Visa to travel to the US

The United States is a very popular tourist destination. Millions of travelers enter or leave, or simply pass through the country each year. The country is also an immigration destination that dreams millions of citizens around the world. Some of these residents from the rest of the world are applying for an immigrant visa or are trying their luck at the Green Card Lottery.

Entry into the United States for all citizens of the world wishing to travel or immigrate requires a visa to enter the country.

Restrictions on access to American territory due to the health crisis

On January 31, 2020, Donald Trump, President of the United States, signed Proclamation 9984 which suspends the entry as immigrants and non-immigrants of people who are at risk of transmitting the 2019 novel coronavirus. Among others, the The ban applies to all foreigners who were physically present in the Schengen area during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.

On June 22, 2020, President Trump signed Presidential Proclamation 10014 allowing an extension of these bans until December 31, 2020. This ban was extended until November 8, 2021, the date of the reopening of US borders under certain conditions linked to the possession of a vaccination 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 can successfully obtain a visa for the United States, but if the inspectors of these departments do not find you fit to enter the country for any reason that belongs to them, 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 need 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 by obtaining a simple ESTA. To be able to travel the United States for more than 90 days, you absolutely need to obtain a United States 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 are the ESTA requirements in order to verify your eligibility to obtain the ESTA .

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 consult our article on what are the ESTA requirements in order to verify your eligibility to obtain ESTA.

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 applying for a visa on the CEAC US website, you will download the photo and it will be analyzed. The site will analyze the photo, if it suits you you will get the message: “Photo passed quality standards”.

US visa picture
Image of a US visa with photo ID requirements

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:

  1. Completely and sincerely complete the DS-160 online visa application form;
  2. 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 intended for foreign citizens traveling to the United States;
  3. Follow the registration process to online payment of the visa application fee (MRV);
  4. Submit electronically on the site the documents requested to complete the visa application;
  5. The file is then examined by a consular officer;
  6. When the examination of the file is completed, the applicant receives an email informing him that he must connect to his account, either:
    1. to provide additional information;
    2. to schedule the interview directly at the embassy online.
  7. 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:

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 details of the costs to pay when 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 time it takes for the United States Immigration Service (USCIS) to accept an application varies depending on the type of application and the location of the office in charge of processing the file.

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 procedure and the type of visa you obtain depends on the reason for which you wish to enter the country. We will review the most common types of American visas so that you can understand what each involves.

In general, there are two types of visas for the United States:

For the purpose of this article, we are going to deepen and mainly introduce you to non-immigrant visas. You can obtain more detailed information on the website dedicated to obtaining a visa for the USA.

Visas to enter the USA as non-immigrants are only used for temporary stays in the territory, they cannot be the means of entering the country if in the end the intention is to stay there 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 those they apply to:

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 can be granted to those who wish to travel to the United States for business reasons such as:

B2 visa for tourists

The B2 visa is granted to travelers for tourist reasons, such as:

B1 and B2 visas have a very different use for travelers to the United States, check your eligibility for one or the other before applying to the United States administration.

C visa for transit

Visa C is a transit visa for the USA. This means that you are going to go through the United States, but that your final destination is located in another country. On the other hand, Visa C does not allow you to make a stop to see friends or your 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 the result of existing trade treaties in certain sectors in the United States. There are two types of visa of this kind:

Student F Visas

F visas are intended for university and professional purposes. Depending on your school and your teaching sector, you will need to obtain the F1 visa or the M1 visa:

H1B visa for highly skilled workers

H1B visas are intended for people employed in highly specialized fields. This particular case means that these people have a higher diploma or work which cannot be accomplished without specific in-depth training.

J visa for travelers in exchange

The J visa is intended for exchanges with other countries, more specifically it concerns:

P visa for athletes and artists

For athletes, animators and artists, there are therefore three types of P visas:

Is there an alternative to the need to obtain a visa for entry into the United States?

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 agreements made under the aegis of the Visa Waiver Program, individuals from the 38 partner countries of the program can apply for a travel authorization called ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) . You do not have to obtain a visa to enter the USA.

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 ESTA, you can go to the website of the United States Department of Homeland Security, but you will not benefit from the additional services available on platforms specialized in travel formalities. If you must obtain an ESTA for your trip, make your request several days before your departure and then leave with peace of mind.