American visa to travel to the United States
The United States is a very popular tourist destination. Entry into the United States for all citizens of the world wishing to travel or immigrate therein requires obtaining a US visa to enter the country.
For a stay of less than 90 days in the United States: It is not necessary to apply for a USA visa. You can simply apply for an ESTA via the Internet. The ESTA is an Electronic Travel Authorization issued by the United States and valid for stays of less than 90 days. To obtain your certificate in a few minutes click on the online form.
Restrictions on access to American territory since the COVID crisis
As of November 8, 2021, US borders have been reopened to foreign travelers under certain conditions related to the possession of a vaccine passport.
There are, however, a number of exceptions to these proclamations. For a certain number of visas and under certain conditions, it is possible to obtain a visa for the United States.
What is the USA visa?
The American visa is an administrative authorization obtained from the American consular authorities. It comes in the form of a stamp on your passport and signifies that you are eligible to enter the United States. This travel authorization must be obtained from a US embassy or consulate before considering any travel to the United States.
Obtaining the Visa for the USA does not necessarily mean that you will enter the United States. The final decision will be made when you pass through US customs under the responsibility of customs and border protection officers (CPB).
You may be able to obtain a visa for the United States, but if the inspectors of these departments do not deem you fit to enter the country for any reason of their own, you will not be able to enter the United States.
Who needs a US visa?
Citizens of visa-exempt countries, as well as citizens of Bermuda and Canada, do not require a visa to enter the United States. The Visa Waiver Program allows citizens of VWP member countries to travel to the United States for business or tourism purposes for 90 days with a simple ESTA. In order to travel in the United States for more than 90 days, you must obtain a U.S. visa.
To determine if you can travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program, you need to understand whether you need a visa or an ESTA. You can read our article on what the ESTA requirements are to check your eligibility to obtain the ESTA.
Canada has implemented the same exemption system for its Canada tourist visa.
US visa photo
This is what an American visa looks like. This has been modified to remove the personal information of the holder. Your passport photo must be less than six months old. It must respect the guidelines presented in the image in terms of face position and dimensions of the passport photo.
When you apply for a visa on the ECAC US website, you will upload the photo and it will be analyzed. The site will analyze the photo, if it is suitable you will get the message: “Photo passed quality standards”.
How to apply for a visa for the United States?
The American visa application follows a specific and simple procedure for all types of visas. However, there are differences depending on the category and type of visa you want to get.
To apply for a US visa, you must apply online on the Internet and then attend a mandatory physical appointment at the US embassy or consulate in your country of residence.
To apply for a US visa, you must follow the following main steps:
- Completely and sincerely complete the DS-160 online visa application form;
- Access the usvisa-info.com website to create a personal account. This is the official website of the United States Visa Service. This site is for foreign citizens traveling to the United States;
- Follow the registration process to online payment of the visa application fee (MRV);
- Submit electronically on the site the documents requested to complete the visa application;
- The file is then examined by a consular officer;
- When the examination of the file is completed, the applicant receives an email informing him that he must connect to his account, either:
- to provide additional information;
- to schedule the interview directly at the embassy online.
- During the interview, the consular officer determines whether the applicant is eligible to receive the electronic visa and makes the final decision to award it.
Documents required to obtain a USA visa
To validate your USA visa application you will have to provide several personal documents that will allow the Embassy services to validate your file.
The detailed list of documents required for a US visa is different depending on your country of origin and the visa requested. The documents common to each request are as follows:
- A visa request letter setting out the reasons and detailed elements of the request allowing to judge its relevance;
- A passport valid for another six months before the expiration of the requested visa. Send the photocopy of the passport data (photo) page, do not send the entire passport by e-mail;
- The DS-160 visa application form completed on the Internet;
- A recent passport photo that meets the visa photo requirements (front color photo less than 6 months old, white background, 5 cm x 5 cm, without glasses and printed on photo paper;
- A curriculum vitae and a copy of study certificates, diplomas and transcripts;
- For the dependent family: copies of the official marriage certificate and birth certificates of the dependents
showing the relationship with the principal applicant;
- The payment receipt from usvisa-info.com indicating payment of the non-refundable fee (MRV).
Visa fees for the United States
The fees to be paid when applying for a visa for the United States depend mainly on the type of visa requested. The basic consular fees to be paid are between US $ 160 and US $ 265. In some very specific cases there may be additional costs for a visa application.
Click to go to our page dedicated to the detailed costs of applying for a USA visa.
Processing time for a USA visa application
Each visa application is different, so it is difficult to estimate the length of the procedure for a particular application. The visa application process consists of 2 main steps and deadlines:
The processing time of the request
The length of time it takes USCIS to accept an application varies depending on the type of application and the location of the office processing the application.
