Tips on Getting a USA Visa

Getting a visa for America is not easy for everyone. Why? The process is a bit different and lot of people do not know the process. I had a few problems in figuring out things and I hope this post will help lot of my readers on getting a visa for the US.

First, let me tell you guys that consulting a travel agent for a US visa is of no use. I consulted around 4 of them and they all did nothing but increased all complications for me. One of them told me not to apply as I won’t get it. So don’t ask these guys. All they’ll do is confuse you more. I applied for a business visa and the process is same for all non-immigrant visas for US. My visa got approved and I got a 10 years multiple entry B1/B2 visa. In this post I am trying to help people to know the US Visa process. Here is the process:

  1. Fill up the DS-160 form by going to the US Department of State website. This is the ONLY way of applying for a US Visa so don’t think that you can skip this step.
  2. Enter all the information yourself. Again, if you ask a travel agent to do your visa, he will fill this information which can lead to lot of problems. If you are filling the form for your parents, make them sit next to you and explain them about each and every field. The DS-160 form is very important, you’ll get to know why this is so important later in this post. Once you fill and submit the form, you will get a CEAC bar code. Take a copy of this page using a laser printer. I am not sure but they say that people are sent back if this print is not on laser printer.
  3. Go to the nearest HDFC bank branch and pay the visa fees (around Rs 7100). They’ll give you two slips. In my case one was a yellow slip and the other was pink.
  4. Once you have the slip, schedule for an interview date by going to the VFS USA website. Do not panic if you don’t get a date quickly. You need to keep on trying to get an interview date. DO NOT take a date if its just 3-4 days after the current date. If you don’t see a recent date then wait for a couple of days and try again. More dates will open up later so don’t worry. Once you schedule your interview, you will have to take a print of the interview letter.

Most of the above process is pretty simple and needs to be followed by everyone who is applying for a non-immigrant visa. Now comes the documents part. Please note that there is no list of MUST REQUIRED documents here. You can get a visa even without submitting a single document and you might get denied even by submitting all the documents in the world. So the rule here is to be prepared with all the documents.

What documents are needed for application of a US Visa?

There are no set rules here. We need to understand what the Visa Officer (VO) needs and thus we have to prepare ourselves accordingly. This is what US consulate expects from you:

Strong Ties With The Country – This means that you are not going to the US forever. You will return back. To make the VO believe that you will come back to your Home country, you need to provide some documents. Some documents that work:

  • Marriage certificate. (You will probably come back because you have a wife/husband back Home)
  • Proof that you have children back home (birth certificates).
  • Proof that you have some assets here (shares, mutual funds, property papers, Life Insurance, Gold etc.). Get a summary of all your assets on a paper with proper valuation done from a CA. This helps but is not compulsory.
  • Proof that you have parents here along with other family members. (Indians usually have strong emotional ties with family members, especially parents. So this does work in your favor).

Purpose of visit – This is very important. You need to explain the exact purpose of your visit along with letters on who will be sponsoring the trip. The consulate does not want you to go to US and later say that you don’t have money while in their country. Documents that can work are:

  • People applying for Business Visa (B1) can take their employment record with current company, an invitation letter from the company in US or any other relevant documents. In my case, I took a print of the Affiliate Summit East 2010 pass.
  • People applying for a tourist visa need a sponsorship letter from someone in US. They can also show bank balance, business/work papers of the person staying in US.
  • Your last 3 months IT returns along with your bank statement. Bank statement can be very vital if you are sponsoring your visit. Do not try and do some cosmetic changes to your bank account by transferring huge lot of money from  someone else. The VO will look at your bank balance to check if you have been earning money consistently. Any cosmetic changes can get you in trouble so avoid doing that. Ignore people who say that you need loads of money in your account.

You may prepare more or less documents depending on the exact purpose of your visit.

Once you have all your documents ready, get ready for the Interview.

If you are in Mumbai, you need to visit the Visa application center at least 3 days before your interview date and submit a few documents. Note that you need not submit everything. Just a few documents as listed below:

  • Passport photo copy.
  • The yellow HDFC bank slip.
  • Visa Interview letter.

The Interview

Try and reach one hour before the interview time. Do not carry cell phones or any other electronic device. I don’t know if how good does this work but lot of people say that wearing formal clothes helps. During my Interview, I did not see a single person dressed in casuals so better dress in a formal wear. Don’t get nervous if lot of people are denied a visa. The best thing to do is avoid talking to anyone and just think about what you will say to the Visa officer.

Take all the originals as well as photo copies of your documents. You are only allowed to carry plastic bags so make sure you don’t bring any of the other form of bags. You will be asked to go through a security check and then for finger printing. Please note that all the documents remain with you all the time. The officials will just take your passport and the Interview letter and give you a token. Just wait till your number is called.

