Applying for a tourist visa for USA? If you want to visit the United States, you need to start by applying for a visa. While your passport serves as identification upon entering the country, a visa is the U.S. government’s method of approving your visit. It is not always clear which visa you should apply for, however. The process can be confusing for first-timers as the United States has dozens of different options.

Some of the most popular options for people seeking a temporary stay in the U.S. fall under nonimmigrant visas. The term “nonimmigrant” refers to a desire to visit rather than settle permanently, making these especially useful for tourists. The nonimmigrant B2 visa is known as the “tourist visa”.

What is a B2 Visa?

A visa is required for entry to the United States for most citizens of foreign countries. Nonimmigrant visas — also called “visitor visas” — are for visitors who are looking to stay temporarily. There are two types of visitor visas: B1 and B2. The B1 visa is for visitors seeking short-term business opportunities in the United States. The B2 visa is for visitors seeking tourism in the United States.

While the B2 Visa is known as the Tourist Visa, it is not limited to those on holiday. It also expands to cover visitors who are receiving medical treatment or participating in volunteer services, among other activities.

The United States Department of State lists the following as examples of activities permitted with a Tourist Visa:

  • Tourism
  • Vacation (holiday)
  • Visit with friends or relatives
  • Medical treatment
  • Participation in social events hosted by fraternal, social, or service organizations
  • Participation by amateurs in musical, sports, or similar events or contests, if not being paid for participating
  • Enrollment in a short recreational course of study, not for credit toward a degree (for example, a two-day cooking class while on vacation)

How to Apply for a Tourist Visa

There are multiple steps involved in applying for a tourist visa and they can vary from embassy to embassy. There is a general framework across all locations, however, and you can view the required steps on each embassy’s website. Most tourist visa applications will require three main steps:

  1. Submit online visa application with headshot photo;
  2. Schedule and attend embassy interview; and
  3. Provide required documentation at the interview.

Documentation Needed to Apply

Travelers above the age of 13 years old are typically interviewed at a U.S. Embassy before their B2 visa application is approved. Make sure you have the following documents before you apply as you will need to present them at your interview:

  • Passport – You must have a valid passport approved for travel to the United States. In most cases, your passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond your planned stay during your B2 visa.
  • Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form DS-160 & confirmation page – You can complete the form online and print out the confirmation page for your records.
  • Application fee payment receipt – Your application fee receipt will serve as validation of your interview appointment.
  • Photo – Before submitting the online Form DS-160, you will be asked to upload a photograph for identification purposes. High-quality photos work best. Even U.S. citizens can be denied passports for low-quality photographs.

Qualifications for a Tourist Visa

In addition to the documents listed above, there are qualifications for visa approval. You will need to prove you meet these qualifications during your interview. Some of the qualifications you may be asked to prove include:

  • The financial ability to enter and leave the USA
  • The legal authority to enter a different territory when your trip concludes
  • A defined timeframe for your stay
  • A reason for visiting the USA
  • Residence outside of the USA

This list is by no means exhaustive. The U.S. Embassy needs to have confidence that you are not a risk to enter the USA and that your visit will be beneficial to both you and the country. Applicants without a home, career, or family outside of the USA could raise red flags.

Processing Times for Tourist Visas

Depending on the country you live in, processing times for tourist visas can vary. For example, the United States Embassy in Norway notes that most visas are processed within three days and mailed to applicants within 7-10 days. The United States Embassy in Laos, however, cautions that “processing time for specific cases may vary due to individual circumstances and other special requirements.”

If you are planning on obtaining a Tourist Visa for the United States, give yourself at least two months to get through the application process. You may have your visa processed and mailed in less than two weeks; but if the U.S. Embassy in your country is experiencing a high volume of applications, your visa approval could drag out for five or six weeks.

Speak to an Immigration Attorney Today

If you are planning to visit the United States from a foreign country as a tourist, you more than likely will need a B2 visa. Even with an abundance of information available online, navigating the visa application process can be overwhelming due to legal, language and cultural obstacles. If you want more information about how to get a Tourist Visa for the USA, contact Pride Immigration today for a consultation.

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Beeraj Patel, Esq.

Partner at KPPB Law
Beeraj Patel's philosophy is simple - make it easy for talented and ambitious individuals to have access to immigration materials so that they can make the choice which is right for them.
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