Time to get the appointment at the U.S. Embassy
Once the visa application is validated, you must provide all the documents requested to complete the file. Until the documents are provided, it is not possible to apply for the appointment at the US Embassy.
It is then possible to obtain an appointment for the month following the delivery of all the necessary documents. The visa is normally available a few days after the interview at the embassy.
What to do when a US visa is refused?
Visa denial is not a definitive ban on entering the United States. Following a visa refusal, a new visa application must be submitted. You have to fill out the DS-160 form again, make a new appointment and pay the visa fee (MRV) again.
It is essential to have understood the reason for the refusal in order to better document the new visa application and to satisfy the shortcomings of the first refused application.
What are the main US visas for non-immigrants
Obtaining a visa for the United States is a lengthy process and the type of visa you get depends on why you want to enter the country. We will review the most common types of U.S. visas so that you can understand what each one entails.
For the purposes of this article, we will introduce nonimmigrant visas.
Visas to enter the United States as non-immigrants are only used for temporary stays in the country, they cannot be the means to enter the country if the intention is to stay permanently. Some of these visas allow you to work in the USA.
The following list presents the main non-immigrant US visas with a short description to help you better understand what they concern:
A visas for representatives of foreign governments and NATO
A visas are intended for diplomats or representatives of foreign governments who travel to the United States for official purposes or who represent their government in the United States. All diplomats must apply for a Visa to enter the United States, the only exception concerns the head of state or government of the country, such as the president or the prime minister, who has no no need for an A1 Visa to enter the United States.
B1 visa business travelers
The B1 visa may be granted to those who wish to travel to the United States for business reasons such as:
- Attending conferences or conventions in their professional sector;
- To negotiate contracts on site, meet partners or associates;
- Invest in the United States.
B2 visa for tourists
The B2 visa is granted to travelers for tourist reasons, such as:
- Receive medical treatment;
- Do tourism or holidays of more than 90 days;
- Visit relatives or friends in the United States;
- Participate in training which does not benefit from a subsidy and does not concern official diplomas;
- Participate in sporting or cultural events as long as they do not receive remuneration in exchange for their presence.
The B1 and B2 visas have a very different purpose for travelers to the U.S., so check your eligibility for either one before applying to the U.S. government.
C visa for transit
The C visa is a transit visa for the USA. This means that you will be passing through the United States, but your final destination is located in another country. However, the C Visa does not allow you to stop to see friends or family, or to visit the country, you will need another appropriate visa in these cases.
E visas for traders and conventional investors
E visas are derived from existing trade treaties in certain sectors in the United States. There are two types of such visas:
- E1 merchant visa governed by a treaty;
- E2 investor visa governed by a treaty.
Student F Visas
F visas are for academic and professional purposes. Depending on your school and your field of study, you will need to obtain either an F1 visa or M1 visa:
- F1 visa for students (for internships see J1);
- F2 visa for dependents of F1 visa holders;
- M1 visa for a professional reason.
H1B visa for highly skilled workers
H1B visas are for people employed in highly specialized fields. This special case means that these people have a higher degree or a job that cannot be done without specific in-depth training.
J visa for travelers in exchange
The J visa is intended for exchanges with other countries, more precisely it concerns :
- Exchanges “au pair” therefore in the context of childcare for example;
- Researchers on a temporary mission;
- Teachers and professors as part of an exchange;
- Students, interns and seasonal jobs as part of an exchange.
P visa for athletes and artists
For athletes, entertainers and artists, there are three types of P visas:
- P1 which concerns individual or team athletes, or members of an entertainment group;
- P2 which concerns artists who will perform in the United States individually or in groups;
- P3 which concerns performers who perform, teach or direct artists in the United States, individually or in groups;
Is there an alternative to the need to obtain a visa for entry into the United States?
You are not required to obtain a visa to enter the USA. There is an alternative to the visa, in addition to the Green Card, for travelers wishing to make short stays in the United States for tourist or professional reasons. Under the Visa Waiver Program, individuals from partner countries can apply for an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).
This document is given to the applicant after he has passed a first security check in the form of a form accessible online. This will have 3 separate parts asking you questions about your identity, your passport, as well as your medical and legal history. After the verification of your information by the agents of the American Department of Homeland Security (DHS), you will obtain the ESTA allowing you to make several trips lasting 90 consecutive days during the 2 years of validity of the document.
To obtain the ESTA, you can go to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security website, but you will not benefit from the additional services present on the platforms specialized in travel formalities. If you need to obtain an ESTA for your trip, apply several days before your departure and then leave with peace of mind. On the other hand, it is important to remember that the ESTA is not a visa for the United States.