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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.