Depending on the country your passport is from, you may need a visa when coming to the United States, even if it’s just a vacation. For non-immigrants, there are four main types of visas available:

  • Tourists
  • Business travelers
  • Students
  • Future spouses

United States Visa Process

When looking into a United States visa, start by verifying whether your country of citizenship is a participant in the United States Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

As a result, if your country is not on the list, the United States government requires that you apply for a nonimmigrant visa in order to travel to the United States.

Next, you want to determine what type of visa is applicable to your situation. Most people are visiting the United States on vacation or for work. If you are in one of these classes, you would need a B-1 or B-2 visa. The differences between these two visas include:

  • B-1 Visa: The B-1 Visa is applicable for travelers on business who need to attend a conference, meet with business customers, negotiate a contract, or probate an estate.
  • B-2 Visa: The B-2 Visa is for travelers who are on vacation or for someone who is attending an event, seeking medical treatment, or participating in an amateur contest where you receive no pay.

There is also a transit visa, which is not used very frequently. These are Transit C visas where people are traveling to a different country through the US. There is also a transit visa for international airlines crewmembers or sea vessels who are traveling to the country.

The U.S. visa application is the next step, and the process will vary based on the U.S. Consulate or Embassy where you are applying. Because of this, you need to follow the U.S. visa process for the country you are currently in.

No matter what country you are in, you will need to complete the form DS-160, have your photo taken, pay your visa application fee, and then schedule an interview.

Online Nonimmigrant Visa Applications

Form DS-160. is the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application form. and it’s required. This form is necessary for short-term, temporary travel to the United States. Additionally, it is used for people filing for the K Visa, or the fiancé visa.

You submit the DS-160 online to the Department of State website. The Consular Officers rely on this information to process your visa application. The officer may grant your visa after assessing your DS-160 and interviewing you.

After you file the form online, you must complete additional steps:

  • Print the barcode page of Form DS-160;
  • Schedule your visa interview appointment; and
  • Pay your U.S. visa application processing fee.

Visa Waiver Program

Currently, there are 38 countries that are participants in the United States’ Visa Waiver Program. This means you can visit the United States for a vacation or a business meeting without the need to go through the entire nonimmigrant visa process.

  • Start by verifying whether your country is eligible.
  • In order to use the Visa Waiver Program, you are required to have an e-Passport. This is the passport that has a chip embedded in the cover.
  • Next, you will need to complete your ESTA application. ESTA is the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, which will ascertain your eligibility to travel to the United States.
  • Pay the $4.00 processing fee. If approval is granted, you will pay a $10.00 authorization charge.
  • Once your application is filled out, you will receive an ESTA application number, which is used to verify the status of your application.

If you are approved under the Visa Waiver Program, you are allowed to visit the United States for business meetings, tourism, or conferences without a visa for up to 90 days.

Tips for Applying for a Nonimmigrant Visa

The new DS-160 form asks more questions than the original form, and they want additional details on your trip and the category of visa you are requesting. Some of the questions include:

  • Driver’s license and social security number (if you have previously been to the United States and have this information available).
  • The full names and immigration status of any immediate relatives who are in the United States.
  • Additional questions regarding security.

When you are starting your application process, it’s imperative you pick the right consulate. Otherwise, your information is entered into a different database and the application will be deemed invalid. If you have already started the process, you can either start a new one or upload a previously saved one to pick up where you left off.

The photo is an important part of your application and it’s important to verify whether yours is an acceptable version or not. You can do a test photo by uploading the photo, which has to be in .jpg format and less than 1 MB in size, to verify whether it would be accepted. The system will tell you whether the photo has been accepted or rejected. If it is rejected, it will provide you with the reasons for rejection.

Other Types of Nonimmigrant Visas

There are student and vocational visas that you can apply for through the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).

F-1 visas are for full-time international students pursuing their academic studies. An M-1 visa is for a full-time international student who is pursuing some type of vocational studies. The J-1 visa is for people wanting to participate in a work or study-based exchange program. This would be something like a research assistant or camp counselor.

Mexican and Canadian citizens have another option under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Professional visa. This type of visa grants the holder temporary entry into the country to engage in business activities at a professional level for up to three years. To apply, you have to have a letter from your future employer that confirms you are being offered a position of employment. From there, the process will vary based on whether you are a Mexican or Canadian citizen.

Immigration Attorneys in Waco, Texas

Whether you are traveling to the United States for a visit or are trying to live here permanently, it can be a huge legal undertaking. The US visa application process can be tricky.

If you are planning to visit the country, or are currently here and undocumented, the Waco immigration lawyers at the Law Offices of Simer & Tetens can help.

Contact us today and let us answer all your immigration law questions.


We will do our best to accommodate your busy schedule. Request a consultation today!

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