United States Visa Types, Requirements, and Application

Are you wondering about United Statesย visa? This article is right for you! We will provide you the ultimate guide for visa requirements, and fees, a step-by-step guide for registration as well as some tips for quick processing. Letโ€™s get started!

Who needs a visa to enter United States?

The Visa Waiver Program enables nationals to enter the United States for tourism or business for 90 days or less without a visa. Travelers must have a valid Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).

You must be a citizen of the following countries to be eligible to travel to the United States under the VWP:

๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ฉ Andorra ๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡บ Hungary ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ด Norway
๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ Australia ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ธ Iceland ๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ฑ Poland
๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡น Austria ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ช Ireland ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง Portugal
๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ช Belgium ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Israel ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฒ San Marino
๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ณ Brunei ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น Italy ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฌ Singapore
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Chile ๐Ÿ‡ฏ๐Ÿ‡ต Japan ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฐ Slovakia
๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡ท Croatia ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ป Latvia ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฎ Slovenia
๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฟ Czech Republic ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ฎ Liechtenstein ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ท South Korea
๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ฐ Denmark ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡น Lithuania ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ธ Spain
๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ช Estonia ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡บ Luxembourg ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ช Sweden
๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ฎ Finland ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡น Malta ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ญ Switzerland
๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ท France ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡จ Monaco ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ผ Taiwan
๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ช Germany ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Netherlands ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง United Kingdom
๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ท Greece ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฟ New Zealand

United States visa typesย 

The two main categories of United States visa are immigrant and nonimmigrant visas:

Immigrant visas allow foreign citizens to live permanently in the United States.:

  • Family-based visaย for fiancรฉs, spouses, children under 21, and other close relatives of United States citizens and permanent residents.
  • Employment-based visaย for workers sponsored by a United States employer like priority workers, professionals holding advanced degrees, and skilled and unskilled workers.
  • Diversity visa lottery for citizens of countries with historically low immigration to the United States. Applicants are selected randomly.
  • Returning resident visa for green card holders who stayed abroad for over 1 year. Allows re-entry to the United States.

Nonimmigrant visas allow temporary entry into the United States:

  • B-1/B-2 visitor visaย for business and tourism, valid for up to 6 months.
  • F-1 student visa for academic studies. F-2 visa for dependents of F-1 holders.
  • J-1 exchange visitor visa for educational and cultural exchange programs like au pair, summer work travel, internship, etc.
  • H-1B specialty occupation worker visa for foreign professionals sponsored by United States employers in fields like IT, engineering, medicine, education, accounting, and architecture.
  • L-1 visa for intracompany transfers of executives, managers, or employees with specialized knowledge from a foreign branch to United States offices.
  • O-1 visa for foreign citizens with extraordinary abilities in sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics to work in their field of expertise.
  • P-1 visa for internationally recognized athletes, entertainers, or performing artists to work in the United States.
  • E-3 visa for Australian professionals in a specialty occupation under Australia’s special E-3 work visa with the United States.

United States visa requirements:

Below are the general documents needed to apply for a US visa:

  • An online nonimmigrant DS-160 application form.
  • Your valid passport: must be valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay in the United States. However, there are some countries that are exempt from this requirement only by virtue of their passport being valid during their stay in the United States. Your passport must have at least one blank page to be issued a visa.
  • One photograph: The US visa photo requirement is one of the main requirements for every visa you apply for. Upload the photo while you apply online through the DS-160 form. If the upload fails, you can submit the photo on the appointment day. However, we advise you that, even if you upload the photo online, to still bring it with you in case you need it during the interview.
  • Receipt proving payment of $185 for a nonimmigrant US visa application: Unlike the European visa policy where you have to pay the fee on the interview day, for the US visa, you need to pay the fee in advance to be able to schedule an interview. Note that the United States visa application fee is non-refundable if you decide to cancel your appointment or if your visa application is denied.
  • Social media details: A list of the social media you use and your account names in each account, phone numbers, emails, and social media history going back 5 years.

How to apply for United States visa?

United States visa
United States visa

Here is the step-by-step guide for United States visa application:

Step#1. Choose the type of visa you need

To figure out which visa category you should apply under based on factors like your nationality, purpose of travel or move to the United States, and eligibility criteria.

Step#2. Complete the online DS-160 visa application form

  • Visit the U.S. Department of State’s DS-160 online nonimmigrant visa application website and, if necessary, enter all of your personal information, background, travel history, and plans to visit the United States.ย  Please provide information such asย  your fullย  name, date of birth, country of birth, countries of citizenship, details of your last five visits to the United States, address history for the last five years, employment details, family details, etc.ย 
  • ย Verify before submitting the form DS-160 once again ensures that all the information you have entered is correct. Print the DS-160 confirmation page.

Step#3. Pay the non-refundable visa application fees

You must pay the following fee to apply for a visa. Total fees vary slightly depending on visa type and nationality. All fees must be paid before your visa interview appointment.

Step#4. Schedule a visa interview appointment

  • Use the United States State Department’s online scheduling system to book a visa appointment at the United States embassy or consulate nearest to your location.
  • Appointment wait times range from just a few days up to several months depending on the specific consulate. Be sure to schedule your appointment well in advance of your planned United States travel date.
  • Print the confirmation page with your interview details. Rescheduling appointments is possible for a $120 fee but not always guaranteed.

