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How To: Get a US Tourist Visa

If you have ever dreamed of traveling to the United States and wish to visit all of its wonders, our guide on How To: Get a US Tourist Visa will help you make that dream come true. Check it out!

Are you tired of seeing the Statue of Liberty, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas or Walt Disney World only in pictures and movies? The time has come for you to get down to work and learn How To: Get a US Tourist Visa. For that purpose, we bring you this guide so that you can dare to dream big and add this one to your list of visited countries.

To begin, it is important to highlight that the Tourist Visa to enter the United States is in the same category as the business visa (visitor visa, category "B"), so it is the same procedure used to request that one. Also, if the purpose of your trip is more consistent with this previous type of application, you can clear things up by reading our How To: Get a US Business Visa.

It has to be emphasized that if you are sure you know the type of visa you're going to need for your entrance to the US, the process is a little simpler: you should only gather the documents and meet the requirements asked by the embassy or consulate corresponding to your country of origin.

Oh, I wasn't expecting to see so many people here! (Source: Pixabay)

On the other hand, you should always be alert as to scammers and con-artists who want to take advantage of the needs of others. So BE CAREFUL! Prepare your paperwork without giving your private information to ANYONE and avoid involving third parties in your legal document errands. Do not fall for the deception of the "Green Card lotteries" or similar offers that are abundant on the Internet, none of them are authentic.

Moreover, foreign citizens who require the precious stamp in their passports to visit this nation can claim either an electronic visa (an authorization processed completely online), one issued upon arrival or one processed by the US Embassy in the country of origin (visitors must request it before traveling).

Section I - General Information

One of the fundamental aspects that you need to know if you want to enter this global superpower, is that you must choose one of the different authorizations available for visitors. Among the most requested are: business visa (B-1), tourism (B-2) or a merger between these two (B-1/B-2). However, the maximum length of stay that is granted to each individual depends on the consulate or embassy officer, finally.

Likewise, the visa known as B-2 can only be applied to specific activities approved by the US embassy, which in this case include: visiting your loved ones, performing medical exams or receiving medical treatment for any health condition, attending any kind of event that does not generate any benefit or economic compensation (recreational, sports, educational - of short-term courses - social or others) go on vacation or sightseeing in the nation.

It is VERY important to know that for any type of "nonimmigrant" visa the most significant thing is to make it clear that you have strong ties with your country of origin (family, employment and housing), that is, the immigration officer should feel that your stay is temporary and that you have no intentions to cheat the system by remaining in the United States past your stay in any way.

In addition, when you choose to enter the country by using this method, it is advisable that you have on hand all of the documentation and possible resources which allow you to prove that you will only travel for business; that you have the required funds to cover your travel expenses; and that you are not planning to study, work or do something outside the limits of this authorization.

On the other hand, you are allowed to participate in certain procedures such as renting an apartment, opening a bank account, requesting a driver's license and renting a car.

Maybe if I look like this guy they will let me in... or not? (Source: Pixabay)

Now that I have described what this authorization is about, it is time to explain how to get a Tourist Visa to enter the USIt is worth stressing that for Americans ALL visitors are possible immigrants, so unfortunately, we are all guilty until proven otherwise.

Everything that you will find in this article can be verified on the official website of the US government that deals with consular matters, although the order of this sequence may change slightly from one consulate to another, as well as some details. Because of this, you should always check the website of the US consulate in your country of origin, besides obtaining more accurate information about your specific country.

Section II - Applying for the Visa

OMG, I almost had a heart attack... but I was reading it upside down! (Source: Pixabay)

Before explaining what steps you should take to apply for a Tourist Visa, it is imperative to highlight the fact that there are international agreements that the USA has established with certain countries to allow the entry of its citizens without a visa. However, the permitted stay times vary from one nation to another.

Furthermore, before making your request you must ensure that the purpose of your trip is consistent with the rules established for this type of visa, without forgetting that there is a Visa Waiver Program for citizens of certain countries (as long as their stay is less than 90 days).

The Visa Waiver Program (or VWP) is very useful for travelers from 37 countries in total, these are: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marine, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Taiwan should be included among these nations, although these relations with that country are not officially established. On the other hand, citizens from the United Kingdom who want to travel under this program must have the unlimited right of permanent residence in the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland and England; according to the agreements mandated between this nation and the United States.

