How to Get a US Visa

Applying for a US visa these days is like embarking on a search for the Holy Grail. Since 9/11, the US has made several amendments to their US Visa application process to uphold and ensure what former Secretary Powell referred to as their policy of “secure borders, open doors.”

The first step in applying for a US Visa is to determine the kind of visa you need; the documents you need to submit and the eligibility standards you have to meet will depend on the kind of visa you are applying for. There are two general types of visas: immigrant and nonimmigrant. Immigrant visas are for foreign nationals who want to relocate to the US permanently; nonimmigrant visas are for temporary visitors like tourists, exchange students, businessmen or those seeking medical treatment. Each kind of visa will have different requirements and eligibility standards. The degree of difficulty and length of time for approval depends on the kind of visa applied for as well. Immigrant visas are the most difficult to obtain; tourist and student visas are the most accessible.

The second step is to do some research. Going online is the most efficient and cost-effective means of accomplishing this step. The US website will provide the embassy’s location, contact numbers, working hours, the forms you need to accomplish and submit (these forms can actually be filled online, downloaded, and printed out ready for submission), the documents you need to prepare along with the appropriate form, fees and instructions to set up an interview date. Do not rely on hearsay or tips from even seasoned travelers; the website will provide you all the necessary information you need, and if it is not there – you do not need it.

The third step is the all-important interview. The interview area looks like the inside of a bank; the consuls are behind teller-like glass windows and the fate of your application will be determined within a 5-10 minute conversation. The conversations may range from the mundane to something serious. Be observant, polite, friendly and professional. You can second-guess the temperament of the consul based on how he or she conducted the previous interviews and the number of people in queue. Americans are by nature straight forward; do not attempt to flatter, bribe, flirt, gain sympathy or lie. If they ask a question, answer it in a direct and concise manner. If they are not asking about it, do not volunteer information on it. After the conversation, they will tell you whether or not your application has been approved.

Applying for a US visa is similar to applying for a job. You submit your resume for review. You undergo an interview to determine whether or not your skills and competencies meet what the job requires. Your resume must be accurate and there should be no false declarations. If you do not meet its declared eligibility requirements, do not expect to be hired.

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