Step#5. Get your supporting documents ready

  • Your visa type determines what supporting documents you must bring to your visa interview.
  • Examples include passports, recent photos, bank statements, university admission letters, employer sponsorship forms, medical reports, police certificates showing no criminal record, etc.
  • Having the right documents proves you meet the qualifications for the specific visa you are applying for.

Step#6. Attend the visa interview

  • Go to the embassy on the date and time of your visa interview. You’ll have to provide biometrics like fingerprints and facial imagery.
  • A consular officer will ask you questions about your background, and plans to travel to the United States. Provide honest and clear answers. Don’t guess or lie if you don’t know something.

Step#7. Await your visa decision

  • The consular officer will let you know within a few days or weeks if your visa application is approved or denied.
  • If approved, your passport with visa will typically be returned via courier within 2-3 business days. If denied, you can reapply if your circumstances change.

United States visa fees

Visa application fees

  • DS-160 application fee – Non-refundable charge paid per applicant for processing the online visa application. Typically $160.
  • Visa interview fee – Non-refundable charge paid per applicant for attending the visa interview at the consulate. Usually around $190.
  • Expedite fee – An additional $60 fee to get faster visa application processing, if available. Reduces wait times.
  • Rescheduling fee – A fee of $120 to change the visa interview appointment date and time, subject to availability.

Visa issuance reciprocity fees

These non-refundable fees are per-country charges paid after visa approval:

  • United Kingdom: $220
  • China: $140
  • India: $220
  • Mexico: $325
  • Philippines: $202
  • Brazil: $160
  • Germany: $160

Other potential fees

  • Fingerprinting fee – $85 charge for visa applicants who need to provide fingerprints along with regular biometrics.
  • DNA testing fee – Between $200 to $400 to establish genetic relationships for certain family-based visa petitions.
  • Courier return fee – Around $20 to get your approved passport/visa returned via courier service.

Processing time for United States Visa

How long it takes to obtain a visa depends largely on the type of visa, the country of application, and the embassy’s processing capacity. Here are the general schedules:

  • Visitor B1/B2 visa – 1-3 months
  • Student F1 visa – 2-4 months
  • Exchange J1 visa – 1-3 months
  • Work H1B visa – 6+ months
  • Green card – 9-12 months
  • Citizenship – 9-12 months

Visa processing is slower at embassies with high demand. Paying additional expedited processing fees may reduce processing times, if available. Track your visa status online using your case number.

Tips when applying for the United States visa

Times Square - United States
Times Square – United States
  • Determine the right visa type: Carefully research the visa types and eligibility criteria to find out which one suits your purpose of entry whether it is work, study, investment or family reunification.
  • Complete forms accurately: Provide accurate details on visa forms. Any errors can lead to delays or visa denials. Double-check that all your information is correct.
  • Prepare supporting documents: Before the interview, have all the necessary documents ready, e.g. E.g. bank statements, college acceptance letters, medical reports, employer sponsorship forms, etc. Proper documentation shows that you meet the requirements.
  • Be brief at the visa interview: Keep your answers at the visa interview factual, concise, and honest. Don’t exaggerate details or talk unnecessarily beyond what is asked.
  • Dress professionally: Make a good impression at the visa interview by dressing professionally. Avoid casual clothes or revealing outfits.
  • Apply well in advance: Submit your visa application and book your interview date several months prior to your planned United States travel. This prevents delays due to long processing times.
  • Double-check visa validity: Before traveling, always verify your visa is still valid and check the expiration date.ย Make sure you have the right type of visa for your purpose of travel.

What to do if United States visa expires?

Apply for a visa renewal

If your United States visa will soon expire or has recently expired, you may be able to renew the same type of visa through the regular visa application process.

  • Verify you still meet the eligibility criteria for the visa category you currently hold. Your circumstances should not have changed significantly.
  • Complete Form DS-160 online with your current personal, background, travel, and contact information. Pay the visa application fees.
  • Schedule a visa renewal interview at the nearest United States embassy or consulate. Bring updated supporting documents to prove you still qualify.
  • Attend the visa interview and provide biometrics when requested. Answer any questions from the consular officer honestly.
  • If approved, your renewed visa will be valid for the same duration as your original visa. Processing times are often faster compared to first-time visa applications.

Apply for a new United States visa category

  • In some cases, you may be eligible to apply for a different type of United States visa based on changes in your circumstances since originally getting your visa.
  • Consult an immigration attorney to understand the process of applying for a new visa category.ย 
  • You must demonstrate that the purpose of your United States stay now aligns with the new visa type you are requesting.

Depart the United States

Once your existing United States visa validity ends, you are no longer lawfully authorized to remain in the country.

  • You should voluntarily leave America and return to your home country before the expiration date printed on your current visa.
  • Overstaying your visa expiry, even by one day, starts accruing unlawful presence that can lead to future barriers to reentering.
  • Departing on time preserves your immigration record and allows you to apply for a fresh United States visa from your home country.

Risk of overstaying the expired visa

Remaining in the United States beyond your visa expiry date constitutes being out of status and accruing unlawful presence. The risks include:

  • Being detained and ordered removed from the United States by immigration authorities.
  • Triggering 3 or 10-year bars on reentering America after overstaying for 180+ days or 1 year respectively.
  • Hurting your chances of getting future United States visa approved.