Once your number is called, you will enter a small cabin like structure where there will be a window through which you will be talking to the Visa Officer. First, greet the visa officer and ask him/her on how is he or she. My VO asked me if its raining outside  and I replied saying ‘Thank God its not. I haven’t got an Umbrella’. She started smiling and that was a good start for an important conversation. The VO will ask you questions on why you are going to US, where will you stay, what places will you visit, who stays with you back home etc. Answer all the questions with a smile and confidence. The VO might or might not ask for documents as proof for whatever you are saying. In my case, the VO DID NOT ASK FOR A SINGLE DOCUMENT. No letters, no bank statements…nothing.

If you remember, earlier in this post I said that the DS-160 form is very important. If we look back at the documents we submitted, the visa officer only has the DS-160 form and the passport. This means a visa can be approved just by the information entered in the Ds-160 form and the interview. So keep all the information in your mind and try to collect as many details on where are you going, why are you going and how will it help you. People applying for tourist visa need to know the exact places where they will be visiting. I heard a man in his fifties telling someone that his visa is denied. This man had applied for a tourist Visa and the VO asked him about some places he is planning to visit. The man answered that he is not sure of the places as he will be going on a tour package. They don’t want you to go to places you don’t know anything about. Simple!

Two very important things for US Visa application:

  1. Completely understand and inform the VO on why you are planning to visit US. You need to know the places you will visit, people you will meet and in some cases they might ask as to why only you should go. Explain how you or your company will be benefited on this visit. Lot of Visas are denied because people have very little information on their purpose and plans for the visit.
  2. Make the VO believe that you will return back. The VO might ask questions like, What if you get a job there? Don’t show your interest in a job in US and don’t show any signs of connecting to the US forever. They want you to visit US for a purpose and return back.

Follow the simple process, be honest and you will get your USA visa for sure.

Please ask questions in the comments sections below.

38 Responses to Tips on Getting a USA Visa

  1. Loved reading this and I am sure many will love it too. You have been fortunate to get it at the first attempt as I know of many people with clean credentials having their applications rejected for apparnetly no logic or reason. I am sure, the Visa officers have compelling reasons in deciding against their favor. Happy Bon Voyage!

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  2. Nice detailed post. I guess I’m lucky to be in Canada as we do not need a visa to visit the U.S. Matter of fact, I went into the States last weekend to fill up gas. It was much cheaper.

  3. Hi,
    Nice to read ur experience. I want to know that if a H1B visa is rejected just 1 or 2 years back how to convince VO that you would return back if you get B1. I am just little curious.

    • Your reason for the visit has to be convincing enough for the VO to believe that you will come back. You need some real strong reason in case your wife/husband is in US. The same reason can be a strong reason for you to come back in case your spouse is in India.

  4. Hi Thanks for prompt reply Harshad. Ok actually this is the scene i am applying for B1 by my company which is a german co and has a branch in India. I am at sebnior post. I have no intention to change my base as i am married and have kids. But i have worked in other asian countries on work visa though i have come back always. Recently i had applied for H1 in 2009 by a consultant i dont know whether he really applied on my behalf though i got the denial status from USICS website by entering the application Receipt number. I am not able to convince to myself that what i would tell VO about this H1 where i was trying to be a potential immigrant but dont know whether that consultant applied as i did not pay any deposit amt which they asked for. Now i have good job and my co is sponsoring this visit for 2 weeks. I am just not aware how to go ahead. Can you help pls.

    • 1. I am not sure if there is a pre-process for H1 but if there is any then maybe you got rejected in that.

      2. There is no need to inform the VO about your H1 visa. I don’t think it ever made it to them.

      3. You have a very strong reason to get a B1 visa. Your plus point is that you have a family back in India. Get birth certificates of your kids along with your marriage certificate. Try and inform the VO about your family through a conversation, even if he or she does not ask. Don’t show any signs of staying in the US and also have a good reason on why only you from your organisation should go.

      All the best. Keep us posted.

  5. hi

    Shall i not mention about H1 visa at all? i just came across this section about past US visa. i mentioned about B1 visa refusal 11 yrs back but not about H1 what if they ask me about h1 and why i did not mention?

    • I would recommend you to contact the person through whom your H1 was applied. Ask him at what stage was it rejected and then act accordingly.

  6. hi they had asked for RFE and then denial had come. thats what i know. would this stage of denial matter? i mean its very early i think.

