Are you from India and dreaming about visiting the US? Whether you’re thinking of a quick business trip, a vacation, studying, or planning to live there permanently, you are going to need a visa. And if you’re feeling a tad bit overwhelmed by the visa process, don’t worry! We’ve got you covered with this guide.
Know Your Visa Types
First off, you need to understand the two main categories of US visas:
- Immigrant Visa: If you’re looking to move to the US permanently, this visa is for you. It covers family-based, employment-based, or diversity visa lottery options.
- Non-Immigrant Visa: Planning a temporary visit? Whether it’s for business, tourism, studies, or medical treatment, this visa category is what you’ll apply for.
Note: India isn’t part of the Visa Waiver Program. This means even if you’re just visiting, you’ll need a visa.
Watch Out for Reasons for Visa Denials
Ensure you don’t have any criminal records. Also, if you’re deemed medically ineligible, that could be a barrier, too.
Application Do’s & Don’ts
- Children under 14 generally don’t need a visa interview, but their documents, like passports and birth certificates, are a must.
- Planning to give birth in the US for citizenship reasons? That’s a no-go.
- If your papers are not in English, get them translated. And not just by anyone – they need to be certified translations. This ensures the USCIS accepts them.
- If you’re going for business purposes, bring along proof like an approved petition or a notice of action.
- Double-check you’ve got all the needed documents for your visa type. And make sure you’re submitting the right form!
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How to Apply from India
Start with the online visa application, Form DS-160. Ensure your passport is good for at least 6 months more from your US stay end-date. Pay the visa fee, which has recently been updated to $185 or INR 15,540. Then, set up your interview at the closest US embassy. There are four in India: Hyderabad, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai. After that, get your photo ready as per US requirements and prepare for your interview. During this, they’ll ask about your travel plans, connections in India, finances, and more.
Which Documents Do You Need?
For Non-Immigrant Visas:
- Appointment confirmation
- DS-160 form printout
- Valid passport
- Ties to India: family, job, property proofs
- Visa fee receipt
- Relevant personal documents: marriage/divorce certificates, police reports, bank statements, etc.
For Immigrant Visas:
- Appointment confirmation
- DS-260 form printout
- Visa-type related papers: support affidavit, translations, etc.
- Medical report
- Visa fee receipt
- Relevant personal documents
Eligibility Criteria for US Visa
As an Indian citizen, it’s essential to understand the eligibility criteria for obtaining a US visa. Ensure you meet the following requirements:
- Valid Flight Ticket: Possess a valid flight ticket from India to the USA and a return ticket.
- Indian Passport: A valid Indian passport that covers the entire duration of your stay in the US.
- Financial Independence: Show proof of your financial capability to cover your expenses during your stay in the US.
- Purpose of Travel: A valid reason for your travel to the US.
- Clean Record: Ensure you don’t have a criminal record.
- Letter of Acceptance: From an employer or academic institution, if applicable.
- Comply with Other Visa Requirements: Make sure you adhere to all visa requirements, as mentioned earlier.
Paying US Visa Fees
Paying your visa fee is a vital step in the application process. Here’s how to do it:
- Choose the appropriate visa category (either immigrant or non-immigrant).
- Log into your online application platform.
- Select your specific visa type.
- Fill out the DS-160/DS-260 application form.
- Pay the visa fee using NEFT, IMPS, or cash over the counter at designated banks. Remember, debit cards or personal checks aren’t accepted.
- Schedule your appointment. Keep your supporting documents ready for uploading.
- Attend your interview at the Visa Application Centre (VAC).
- Check the status of your visa application and passport regularly.
US Visa Processing Time
The time it usually takes to process a US visa can vary. Some visas might be approved during your interview and processed within 7-10 working days. Others might need additional administrative processing, which can take up to 60 days post-interview.
What if Your Visa is Refused?
There are various reasons for visa denial, like having a criminal record or not meeting specific visa criteria. If your visa is refused, understand the reason and consider reapplying.
Validity of Your US Visa
The expiration date on your visa isn’t your leave-by date from the US. The actual date you’re expected to depart is determined by the CBP upon your arrival in the US.
US Visa Photo Requirements
Ensuring your photo meets US visa standards is critical. Here are some guidelines:
- Size & Format: The photo must be 2×2 inches. Your head should measure between 1-1 3/8 inches from chin to top.
- Quality: Opt for a coloured photo against a white or off-white backdrop. Make sure it’s recent (within 6 months).
- Facial Expression & Position: Maintain a neutral expression. Ensure a full-face view facing the camera.
- Appearance & Clothing: Dress as you usually would. Avoid uniforms, barring daily-worn religious attire. Refrain from wearing hats or headgear that conceal your hair except for religious reasons.
- Eyeglasses: Since Nov 1, 2016, eyeglasses aren’t allowed.
- Retouching: Don’t digitally enhance or alter the photo.
The US visa process might seem tricky, but with the right information, you’ll be fine. Always check the US Embassy’s official website in India for the newest updates. Remember, proper preparation is key, and this guide is here to help you out! Also note there are different types of translation for different countries such as NAATI translation and USCIS translation .