If you would like to travel to the US, you need a US Visa. Depending on your purpose of travel, you would need one of the non-immigrant visas or immigrant visas. The process to get US Visa is pretty much the same across the world. In this article, we look at the step-by-step guide to get US Visa from checking requirements to getting US Visa stamped in your passport.
Below is the high-level flow of the various steps involved in the US visa stamping process at a US Consulate. We will review each of these steps in detail below.
Step 1 : Determine US Visa Type Needed
Before you apply for a US visa, you need to identify the visa type that you need for your travel. Depending on the purpose of your travel, you need to pick the right visa category. Each visa category has its own requirements and the applicant has to mee the same and then apply. It is important to pick the right visa category as you will need to secure all the supporting documents relevant for the visa type you pick when you go for the visa interview.
Below are some of the common types of visas
- B2 Visitors Visa – for tourism, visiting friends, attend events
- B1 – Business Visa – for Business meetings, negotiations, conferences
- F1 – Student Visa – Study in US either Bachelor’s or Masters
- H1B – Work Visa – To work in Speciality occupation in US
- H4 – Dependent Visa – travel to US as dependent for H1B workers
- L1 – Intracompany Transfer Visa – International Transfer to work in US Office
If your purpose is not listed in the above popular visa types, you can check the US State Department Visa Categories page to identify the visa category that fits the purpose of your US visit.
Step 2 : Gather Required information for US Visa Application
Depending on the US visa type you are planning to apply for, you will need to gather all relevant documents for completing the Online US Visa application. Below are the common documents and information that you will need, irrespective of the visa type to complete the visa application online (DS-160 form)
Documents Checklist to fill Online US Visa Application:
- Your personal contact information
- Your Family information of Spouse, Parents, Kids as applicable.
- Your current occupation information
- All your previous work experience history
- All your education history (need from 10th grade on wards)
- US Travel Itinerary
- Details about who will pay for your US trip.
- Digital Passport photo with white background.
- US Point of Contact information
- Your Social Media Contact information like Facebook, Twitter, etc.
- If you have travel companions, their information.
In addition to the above, you would need specific documents and information related to the US Visa type you choose. For example, if you are applying for a work visa like H1B Visa, you will need to have details about the USCIS H1B Petition approval notice.
Step 3 : Complete and Submit DS-160 Form
After you gather all your documents and information, you need to fill out the DS-160 form online. If you are applying for an immigrant visa, then you will need to fill DS-260 form. Below are the high-level steps for general non-immigration visas like visitor, work, student, or dependent visas.
- Go to Online Non-immigrant US Visa Application (DS-160 form)
- Select the location, where you plan to apply for Visa
- Enter the Captcha that you see below there
- Click on “Start An application”
See the below screenshot of how it looks.
After you do that, you will be presented with an Application ID, note that down or print it, so that you can use it to go back and complete the application later.
The US Visa Application (DS-160) form is a lengthy form and it can take time. You will need to have all the documents and information that we mentioned in Step 2 handy to complete the application. Once you complete the form, you need to submit the form online. You will get confirmation after you submit the form, save and print the confirmation of US Visa application (DS-160) as you will need it for booking US visa appointment and also you need to carry the same for visa interview.
Step 4 : Pay US Visa fee (MRV Fee)
After you have completed the online US Visa Application (DS-160) form, you need to pay the fee for US Visa. It is also called a Machine Readable Visa (MRV) fee. The fee is non-refundable and non-transferable.
How much is the US Visa fee ?
The fee varies by the type of Visa application that you are applying for. Below are some of the common types and their visa fee.
- Non-petition based visa types like B1,B2, F1 – $160 USD
- Petition based visa types like H1B, L1, H4 – $190 USD
- E Visas – $205, K Visas – $265 USD
You can check the current US Visa fee for all visa types at Travel.state.gov Visa Fees .
Depending on the country you are attending and the type of visa, you may be asked to pay some additional fees such as visa issuance fees or other kinds of fees like the SEVIS fee for an F1 visa applicant. You need to check the visa appointment booking website such as ustraveldocs.com website related to the country to know the complete fee.
How to pay US Visa fee ?
You need to pay Visa fee either using online payment system or by going to a bank. This varies by country. You need to check the US Consulate website in your country for the process or using CGI Federal website ustraveldocs.com.
