A visa is a document that you must apply for prior to travelling to the USA for any reason. The visa may be authorised or not authorised. Although you may receive an authorisation, entry to the USA is not guaranteed ultimately the final decision lays with the U.S Immigration Officer on duty at your port of entry.
The type of visa that you will require is dependent upon your reason for travel. It is important that you spend some time researching and understanding which visa is relevant to you.
Understanding which visa is right for your circumstance can seem daunting as there are many different types of visas for the USA. Some visas are less complex than others therefore it is imperative to seek legal advice to ensure that you are applying for the correct visa
Visitor visas are classed as non-immigrant visas which means that this type of visa is for a temporary stay only. However, there are different types of visitor visas:
This visa is not issued for the purpose of carrying out paid employment of any kind whilst in the USA. This visa is applicable to those who are travelling to the USA for the purpose of conducting and/or finalising business activities. For example; if you are travelling to the USA for business meetings, purchase of real estate, conferences or settling an estate then you will require the B-1 visa to travel.
Whilst in the USA you may not receive any form of monetary compensation for any business activities however an organisation based within the USA may pay for your trip including flights and accommodation.
This visa is applicable to those wishing to visit the USA for the purpose of tourism. Applicants who are eligible for the visa waiver programme need only apply for a B-2 visa if their application for an ESTA was denied or if they plan on staying in the USA for more than 90 days in one trip.
This type of visa covers a wide range of activities that you are permitted to partake in whilst in the USA such as; visiting friends/relatives, holidays, receiving medical treatment, performing in amateur activities relating to sports/music/similar providing there is no monetary compensation or prize or to attend a short course such as a 2-day arts class whilst on holiday.
However, you are prohibited from a multitude of activities whilst travelling on a B-2 visa and should you be found to be partaking in these your visa may be revoked and you may be deported from the USA.
Prohibited activities include but are not limited to, taking employment, studying, working, journalism and setting up permanent residence.
Applications for this type of visa may be started online via a DS-160.
You will be required to go to an interview at the U.S Embassy or a Consulate General depending on where you live.
The interview is compulsory and the only exception to this rule is to open to those who are under 14 and those who are 80 or over. If you are excused the interview you will be asked to apply via courier.
If authorised a B-1 Business visa is typically valid for a maximum of 10 years however you must stay in the USA for longer than 6 months at any one time any exception to this rule is rare and would only be considered if there was solid evidence to persuade CIMS (Citizenship & Immigration Services) that there were exceptional circumstances.
If your application is successful your passport will typically be returned to you via courier and this generally takes 5-7 working days to reach you. Should your application be unsuccessful it can take more than 6 months for your application to be processed.
You will need to produce documentation at your interview such as:
- A valid undamaged passport or an accepted travel document. The passport or document must be valid for 6 months after your proposed trip to the USA ends (except for UK passport holders).
- The passport must have at least 1 blank page because the visa is printed directly into your passport, a secondary blank page is advisable so that this can be stamped on entry to the USA.
- A recent passport size photograph unless you have previously successfully uploaded one whilst completing DS-160.
- A copy of the confirmation page of the DS-160.
- Proof of the ability to support yourself whilst in the USA.
- A copy of your appointment confirmation page.
- Proof of payment, if you have paid prior to your interview.
- Proof of previous visas that you have been granted.
- Proof of any previous deportations or refused visas.
- Proof of your intended activities within the USA such as formal invitations to conferences and/or business meetings.
- Police certificate otherwise known as an ARCO detailing any previous convictions/cautions. This is required because the Rehabilitation Act does not apply in the USA.