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Applying for a US Visa from Abroad

Before entering the U.S., most visitors are required to apply for a visa. You can determine which visa you might qualify for from this article on types of temporary visas.

Applying for a Tourist Visa and Other Visas: Where to Apply

Applying for a tourist visa is most commonly done at the embassy or consulate nearest you. The U.S. Department of State's website lists embassies and consulates near you as well as providing other useful, up-to-date information before traveling to the U.S. Once you've located the nearest embassy or consulate, check their website or call them for information about whether they want applications to be done in person or by mail.

Applying for a Tourist Visa and Other Visas: How to Apply

Applying for a tourist visa depends largely on what type of visa you are trying to obtain:

  • Visitor Visas : For simple visitor visas, applying typically only requires filling out a few applications and attending an interview at the embassy or consulate.
  • Student Visas: For student visas, you will first need to be admitted to a school in the U.S. That school should provide you with special documentation that you then take to the embassy or consulate to continue the student visa process. Again, expect to attend an interview.
  • Working Visas: Working visas are considerably more complex than either visitor or student visas. First you must be sponsored by a U.S. employer. Next, your employer must file paperwork on your behalf with the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If you are approved by the USCIS, you will file an application for a visa at the embassy or consulate nearest you. You will almost certainly be interviewed before being granted a working visa.

Applying for a Tourist Visa and Other Visas: How to Prepare for the Visa Interview

One of the final steps in applying for a tourist visa is going in for the visa interview. The visa interview isn't like an employment interview, but it's also not just a formality. Prepare for some of the most commonly asked questions, show up early, be polite and make sure you request an interpreter if you do not speak English. In general, the interviewer is trying to verify that your application is accurate, and establish your "ties" to your home country (ensuring that you will return after visiting the U.S.). Here are some of the most common questions you may be asked:

  • Why are you traveling to the U.S.?
  • How long will you be staying in the U.S.?
  • What is your occupation?
  • What is your annual income?
  • Have you traveled to other countries?
  • Do you have a credit card?
  • Do you have any children, how many and where are they?
  • Are you seeing anyone while you are in the U.S.?
  • Will you come back after your visit is done?

How Long to Expect for Your Visa to the U.S.

Check with both the Department of State and your local embassy or consulate to get a feel for how long it will take. Tourist visas will typically only take a few days (but can take longer), student visas will take slightly longer and work visas can take months. This is in part due to heightened screening requirements, background and criminal checks, as well as increased reliance on mailing applications and requiring interviews. So do not leave this until the last moment, otherwise you may not be able to travel at all.

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Contact a qualified immigration attorney to help you with visa procedures.

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