For instance, in India, you can pay fee using online system using CGI Federal website or using online banking. Check India Visa Fee payment options. Usually, you will need to create a profile online on the respective website like ustraveldocs.com and then pay the fee. You need to have copies of the fee payment receipts for reference and producing the same at US consulate as needed.
Step 5 : Schedule Biometrics, Visa Interview Appointments
After you pay the fee using either an online system or using a bank, you need to book a US Visa appointment to attend the Visa interview. Also, you will be required to book another biometrics appointment to capture your fingerprints and photo.
- First appointment to give biometrics is usually at Visa Application Center (VAC) or Offsite Facility Center (OFC)
- Second appointment for Visa Interview at US Consulate.
You will usually need the below information to schedule these appointments
- Passport Number
- Visa Application Fee Receipt Number
- Bar Code confirmation from DS-160 confirmation page.
If you cannot attend the booked appointments, you can also re-schedule or change the appointments. The number of times you can reschedule US visa appointments varies by country and it can range anywhere from 2 to 6. For complete details, read How many times can I reschedule my US Visa Appointment
During visa appointment booking, sometimes you may get errors like “Error occurred while loading a Visaualforce Page”, “Your group size is larger than the current allocation”, or“Your personal details match the profile which already exists in our database“. In such cases, you would need to work with the US Travel Docs Customer support as needed to resolve the same issues.
Step 6 : Prepare Documents to carry for US Visa Interview
Once you have the visa interview and biometrics appointment confirmed, you need to prepare for the same. Depending on the type of visa you are applying, you will need to carry all the supporting documents. Below are couple of examples.
- Work Visa : For instance, if you are applying for work visa like H1B visa stamping, you need to carry all the relevant documents like USCIS H1B Approval notice, Form I-129 copy, H1B LCA copy, Employer letter, etc.
- Student Visa : For instance, if you are applying for F1 student visa, you will need to carry all documents like I-20, School Acceptance Letter, SEVIS Fee receipt, Education Certificates, Sponsorship documents for fee, etc.
Step 7 : Attend Biometrics Appointment, US Visa Interview
You need to attend the Biometrics appointment on the respective appointment date and carry all the relevant documents that are needed for it like Appointment Notice, DS-160 confirmation, Passport and other documents as required.
After Biometrics, you need to attend the US Visa interview at Consulate. You will be interviewed by a US Consular Officer. The Visa officer can ask you regarding any details related to your visa application. For instance, if you are going to study in US, they may ask for school details, ask your intent, why you applied for certain school, etc. It is up to the Visa officers decision to issue you visa or not. You can check out our pages US Visa Stamping User Experiences Collection or category of US Visa Stamping Experiences to get an idea of the kinds of questions asked.
If the US Consular officer is convinced, they may issue the visa and say the decision to you that your visa is approved. They will collect your passport and say, they will inform once the US Visa is stamped ( US Visa foil is glued) in the passport and it is ready for collection.
If they need more time, they may issue a piece of paper and tell you that your case is going to be in Administrative processing (221g) and may or may not take your passport. This can delay the process and you need to wait.
Step 8 : Check US Visa Status Online
After your visa stamping interview is complete, you need to check the status on the US State Department CEAC Website. If your visa was approved, you will see status as ‘Issued’. Read How to check US Visa Status Online
Step 9 : Collect Passport with US Visa
If your US Visa was approved and the Visa officer issued visa to you, they will stick a US Visa foil in your passport and inform you to collect the passport. Alternatively, if you have put in option for home delivery, they will deliver the passport with US visa to your address. You will be notified on the same. Usually, it can take anywhere from couple of days to a week for this. The US Visa looks like in below screenshot
That’s the end-to-end process to apply for US Visa and getting it stamped in your passport.
In general, you do not need to attend US Visa in-person interview for renewal of your visa. You need to follow more or less the same steps as above, except there is no interview. The CGI federal system would indicate that you are eligible for interview waiver and let you submit documents for the same. If all goes well, you get your visa renewed with a new visa foil in your passport. Read How to apply for H1B Visa Dropbox to know the typical steps involved in interview waiver or dropbox.
This is a million-dollar question and no one knows or no one can guess this correctly. This totally depends on your application, your credentials, etc. It is your jobs as the applicant to convince the US Consular Officer to issue you the visa. All you can do is be prepared, have all documents ready and answer the questions asked by Consular officer confidently to have a good chance for getting US Visa.