US Tourist Visa – A Comprehensive Guide
USA boasts being one of the top 10 international tourist destinations in the world, with approximately 76.9 million tourist arrivals in 2017 alone, according to the United Nation World Tourism Organization. The figure is expected to shoot up to 2.3 billion trips in 2019! This only highlights the popularity of America among global tourists.
Non-immigrant visas are issued to all those who wish to visit the United States for business (B1 visa), for tourism (B2 visa) or both. Here’s a brief guide on the tourist visa for the US.
How to get US Tourist Visa?
The B2 visa is meant for recreational travel to the United States, meaning that people who wish to visit the country to meet friends and relatives, see the famous sites or get medical treatment need to apply for this visa type. You can also participate in non-paid activities, such as musical events, sports tournaments or any other similar event with a B2 visa.
A tourist visa is valid for a period between one month and ten years. It allows single, dual and multiple entries. The maximum period of stay is six months, each time you enter the US.
How to Apply for US Tourist Visa
The first step is to fill the DS-160 Form online. It is important to ensure that the information you provide is accurate to the best of your knowledge. Misrepresenting any data can lead to the cancellation of your visa application. Apart from this, a digital photo is mandatory to complete the form.
How to Fill US Visit Visa Application
You will need to provide information, such as your name (as it appears on your passport), date of birth, passport details, date of issue and expiry of your passport and so on. You will also need to fill in details of your family, such as the names of your parents, their occupation, mailing address and their income. Apart from these, your residential address and the last date of your travel to the United States is required.
On submitting the completed form, you will need to pay the visa fee, which is $160 for a B2 visa. This fee is non-refundable, meaning that you won’t get it back if your application is rejected. Once you pay the fee, you will get a receipt, which will be required for the next steps in the process.
Now, you will need to fix two appointments: one to provide your biometric information, such as fingerprints and photo; and another for the visa interview at the US embassy or consulate.
Documents Required for US Visa
- Original passports, with at least six months validity beyond the intended period of stay in the US
- Old passports, if any
- Digital and hard copies of your photograph, meeting all visa photograph requirements
- A stamped confirmation page of the DS-160 form
- A valid fee payment receipt
- Appointment confirmation letter for the visa interview
Supporting Documents Required for US Visa
It is advisable to never present false documents at any stage of the process, since it could result in permanent visa ineligibility. Also remember, original documents carry more weight than photocopies. There is no provision of fax or email. You have to be physically present with the documents at the embassy or consulate for each appointment.
To support your case, bring the following documents:
- Complete travel itinerary, with other proofs of the planned trip
- Proofs of your current income and tax payments, assets and property
- Solid evidence of the fact that your stay is temporary and for a specific reason
- Criminal records or records of arrest and conviction, even if you have completed your sentence or you were released later
- If you are a student, bring your latest results and other relevant documents, such as degrees and diplomas. Monthly bank statements and fixed deposit slips can be brought as financial evidence.
- If you are visiting a relative, you are required to produce proof of their status in the US, such as green card, naturalization certificate, valid visa, etc.
- If you will be attending a family event, an invitation to the event is required. Apart from that, any proof of an event that you will be attending, such as brochures, can add value to your application.
Lastly, if you have been to the US previously, any document related to your previous visit visa can help.
Questions Asked at US Tourist Visa Interview
To give you an idea, here are some common questions asked at US Visa interview, at the consulate.
- Why do you want to go to the US?
- Have you been to the United States before?
- Which places are you planning to visit?
- Can you stay for a shorter period of time?
- What is your annual income?
- How can you assure us that you will come back home?
- Do you have relatives in the US?
- Where do you plan to stay?
If your purpose of visit is to seek medical treatment in America, you will be required to produce documents that verify this, such as:
- A medical diagnosis from your local physician, explaining the nature of your illness, along with the reason why you require treatment in the US.
- A letter from a physician in the US agreeing to treat you, including details like the expected length and cost of treatment. The cost should include doctors’ fees, hospitalization charges and all other medical-related expenses.
- Proof that your personal expenditures, like transport and living expenses, will be covered. This needs to be submitted in the form of bank statements or proof other forms of income.
Questions to Expect at the Medical Visa Interview
- Can you tell us about your medical condition?
- Why can’t it be treated in your own country?
- What will the whole process cost approximately?
- Do you have any medical records indicating the disease?
If you are suffering from any contagious diseases, you might be barred from entering the US.
You also need to produce evidence that your stay in the US is temporary and you have strong ties in your home country that will compel you to return. For this, you can bring documents showing social and economic ties to your home country.
Activities Allowed Under US Tourist Visa
- Genuinely visiting relatives and spending a short period of time with them.
- Meeting any elderly person who is terminally or otherwise ill.
- Attending a wedding, baby shower, graduation, etc.
It is important to convince the consular officer that the events are related to someone who is close to you. You might be denied a visa if you are going to meet someone who you have not met in a long time and someone’s whose whereabouts you are not aware of.
Activities Not Allowed Under US Visit Visa
- If you are a potential student, you will not be allowed to enter the US on a tourist visa and then change it into a student visa after arrival. However, if you want to attend short courses, like a dance course or maybe a few yoga classes, you can specify the same at the time of application. This way, you can get a “Study incidental to visit: I-20 not required” stamp on your visa to avoid any issues while you are in America.
- If you work for the media, including press, radio, film, etc., you will not be allowed to travel to the US on a tourist visa. You require a Media(I) visa.
- You cannot attempt to work in restaurants, gas stations and so in the US under a tourist visa.
Even if it is a non-paid job, you are not authorized to work at such places.
- If you have other intentions, apart from those that are allowed, such as marriage, starting a business, etc., under a tourist visa, you could be deported and even banned from re-entering the US. The consular officers can easily find out dual intentions and reject your visa application.
- If you have taken admission in a school or college, you cannot start your academic course on a tourist visa.
It is highly advisable to inform the consular officer of your real intentions of visiting America. If your application gets rejected in the first attempt, avoid making up other reasons for visiting, just to qualify for a visa. The officers are highly experienced and can easily detect lies. If you are caught red-handed, this will be noted in your records and it might put you in unnecessary troubles.
How to Extend US Tourist Visa?
To extend your visit visa, you will need to file a request with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) via the I-539 form, well ahead of the expiry of your current visa. A fee of $370 is levied for such requests. The extension process should be completed at least 45 days prior to your current visa’s expiry date.
To extend your stay, you will be required to prove that you wanted to leave the US within the stipulated time, but unexpected circumstances have forced you to prolong your visit. An additional extension of six months could be granted to you.
The most common reasons for visa rejection include insufficient proof of funds or an unsure travel plan. So, make sure you plan things well before starting the visa application process.