One of the most frequently asked questions among friends after they start working in US and typically whenever they are expecting a baby is “What is the process for applying visa to parents to come to USA ? What documents do I need ? How do I start ?” . Also, if you are on F1 visa, you may want to invite your parents for your graduation…In any case, I was in the same boat and found information I needed from friends and other sources. This article will focus on the whole process with documents needed and what to do step by step.
Getting Started with B2 Visitor Visa for Parents to Travel to US:
When you have an idea that you plan to get parents to US, couple of things you have to plan are
- Parents Passports: Apply for Passport to your parents if you have not done so. Depending on the country plan for the passport based on how much time it takes. If you are from India, in the past it used to take 3 to 6 months, now with outsourcing to TCS, you can get passport in little under 15 days. Also, there are new schemes of Tatkaal, if it is emergency and you can get you passport as soon as 7 days, but you have to pay extra fee. Check out the passport application website for details. We have an article on applying for Passport Renewal in India, it should give some idea.
- Bank Savings for Sponsorship: Make sure you save some good amount totalling up to $10,000 dollars or more to cover their expenses. It is advised to start saving 3 months before and accumulate steadily rather than just borrowing money and putting in bank. There is no hard fast rule. Just an advice.
Step by Step process for Applying for B2 Visitor Visa for Parents or Anyone :
1. Employment letter from your H1B sponsor/ Current employer : You need to get an employment letter verifying your current H1B visa employment, indicating your salary and other stuff. Typically employer knows this stuff and they will give you the letter. They may ask for your parents passports and sometimes the appointment letter of interview. Depending upon the employer rules and regulations. Some employers are quick and some are slow in doing this. Plan well and make sure you have it with you.
F1 Student – Graduation Invitation : If you are F1 Student inviting for Graduation, you need to send your current status details like F1 Visa copy, I-94, I20 and Graduation invitation letter to your parents.
2. Get Scan copy of Parents passports: You will need copy of your parents’ passports with all the information that is on the passport when you book the appointment online. You may ask them and get it item by item, but you may end up with mistakes. Best way to it is ask for scan copy for Parents passports. Ask your parents or anyone to send this to you. Your employer may ask for copy of Passports for giving the employment verification letter. So, it is easy if you get scan copies of parents’ passports.
3. Booking Visa stamping appointment for your parents: You need to book visa appointment at US embassy/ consulate for getting B2 Visa stamping to travel to US. In India, depending on the state you belong to, you will have to choose the consular office. Unless, your parents have access to internet and are familiar with the process, you might want to book the appointment and fill up the application and other forms, etc. If you are booking, make sure you have 15 days before from the day you are booking appointment. Because, you will need to get your documents straightened and send them on time. To book visa appointment, the first step is to fill out DS-160 form.
- Fill out DS-160 Form: You will need to create separate DS-160 applications / profiles for both of your parents or group, if you are applying as group. When you are filling out the first DS-160 form at the end, when you select ‘Email Confirmation’ on the confirmation page, you will go to Thank you page and on that page you will have an option to create a family or group application, you can choose this option so that some of the information from your first application will be copied over and imported. Of course, you can change those details as needed.
- You need to fill out the DS-160 form carefully. Check out the article on How to fill out DS-160 form to get some idea. Below are the links for relevant links for DS-160 form.
- Parents Visa booking Native Language vs English: If your parents are not comfortable with English, I suggest you choose preferred local language that your parents are familiar with. Most US embassies give you that option to choose the local language. For instance, in India, you can choose interview language such as your mother tongue like Telugu, Tamil, Gujarati, etc. If you feel your parents are not fluent in English, it is better to choose native language rather than English, so that they are comfortable and communicate clearly when asked by Visa Officer.
- Filling up the forms and What you should fill : Unless your parents are familiar with internet and online process of filling up forms, you may want to consider filling up all the forms. It may be a good idea, if we do it because, we know what we are doing and we are sponsoring them. Again, it is your preference. If you are filling forms at the end in DS-160, there is a section on ‘Sign and Submit page’, there you should fill out your details as third party and then inform your parents regarding the endorsement of the application by them and help them click on sign and submit button. You can check the DS-160 FAQs ( link above under fill out DS-160), it talks about it. Check out user discussion on this
4. Bank Account Verification/ Balance Status letter : You will need to go to your primary bank where you have your longest standing account and the bank which has your savings and ask them to give you a Bank Verification letter for Visa. Typically Chase does it instantly. For Bank of America or others they make take couple weeks or more. Do this in advance. All they do is, give a letter saying when the bank account was opened and average running balance since opening. It is just a simple letter. If possible, get the visiting card of the bank manager( not necessary, more documentation the better). Check out Sample Bank Verification Letter for Parents Visa
5. Copies of W2 Form, Pay stubs, etc : You will need copies of W2 Forms for all the years, last three pay stubs or salary statements, Last three bank statements, Copy of your passport, I-94, H1B visa approval ( I797 ). This is extra piece of documentation to be given to your parents to avoid any issues. This is like an optional, I strongly suggest that you carry these documents.
