since the number of visa types is enormously big, we have divided them into categories for you.

US visa application consists of two main categories which are immigrant visas and nonimmigrant visas.

Let’s begin with the nonimmigrant visa type:

  • A Visa – This visa type is issued to diplomats and foreign government officials. Only government officials can apply for this visa type.
  • A-2 – NATO1-6 Visa. This visa type is designed only for foreign military personnel who are about to serve or be stationed within the United States territory
  • B-1 Visa – Temporary Business Visa. This visa type can be given to those who want to enter the U.S for amateur or professional athletes, domestic employees/nannies or for business purposes like attending conferences within the US.
  • B-2 Visa for Tourism. This visa type is issued for the following reasons:

Medical Treatment

Tourism and vacations

Visits to relatives or friends

Enrollment in short non-credit bearing courses (not for official degrees)

Participation in music, sport, or social events, if they do not receive payments from them.

  • BCC Visa – Border Crossing Card. This type of visa only applies to Mexican citizens who are entering the US. When this visa type is granted, generally it will be valid for up to 10 years.
  • C Visa – Transit Visa. The C Visa is a type of visa you are going to get when you need to transit from the US territory. However, if you are planning to enter the US and visit some friends, and places for a short period of time, you cannot get this type of visa. You have to apply for a B type visa to do this.
  • CW-1 Visa – CNMI Work Visa Employers from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) can apply for CW-1 visas to be able to employ foreign workers who do not necessarily fit into other employment visa categories.
  • D Visa for crew members. The D visa is for crew members who will work on a sea vessel or international airline in the United States and they need the visa to be able to operate within the country.
  • E Visas – E1 Treaty Trader and E2 Treaty Investor Visas. The E visas are for those who have treaties of commerce and navigation in the U.S. There are two reasons why you can apply for this visa:

Engage in the trade of technology or other activities between the U.S and the treaty country.

Direct operations of a company in which you have invested capital.

  • E-3 Visa – Work Visa for Australian nationals. E-3 visas are only for nationals of Australia who will be working in specialty occupations. If a person from Australia qualifies for an E-3 visa, then so does the spouse and the children; however, for the spouse, a marriage certificate should be presented.
  • F and M Visas for students. The F and M visas are for academic and vocational purposes. Depending on your school and your field of study, you will have to get either the F-1 visa or the M-1 visa.
  • G1-G5 NATO Visas. If you have been employed in an international organization in the United States, you will need to get a G-1 to G-5 visa. Those who will work for NATO will get a NATO visa.
  • H-1B Visa for employees in highly specialized fields. H-1B visas are for persons who have been employed in highly specialized fields. This means that they have an advanced degree or a job that cannot necessarily be done without having extensive training.
  • H-1B1 Visa for Chile and Singapore nationals. Based on the U.S Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Chile and Singapore, the H-1B1 visa allows these nationals to live and work temporarily in the U.S. They can also be accompanied by their spouse and dependent children.
  • H-2A Visa for agricultural workers. The H-2A visa is granted to temporary agricultural workers from selected countries in whom the U.S has some type of interest.
  • H-2B Visa for temporary non-agricultural workers. Whereas the H-2A is for temporary agricultural workers, the H-2B visa is given to other types of temporary seasonal workers, who do non-agricultural work.
  • H-3 Visa for training opportunities. The U.S has unique education and training opportunities that might not be found in other countries. For those who want to take advantage of these training and education opportunities which are not counted towards an academic degree, the H-3 visa needs to be obtained.
  • I Visa for journalists. The I visa is for representatives of foreign media and journalists part of the press, film, radio, or print industries, who are visiting the U.S to work or participate in educational media activities.
  • J Visa for exchange visitors. The J visa is targeted to exchange visitors. These include Au pairs, Temporary Scholars, Teachers and Professors, Students, Interns, and Summer Work and Travel.
  • L Visa – Intracompany Transferee Visa. If the company you work for has a branch in the U.S and you want to transfer there, you will need an L1 visa. It is called an intra-company transfer visa, and the condition is that you must have been employed at that company for at least 1 year within the past 3 years.
  • O Visa for persons with extraordinary abilities. People who have what is called an extraordinary ability in Arts, Science, Business, Education, or Athletics and want to temporarily work in their field of expertise need an O1 visa. To get this type of visa, these people have to be essential to the provision of services in their area of expertise.
  • P Visa for athletes, entertainers, and artists. There are three types of P visas:

P-1 – is for individual or team athletes or members of entertainment groups

P-2 – is for artists of entertainers that will perform in the U.S as individuals or in a group

P-3 – is for artists and entertainers who will perform, teach, or coach in the U.S. as individuals or in a group

  • Q Visa for the cultural exchange program. Q Visas are for people who are visiting the U.S as part of an international cultural exchange program. This means that they will share their history, culture, and tradition in the U.S.
  • R Visa for temporary religious workers. Temporary Religious Workers who want to practice within the U.S in religious capacities need to get the R visa type.
  • T Visa for victims of human trafficking. T visas are for victims of human trafficking who have severe trauma, but can also assist in investigating crimes related to human trafficking.
  • TN/TD Visas for Canada and Mexico citizens who work in NAFTA. TN/TD visas are for citizens of Canada or Mexico who will be working in the NAFTA organization. The visa is not for permanent residents of Canada or Mexico.
  • V Visa for family unity. The V visa allows families who are in the process of waiting for the completion of their immigration process, to be reunited with their family in the U.S.
  • U Visa for crime victims. Those who have been a victim of certain criminal activities and that can aid in the investigation or prosecution of those criminals are eligible to apply for the U visa.

Now that we know all nonimmigrant visa types for the US, let’s take a look at immigrant visa types.

Here’s the list of United States Immigration Visa Types:

  • IR-1, CR-1 Visa: US Spouse Visas

The first category is the US marriage visas. These visas are given to those who are legally married to a citizen of the U.S. Merely living together does not count as being married, so you will have to prove marriage by documents.

  • K-1 Visa: Fiance Visa USA

The K1 visa is given to a person engaged to a U.S citizen to go to the U.S for 90 days. During those 90 days, the couple is expected to be married to start filing for the petition to get a spouse visa.

  • K-2 Visa: Children of K-1 Visa Holders

The K-2 visa is given to unmarried children under 21 years old of K-1 visa holders, so the U.S citizen’s fiancé

  • K-3 Visa: Spouse of a Green Card Holder

This visa has been created to shorten the time that the married couple is away from each other while one of them is waiting for their petition to be approved.

  • K-4 Visa: Children of K-3 Visa Holders

This visa is intended to be given to unmarried children under 21 years old of K-3 visa holders, so the children of the spouse of a U.S citizen.

  • Eb-1 Visa: First Priority Workers

The First Priority Workers are those who get the EB1 visa and they can be in three groups:

  • Outstanding professors and researchers who are recognized internationally
  • Persons with extraordinary abilities in arts, sciences, business, education, or athletics
  • Multinational managers or executives who have worked overseas for at least one out of the past three years for a U.S branch, subsidiary, or parent company.
  • Eb-2 Visa: Second Priority Workers

The Eb2 visa category of employees includes two groups:

-Professionals holding an advanced degree, who either have a Bachelor’s Degree and five years of work experience in that profession or have completed a higher education degree beyond their Bachelor’s Degree.

-Persons with exceptional abilities in arts, sciences, or business.

  • Eb-3, EW-3 Visas: Third Priority Workers

The third priority workers include these groups:

EB3 visa: Skilled workers who have at least two years of experience or training in that particular profession and who are not seasonal or temporary

Professional workers who need at least a Bachelor’s Degree or a U.S equivalent to work in their profession

EW3 visa: Unskilled workers who do not need at least two years of experience or training to work in a particular position.