  7. Hi Harshad
    Its really nice blog, hope everybody loves it.
    Well. I am am an indian working in Canada my family is yet in India. i dont have any sponsor in the USA and need to apply for US visa from Canada for visit, travel and most importantly for Canadian permanent residency interview purpose that I may or may not be called for. My Canadian Permanent residency application is being processed at Buffalo,USA that may be transfered to New york, Detroit or siattle as well. In rare cases we are called for an interview so i was thinking to keep a US visa in hand. So would that possible interview be a good reason to tell them although yet I dont have a official call with letter for that.
    Thanks in advance

  8. Hello,thanks for your guide lines to get Us visa.am from nigeria and applying for B2 visa.having relate my tourist with my field.i will be attending a conference on my visiting.and am stil schooling in my country.do i have the chance of getting visa.

  9. Am satisfied with your article and still need more of it,it really motivating I want to believe at end of my interview I’ll be considered,av got my e-mail up deer and will appreciate you keep updating me God bless you

  10. hi Harshad, thanx a lot for a very useful post.
    I had applied for a Student visa in Feb 2011 and i got rejected twice. It was for a prep-course for an exam, so since i didnt get visa i prepped on my own and gave the exam.
    This month i applied for B1 coz i wanted to go and give another exam which is only taken there.,in order for me to gain post-grad training but rejected again. This is ruining my plan to pursue further training in usa in my profession.
    What should I do?

    • B1 is for business… Do you run a business? What’s your age? Are you a full time student? If yes, then your visa will be rejected for sure. I am not sure about the student visa process, you can try and get some help from online forums. Why dont just apply for a B2 and tell them you are going there for a vacation and your parents (in case you are a student) are sponsoring the trip. But again, looking at your previous attempts might raise a red flag but you can still take a chance.

      This link might help you http://www.immihelp.com/visas/studentvisa/student-visa-faq.html

  11. I have been denied a US visa 4x, 2 for tourist visa and 2 for H2B which happened nov 2007.
    Now i am married,have a son, properties, business and my husband is a govt employee.
    My mom and 1 brother is a US citizen. I also a brother which the status is not ok yet.
    In this connection, do we have a chance of obtainng a US tourist i we apply again?

  12. do you think i would be considered for a b2 tourist visa if I want to bring my husband and 2 kids? do we all need visas or can one of us get the visa and bring the remaining family members?
    we want to move the kids to hawaii for their early childhood (btwn 5 and 10 yr visa we hope for) to teach them the culture there & provide them a more outdoor/healthy/active lifestyle. is this a reasonably acceptable reason to tell the VO why we want the b2 visa? we have all our family back in canada and the kids will eventually need to go to school and get jobs in canada so we have a reason to make our stay in the usa temporary. we have saved up and just want to spend time and money in the use and then come back to canada once we use up our savings. any tips for us?
    also does this mean we can get medical insurance in the sa if we have the visa?

  13. Hi my name is Karthik ur info was very helpful.i have a question.i am from India and I’m in Canada rite now.i came here on a student visa but not for masters.now I applied for us student visa.if vo asks me y don’t u plan to do MS in Canada instead of US?what is my answer?help me out bro

  14. hii ,i was rejected b1b2 visa on being single .im reapplying the visa n my interview happens to be at the end of this month .
    i wana know what r my chances ?
    thnx

  15. Hi Harshad,
    My wife and kid (2yrs) had appeared for B2 visa at mumbai on 23rd Mar and got rejected for first time. We are guessing the reson is she mentioned teh time period is 3 months and travelling is accompanied by husband (on B1). Should we try the visa again by mentioning now the stay would be just for 15 dyas and travelling alone? Could you please advise for this. The trip is purly for tourism purpose.
    Waiting for your response.

    Thanks
    Abhishek

    • I don’t think the no. of days can be a reason for rejection. Since when are you in the US on a B1? Have you overstayed there?

      If I look at this case as a VO – Husband entered US on a B1… now wants family to join. Good chance of trying to settle in US. Hence, try and convince the VO that your family is going to US to visit different places. Your wife should know names of the places and hotels where you guys will stay.

  16. Thanks for reply Harshad. No, I never overstayed in US. Now in current case, I am planing to go US for 3 months so we tried my family’s visa and we were going alltogether. The VO only asked you have mentioned 3 months in DS160 form and going with husband so I cannt grant visa to you.
    Colud you please help me out as we are planning to reapply.

    Thanks
    Abhishek

  17. Hi, I applied for the B1/B2 Visa to attend a conference in the USA. The interviewer took only my passport and no other documents. He gave me a pink slip written inside they need my travel history, CV and my addresses for the past 15 years. That was a month ago, any advices?

  18. Many thanks for your reply Harshad. I sent the documents and everything and now it is a month since the interview with no news. I am a speaker in the conference I applied for, and I am afraid of not getting the visa before that date. I started to losing hope as I checked other forums as well, which showed that mostly that the visa may take up to months.
    Anyway Thanks again for your reply.