If you are a student on F1 visa and not working, you may not have pay stubs, so do not worry about it. Send whatever you have regarding your current status like I20, etc.
6. Invitation Letter : You need to send an invitation letter to your parents saying that you are inviting them to visit you and sign it. It legally supports your parents intent to come to US and you are inviting them to visit. Download sample copies below.
7. Visa officer Cover letter: It is recommended to send a cover letter with all the documentation addressing the visa officer. It just lets you keep in track of what you are sending and if visa officer needs to check, it is easier for him and more clear for our parents.
8. ( Optional ) Affidavit of Support I-134 Form: This is an optional form, which is typically filed with family based green card applications by sponsors. This is to establish that the applicant will not become public charges while in the United States. If you submit this form, you are legally signing that you take all the liability and they will not become a public charge. I have used this form, when I was sponsoring visa for my parents in 2008. You may fill, sign and send the affidavit of support to your parents. It has some basic info. Nothing fancy and tricky out there. All you are telling in this document is that you are going to support their entire trip. You can Download the I-134 Form, Affidavit of Support from USCIS website
9. How to send and What all to send: Ideally, you want to print out everything and sign all the documents where you filled forms I-134 (optional), invitation letter and cover letter. Make copies of all the documents as listed above. Send originals of Employment letter and Bank letter. You can use DHL or FedEx. I used DHL as it was cheaper and it reached in 3 working days. It cost me around $60.
Parents US Visa Documents Checklist for B2 Visitor Visa :
- Copy of work visa approval notice ( H1B, L1 – Form I-797).
- Copy of Passport, Visa stamped on passport.
- Copy of I-94. (You can print it at DHS CBP I-94 website)
- Current Employment verification letter
- Copy of Bank statements from last 6 months.
- Bank Account verification/ balance letter.
- Copies of last three salary statements/ pay slips.
- Copies of last year Tax Returns –W2 forms ( if applicable).
- DS forms (if you have filled it and signed the same)
- Copy of Green Card ( if applicable )
- Form I-134 ( Optional )
If applying B2 Visitor Visa for in-laws ( Mother-in-law, Father-in-law) below documents are required:
- Your Spouse’s Passport
- Spouse’s approval notice I797
- Spouse’s Visa Copy
- Any other supporting documents like marriage certificate to prove the relationship.
- Spouse Birth Certificate
Thanks to Rajesh for suggesting the above after his bad experience missing the documents of in-laws.
Sample Documents Templates to Apply for Parents US Visitor Visa from Sponsor:
Below are some of the templates that were used by me.
- Parents US Visitor Visa Invite Letter Template : You need to send an invitation letter to your parents saying that you are inviting them and also specify, if you plan to pay for their expenses when in US. We have given a sample letter, but I recommend you edit it with your own flavour and make it unique : Invitation Letter Templates for Visitor (B-2) / Parents Visa
- Employment letter Sample Letter Template for US Parents Visa : You should also send an employment letter that tells that you are employed in your company with your designation and salary. It can be any standard employment letter. You may use : Employment letter Template for Parents Visa USA
- Cover Letter for Visa Officer at US Consulate: It is a good idea to put in a cover letter to the visa officer listing all the documents you are sending. You may use : Cover Letter for Visa officer – Parents visa USA
These are just standard templates that you can use, no hard fast rule that it has to be in this format. We highly encourage you to use them as guideline only and create your own letters with your own flavour, so that it looks unique.
Additional Supporting documents Checklist by Parents for Visa Interview.
Fundamentally, your parents have to prove that they have enough ties in their home country, so that they would return after their trip. Some of the ways that can be done is by good supporting documentation. Sample checklist of additional documents you may include are :
- Notarized documents of land/ sites, buildings ( any kind of property).
- Bank Statements with enough balance
- Pension / employment benefits letters, if applicable.
- Fixed deposits, any financial related documents.
- If there are Tax returns, then carry them as well
- Any other documents that shows your financially strong and you will come back.
If you do not have all documents or big property back home, it is OK. No big deal. Because, you are the one in US, who is sponsoring the visitor visa for your parents. So, do not worry. Also, if your parents are older, then they are fine.
Health Insurance for Parents : Having visitors health insurance is important for parents to avoid any unforeseen health conditions, when in USA, so that it does not dent your financial situation with fat medical bill. It is always a good idea to get Health Insurance from a US vendor, who can support you. We recommend Buying Parents Insurance at Visitors Coverage – Parents Insurance as they have US support and you can compare all insurance plans.
That’s it folks…not so much complex, all you need to do is get all the list of documents and have things rolling as per plan and schedule. You can check out some experiences like Parents US Visa Stamping Experience -Telugu and English Stamping Experience US Parents Visa .
Do you have any other ideas or documents that are important ? Do share your experience and thoughts.