Eb-4 visa: Fourth Priority Workers – Certain Special Immigrants

Fourth priority workers include a variety of visas, such as:

  1. Religious workers (SD visa and SR visa)
  2. Broadcasters in the U.S
  3. Current or Former employees of the U.S government
  4. Iraqi employees of the U.S government (SQ visa)
  5. Afghan employees of the U.S government (SQ visa)
  6. Iraqi and Afghan Interpreters or Translators (SI visa)
  7. Certain Foreign Medical Graduates
  8. Certain family members of International Organization Employees (spouses and unmarried children), etc.
  • EB5 visas: Fifth Priority Workers

The last group of the EB5 visas is targeted at investors, who invest:

-At least $1,000,000

-$500,000 in high unemployment or rural area in the U.S

What is an immigrant and what is a nonimmigrant?

The difference between immigrant and nonimmigrant visa is the length of time you are going to stay in the United States. This means that if your visa expires, you have to return home immediately. However, if you have received a Green Card from the DV lottery, you are exceptional and you do not have to go back home.

For how long is your US visa valid?

The validity of your US visa depends on the type of visa you have applied for. So, it's your responsibility to check the validity of your visa on your passport.

Let’s say you are a citizen of a country from which the US does not require a visa like the United Kingdom. If you would like to stay for a period of longer than 90 days you have to apply for a US visa from UK. If you are already in the United States, you still have to apply for US visa when your visa is about to expire.

What should you do if your US visa expires?

You should be renewing your US visa as soon as it expires. Since you cannot renew it before its expiration date, it is recommended that you closely follow the expiration date of your visa and take the necessary actions when it expires.

Can you bring your family to the US?

All adults have to apply for a US visa individually. However, if your kid is under 18 years of age, then the US government allows you to bring him/her with you. There are some rare exceptions which you can bring your children if they are physically dependent on you, even if they are considered to be adults.

Can you bring your partner to the US?

Unfortunately, no! You cannot bring your partner to the United States if you are not legally together as a married couple. However, there are some exceptions like your partner being physically dependent on you. In this case, you can bring your partner to the US. You should be sure that your insurance covers all the costs of medical treatments that are needed.

Is there an absolute guarantee that your visa will allow you to enter US territory?

Shortly, there isn’t an absolute guarantee that your visa will allow you to enter US territory. The border patrol is responsible for the entries and they withhold the initiative to allow the visitors to the country. If the border control thinks that your entry to the US is somehow a threat to the security of their land, then they will not allow you to enter the US lands.

What should you do if your visa application is rejected?

Your US visa application can be rejected for a number of reasons. One of the required documents could be missing, your criminal record could be threatening or simply the US authorities could see your profile to be ineligible to enter the US.

In any case, it is always good to understand what is asked from you and correct what’s missing with your US visa application, and then write an appeal letter to the US embassy. Only after then, your appeal letter will be considered.

Does the US allow you to enter the country without a valid visa?

The answer is no! There is no way you can enter the US territory without a valid visa. If your visa is somehow expired, or even worse you don’t have a visa at all, then the US border patrol will make the necessary arrangements to send you back to your home country. Lastly, you should check the validity of your passport as well. There is a minimum 6 months validity period for your passport and visa to be valid.

Can you become a US citizen with your US visa?

If you withhold the right to a nonimmigrant visa, it is almost impossible to become a US citizen. You need to have an immigrant visa first to apply to be a US citizen. Only after having the immigrant visa on hand, you can apply for US citizenship. However, having an immigrant visa does not guarantee to become a US citizen. You must reside within the US for 5 years before you can apply for US citizenship.

Can you travel to other countries with your US visa?

Having a US visa will not be enough to travel to other countries. If you would like to travel to Europe, or to the United Kingdom, you should be applying for the visa of the country you will be traveling to.