Applying for a U.S. Visa? Follow These Easy-to-Follow Steps

Applying for a U.S. Visa? Follow These Easy-to-Follow Steps

Whether you are coming to the U.S. for tourism, pleasure or medical treatment, you have to get hold of a US Visitor Visa. You need to present this non-immigrant visa if you are entering the country and won’t be staying there for good.

If you are a foreign citizen who has relatives in the U.S. and want to pay a visit, then you are qualified to apply for this visa. Under the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP), however, there are certain countries which do not require this document if the trip won’t last longer than 90 days. Check out this waiver program first to see if your country is one of them.

 Salient facts about the U.S. Visitor Visa:

 It is more commonly known as the B1-B2 or simply B2 visa for U.S.A.

  • You may apply for it and get it stamped in your passport.
  • You may be granted this visa for one specific purpose only, including medical treatment or tourism. If you are entering the U.S. for business purposes, then you should apply for a B1 visa and not B2 instead.
  • Once you have your B1 visa, it means you can only stay in the U.S. for six (6) months or less. If you want to extend a little longer than 6 months, you need to request for an extension, which you may apply for at the USCIS.

How do I apply for a B2 visa?

 Just like any other travel document, the B2 visa is applied for. Should you wish to apply for this visa, you need to have your valid passport, submit the application form, pay all the necessary fees and make sure that you appear for the visitor visa interview at the nearest U.S. consulate in your country.

Here are the steps:

Step 1. Get your digital photograph. This photo is one of the requisites when applying for a U.S. visitor visa. However, you need to make sure that it meets the criteria set by the U.S. consulate. Most photo studios automatically know how a digital photo should be if it’s needed for a U.S. visa application so you don’t necessarily have to mention each and every criterion to them. Otherwise, mention these digital photo requirements:

  • It must be square in shape.
  • Its minimum dimensions should be 600 pixels by 600 pixels.
  • Its maximum dimensions should be 1200 pixels by 1200 pixels.
  • It must be colored, particularly a resolution of 24 bits per pixel.
  • It must be in JPG format.
  • Its file size must be equal or less than 240 kilobytes.

What if your consulate does not require you to upload a digital photo when filling out the DS-160 form?

If that is the case, wait for your photo to be taken at the ASC (Application Service Center) or OFC (Offsite Facilitation Center).

If you normally wear eyeglasses, you can wear them in the photo as long as their lenses are not tinted and they do not obscure your eyes. Also, avoid glare on the eyeglasses by tilting your head slightly upward or downward. You cannot wear dark sunglasses or other decorative items, unless you have hats or head coverings that you normally wear for religious purposes.

Step 2. Completely fill out the visitor visa application form DS 160. Before coming to the consulate for the next part of the application process, make sure that you have already completed this application form. You fill out this form over the internet and not anywhere else. After filling out this form, wait for the 10-digit barcode that will be sent to you as a confirmation. Then, print the page as you will need it during your visa interview appointment.

The DS 160 form is an online form required by most US consulates in the world, including India. It should be completed online prior to printing. Take note of the following that you will need before filling out this form:

  • You need to have your digital photograph in a specific format. If you haven’t uploaded or provided a photo during the online application submission, you may bring your printed photo when you go to the consulate for your personal visa interview.
  • You should confirm the consulate where you will appear for the interview.
  • You should have a reliable internet connection since you will fill out the form online.
  • You need to get your passport details ready, including the issue date and expiration date.
  • You need to specify an address where you will stay in the U.S.
  • You need to specify your social security number and U.S. tax ID number.

As for the technical requirements, here are the things that you need:

  • Your Internet Explorer (Windows) must be at least 5.0 service pack 2.
  • Your Internet browser must be able to support 128-bit encryption and should have JavaScript enabled.
  • Your Netscape must be version 6.2 or higher.
  • You must have a laser printer linked to your system so you can readily print out the confirmation page. Otherwise, you may simply take a screenshot of the page and paste it in Microsoft Word for later printing.

I already have the necessary information and technical requirements ready. What’s next?

If you already have the abovementioned requirements, it’s time to fill out the form. Here are the things that you should remember when filling out the DS 160:

  • Provide honest information–no more, no less. In the appropriate spaces provided, enter the requested information in English.
  • You will notice that most of the questions are self-explanatory. Provide the correct information all the time. When it comes to fields where an answer from you is not applicable, choose the “does not apply” option.
  • In case you plan to be away in the course of your online application, you may save your application temporarily until you are back so you may start where you previously left off. Remember that if the online application remains inactive for 20 minutes or more, your session will expire and all the data you previously entered will be lost.
  • If you are using a public computer, make sure that you delete the file after you are done.
  • Print the confirmation page and bring it with you in the succeeding parts of the application process.