Therefore, people exempt from the requirement of the US Visa as visitors must have a permit issued through the Electronic Travel Authorization System (known as ESTA) prior to leaving their place of origin.

However, to be able to choose this permit, you must meet certain requirements: have the nationality of any of the countries mentioned above; not have citizenship, permanent residence or have visited (since March 2011) nations that are or have been in war with the USA (Syria, Libya, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Iraq or Yemen); not have "denied" status in a previous application.

If, on the other hand, you do not meet these requirements, you must complete the procedure to request a visitor visa (like the rest of us, mortals). So, the immigration authorities of the United States strongly suggest to citizens who use this route to enter the country to corroborate their current situation in that system previously, to avoid any inconvenience before traveling.

For more information about the ESTA, and if you qualify to make your personal request, I invite you to visit their official website.

But if the purpose of your trip is to study, do business or seek permanent residence, then you must apply for the specific visa for each of these purposes.

Step 1. Online Visa Application

My mommy is too slow, it would be better if I do it by myself. (Source: Pixabay)

If you are going to apply for a tourist visa for the first time or if you are going to renew the one that you currently have, you have to know that the same procedure is performed as explained below.

First, you must access the Travel.state.gov website and look for the visa section, and then enter the "Tourism & Visit" site, which will take you to the "Visitor Visa B" area. Here you will find the form known as DS-160, which you must complete VERY carefully.

After filling out this form correctly, you will receive a confirmation that has a ten-digit barcode. You will have to print this document. It is obligatory to take this printed form with you on the day of your interview with the consular officer, as well as having sent a digital photograph that meets the specifications required for this type of visa. These can be found on the official website.

It is important to clarify that the waiting time for the assignment of the appointment will depend on the nationality of each applicant, including a lapse between a couple of days and a couple of months, even. Also, if you have questions or doubts about any part of this process, the US government has a great website for users around the world.

Note: In the case of people with Mexican nationality or permanent residence in that country, there is a permit known as "Border Crossing Card" (or "laser visa") that has been combined with the Tourist Visa to expedite the procedures. This document is called DSP-150. For their part, people from Bermuda and Canada don't need the precious stamp to enter this powerful nation. In addition, those who hold Chinese passports with valid visas for a decade have to keep their personal data updated in order to renew their visas, through the Electronic Visa Update System (known as EVUS), every two years or at renew your passport or visitor visa.

Step 2. Schedule Your Appointment for the Interview

(Source: Pixabay)

For the next step, you must pay the fees corresponding to the visa appointment request, which is $160 USD; although there are charges or additional taxes (such as the issuance of the authorization) that may be added depending on the country of origin of the applicant.

It must be emphasized that this money will not be returned in any case, regardless of whether the visa was approved or rejected.

This payment is valid for one year, so you must schedule an appointment in a shorter time. The payment methods vary from one country to another, since in some it is paid electronically (through a bank transfer) or in cash, according to the banks that are in the country and the agreements between banking entities and consulates.

After paying this tax, you must schedule the appointment for your interview in the nearest consulate to your place of residence in your country of origin, although you are able to request it from another nation. However, this is a tougher option with a higher risk of rejection.

This interview is implemented for all people who apply for the visa (generally, applicants who are under 14 years old or over 79 years old are not requested for it), and the time you will wait for it to take place varies from one country to the next. This process comprises a lapse of a couple of days up to a couple of months even.

Step 3. Preparing for Your Interview

I'm going to meditate while I drink my morning coffee. (Source: Pixabay)

The preparation for the appointment is really important since a good preparation will increase your chances of success, for which it will help to have all the documents in order and in one folder.

Remember: that for consular officers, any excuse may be good enough for not approving the visa and if something seems remotely suspicious, they will deny you.

Although the citizens of some countries, such as Europeans, have a much easier time when requesting to enter and stay in the States, the fact is that people from all over the world can enter if they do things right according to the laws. Do not be discouraged!

This way, after paying the tax and making the appointment for the interview at the US consulate, it is essential that you bring your valid passport (which must have at least 6 months validity after finishing the date of your stay in this nation).

In addition to this, you have to bring the confirmation form that you previously filled (DS-160) with you, the proof of payment of the $160 fee and a photograph according to the specifications given on the website (to avoid any problem with the one you digitally sent or in case you couldn’t upload this picture to the system).

You could also be asked for other documents to prove that you will respect the length of your journey and that your stay in the United States will only be temporary (yes, this is indispensable).