How long does it usually take to fill out the form online?

Usually, if you are ready with all the requirements before filling out the form, you may complete the online application within 15 to 40 minutes. Take note that the system will not allow you to submit the form unless you have filled in all the mandatory fields.

Step 3. Pay the B2 application fee. Presently, the visa fee is $160 and is non-refundable.  When paying for this fee, you have several options. It’s either you pay it electronically as a bank transfer or you pay it in cash at the designated CitiBank or Axis Bank in your place. It’s better if you create a profile at the U.S. visa service website first and select the Schedule Appointment option before making a payment if you want to make sure that you are paying the right amount and that your payment gets activated at the right time. Once you do this, the screen will show to you the payment options and will detail how you can initiate the payment. This fee is good for one year, so you have to take an appointment schedule within the year for your visa interview.

If you are from India, you can make your payment by any of the following ways:

  • Bank Electronic Payment via NEFT. Most Indian banks support the National Electronic Funds Transfer (NEFT). Log into your profile and get a unique account number where you will send your NEFT payment. Keep this number as you will need this in your interview appointment.
  • Mobile Payment. You may also pay your visa fee using the IMPS system on your mobile phone. The problem with this, however, is that you must be preregistered with your bank and have a valid MPIN. If you choose this payment option, you can initiate your IMPS payment by sending a text to the bank or by mobile banking application. As much as possible, enter the exact amount flashed on the payment confirmation screen to avoid delays in your scheduling appointment. Make sure also that you enter the correct Beneficiary MMID number and Beneficiary Mobile Number.

Once you have made the payment, wait for a text message reflecting your 12-digit IMPS reference number. You will use this number in scheduling your interview appointments. Make sure that you are able to finalize your schedule within three (3) hours of payment.

  • Over the counter Cash Payment. If the first two options don’t work for you, you may pay your fee at any CitiBank or Axis Bank branch in India or the DRUK Bank in Bhutan. Before going to any of these banks to make your payment, print first a U.S. visa fee collection slip from your online application profile. Bring this slip with you when you make your payment and wait for the bank to give you a receipt. You need the receipt number in setting up your visa interview online.

Step 4. Schedule your visa interview. After paying your fees, the next thing that you have to do is to schedule two (2) appointments. This part of the process includes your appointment with someone from the Offsite Facilitation Center (OFC) who will facilitate you in the Biometrics, including taking your fingerprints and photo; and your appointment with the Consulate or Embassy for the actual visa interview.

Here are the documents that you need in setting up your visa appointment:

  • Your passport, which should be valid for at least six (6) months beyond your intended period of stay in the U.S.
  • Your visa application fee payment receipt.
  • Your DS 160 confirmation page, which you printed out during the online application.
  • Your email address.

Once your documents are ready, you can finally set up a visa appointment. To do this, you may go to the US visa online appointment system to take an appointment schedule, or call the following numbers: +912267209400/ +911206602222 /+13106165424 (USA local number). If you want to get your preferred date and time, then don’t wait until the last minute to book your interview.

Step 5. Schedule your fingerprinting appointment at the Visa Application Center (VAC). Once you have taken an appointment schedule with the embassy or consulate for the personal interview, it’s time to schedule the fingerprinting appointment. You must schedule this appointment at least one or two days before your actual interview at the consulate. You may ask, what about the fingerprints taken in step 4?

Under the new rules, your fingerprints must be taken not just at the Offsite Facilitation Center (OFC) but at the Visa Application Center (VAC) as well. This rule was introduced to ease the usual congestion at the U.S. consular facilities, as well as to expedite the processing of applications. Make sure that you schedule your visa interview appointment at the embassy or consulate first before your appointment at the VAC.

Step 6. Appear at the US consulate for your personal visa interview. On the date and time of your scheduled appointment at the US consulate, go to the consulate with all the required documents. Don’t forget to bring any of the following on the day of your interview:

  • Your photograph
  • Your passport, including your old passport/s
  • The DS 160 confirmation page stamped at the VAC
  • The receipts verifying your visa application fee payments
  • Your interview appointment letter
  • Other supporting documents

Today, around 7 out of 10 applications for a U.S. visa get approved, which is equivalent to 70% approval rate. If you worry about not getting your U.S. visa, just keep in mind that honesty is the key. Usually, individuals who fail to get approval from the U.S. consulate are those who falsify their documents and commit fraud in their applications. Just be true in disclosing all the required information in your application process and you can be almost sure that you are one step closer to getting to the U.S.

Sanjiv subscriber