You should take other documents with you demonstrating the intention of your trip (an invitation from a US citizen living there, an email from the hospital which is treating your illness, or other similar papers), which proves that you have the required funds to cover the expenses of your stay (bank references and/or recent financial statements, preferably of the last 6 months).

With these papers you must also prove that you have strong ties that bind you to your country of origin and you have every intention of returning to it as soon as the approved deadline is met (verification of employment or business plans in your country, real estate registered in your name, utility bills, documentation which states that you will return for your family, among several others). It is preferable that you bring the originals and copies of the documents with you.

Step 4. Attending Your Interview

Smile... Be natural... Don't forget to breathe... Stop shaking... It's not THAT hard. (Source: Pixabay)

Our first and most important recommendation - Try not to get nervous! After all, it is not a criminal trial, not by a long chalk. What will happen initially is that a consular officer will interview you, check if you meet the requirements to visit the US and approve the visa you have requested (or deny it, but you can still apply for it again).

Usually, they only take two or three minutes to make their decision, but they also register your fingerprints digitally (without ink). Sometimes the process may require a little more paperwork (administrative processes), so the waiting time to get your interview with the consulate officer could be a bit longer.

If everything went as you expected and your visa was approved (Congratulations!), it is likely that you will have to pay an additional tax for the issuance of the visa, but this will depend on your country of origin.

The duration of visa processing - that is, when you have your sealed passport back - will also depend on your nationality. However, this can be verified at the US consulate or embassy in your country.

Note: Remember to dress appropriately at the consulate or embassy (some people forget to).

Step 5. After the Approval of Your Visa

YESSSSSSSS! We made it! (Source: Pixabay)

It is extremely important that you don’t buy your airline ticket until they have approved and stamped the visa in your passport because if it is denied this will bring you some inconvenience and/or expenses which you could avoid if you wait to have your approval seal stamped.

On the other hand, it is strongly recommended that the departure from that country be made before the expiration date of your visa, with the exception of its revocation or cancellation prior to this date.

In case your passport is no longer valid and the visa has been stamped on a page of it, you must present both documents (the expired passport and the new one) with all your personal information identical. DO NOT tear out the page where the visa is placed.

If even following all this procedure your visa is denied by the admission officer, you can make a new application within a reasonable time, as long as you can demonstrate that the reason whereby it was denied the first time has changed.

Section III - Additional Information

It is worth stressing that the approval of the visa allows you, as a visitor, to travel to this North American nation; however, it does not assure you that you will be able to enter its territory (leave the port or airport).

At this point, we are assuming you have followed the rules and had the right mindset and cooperation for things to go well - in this case, the officers of the Customs and Border Protection Office (CBP) will give you a form known as I-94 or an admission stamp to register your entry to the United States, as well as your exit. That's it! You are now free to enter the United States!

I recommend you to take a look around the CBP website so that you know which items are prohibited and/or restricted for entry into the nation. In addition, you have to know what things you must declare at customs (such as the amount of money you are carrying with you if it is over $10,000 USD - not only in cash but in checks or other currencies, although not in credit or debit cards).

Otherwise, if you want or need to stay longer in the United States, it is necessary that you request an extension of your stay in advance and not letting that the term of the visa expires. In principle, this permit guarantees your stay in this country for 6 months although, if you need or want to stay for a longer time, you can request an extension of up to one year. A primary requirement to request authorization is to prove to consular officials that you have the necessary economic resources to cover your expenses during the time the extension lasts and the return to your country of origin. Failing to do so may cause legal consequences and lead to deportation.

(Source: Pixabay)

It is also possible that your plans change while you remain in this nation as a visitor, for example: if you receive an offer of employment or you have decided to get married to a US citizen.

In this case, you must do all of the legal paperwork related to this decision and make a request before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), by entering their website and following the instructions explained there. We recommend that you do this before your visa stay time has ended.

If you have any questions, I invite you to visit the websites that I have mentioned in this post and the US consulate or embassy website in your country. Now, you can contribute to us by answering the following...

Have you traveled to the United States using this visa?

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Maria Wanderer

Co-Founder. Lead Content Creator (Spanish). Licensed in Chemistry. Scientist by profession. Curious from birth. Traveler by passion. Writer by calling. In love with the very essence of existence and thrilled with the idea of helping others reach their dreams and fulfill their life's desires.

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