It is definitely a no brainer that any foreign national who wishes to enter the United States must first obtain a visa unless the individual is a national of the United States or falls under a category exempted from Visa applications. The visa acquired can be either a nonimmigrant visa for a temporary stay or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. Visitor visas are nonimmigrant visas for persons who want to enter the United States temporarily for business (visa category B-1), for tourism (visa category B-2), or for a combination of both purposes (B-1/B-2).
The processes involved in applying and acquiring a US is not ambiguous but rather straight-forward, clear and detailed. The US visa application involves a multi-step process. The entire process can be group into four steps. The first thing that that needs to be done is to fill Form DS-160 online. This shall be followed by the scheduling of a visa interview. After the interview has been scheduled, the visa applicant appears for the visa interview on the appointed date and then finally picks up his or her passport. The remaining part of the article details out each of these steps such that any prospective traveller with no travelling experience would be able to safely apply for a US visitor Visa.
Step 1. Fill Form DS-160 Online
The first step in the US visitor visa application process is to fill Form DS-160 online. The form is quite lengthy and can take some 2-3 days to complete and submit. Do not rush in filling the form because every detail entered counts and will go against you if there are so many mistakes on the form.
- Do not make mistakes when it comes to your personal information like name, date of birth, travel history, employment details, etc. Cross-check what you have entered on the form with the hard copy evidence before you submit. The evidence would include traveling passport (include old books if you have stamps in them), birth certificates, appointment letter, payslip, etc.
- Print the form out to know every detail you have entered; you can’t say anything different from what you have stated on the form.
- Print Form DS-160 confirmation page, you will need the barcode on the page for the next step of the process.
- Start your visitor visa application as early as possible to enable you get the right thing done and Not to get frustrated along the line.
Step 2. Schedule US Visa Appointment
The second step in the US visitor visa application process is to schedule the visa appointment and this step of the process involves paying the visa fee, selecting the location and selecting a date for your interview. Applicants must appear in person for a visa interview in Accra.
This step of the process varies depending on the country where you would like to attend your visa interview, you would need to schedule one or two appointments. Some countries require applicants to schedule an additional appointment for fingerprints and photo such as Mexico. If your country has such requirement, you will be prompted to make this additional appointment as part of your visa interview appointment.
The procedure and the system to schedule US visa appointment is different in Asia compared to the rest of the world.
Ghanaian applicants only:
You can schedule an appointment online or through their call centre and the numbers to call are +233242426261, +233505885956, +233243283510, +233506592787 and +233546719469 when you are in Ghana but if you are in the USA call this number +17035202573.
Step 3. Attend US Visa Interview
The third stay of the visa application process is the most important part of the entire process. Undoubtedly, an applicant requires some level of courage, skill and strength when attending US visa interview. The situation even gets worse when you see applicants been refused after spending less than 3minutes with the Visa Officer. The high level security at the US embassy and the intimidating visa officers can make the entire process daunting and overwhelming.
Judy Blume once said, “Each of us must confront our own fears, must come face to face with them. How we handle our fears will determine where we go with the rest of our lives. To experience adventure or to be limited by the fear of it.” You can never go through a US visa interview successfully with fear, because you even fumble while saying the truth.
The best way to succeed is to break the entire interview process into smaller steps and tackle them individually, it can be less stressful and easy.
The entire preparation process requires you been emotionally, mentally and physically ready for the interview. This is where courage is been built and strength gained. You can do the following;
- Go over your DS-160 to familiarise with the information you have entered. You may be asked the same questions in the interview. You must not contradict your own answers.
- Go over the top 5 US interview questions and answers. Sit and answer all of those questions. Make a note of them if you have to.
- Write down any other questions on your purpose, industry, etc and prepare them as well.
- If possible, get someone to act as the Visa Officer and see how best you can go about with the answering.
A proper planning is very important when attending a US interview. You can do the following;
- Gather the documentation that you would need to carry.
- Print any documentation that needs to be printed.
- Organise your documentation in an easily retrievable format. If possible, use a compartment folder to sort and organise your documents.
- Familiarise with directions and transportation options to the embassy.
- Make sure you look good and smart, appearance do count.
The US embassy have some mandatory documents you need to have when appearing for the interview
- Current Original Passport
- All old passports (especially those with old US visas)
- Interview Appointment Confirmation Print
- You DS-160 Confirmation Print
- Visa Fee Receipt (if the fee was paid at a local bank in person)
- Recent Passport Size Photo (white background only)
- Additional Photo ID (required to gain access to the embassy)
- Employment Proofs (if employed) – Employment Letter, Introductory Letter or Leave Approval Letter, and Recent 3 Months Payslips.
- Student Proofs (if student) – Student ID, Letter from the university, Fee receipts, and transcripts.
- Business Proofs (if business owner) – Business Registration, Annual Reports, Annual Income Statements, and Tax Returns or Tax Clearance Certificate (TCC)
- Sponsor Documentation (if sponsored) – Sponsor’s ID copy, Sponsor’s Employment Proofs, and Sponsor’s Bank Statement
- Purpose of Travel – Conference tickets, Invitation Letter (Family & Friends, Graduation, Wedding, and Funeral), Training Confirmations
- Detailed Itinerary
- Recent 6 Months Bank Statements – Both Salary and Saving accounts should be carried along as long as there are significant balances in them.
IV. Appointment Procedure
The interview procedure varies slightly from location to location but no matter how the variation may be, the 10 step procedure gives you an overall idea on what to expect.
- Arrive at the embassy
- Present your appointment confirmation at the gate
- Go through the security
- Deposit your ID proof
- Deposit your cell phone and keys
- Stand in the line for fingerprints and photo
- Give your fingerprints and photo
- Stand in the line for the interview
- Give your interview
- Find out your visa result
V. Day of Appointment
Arriving at the embassy on time is very important since you can be denied entry. Don’t arrive at the embassy more than 15mins before your appointment time otherwise you will be sent back and asked to return at the appointed time.
In your best interest, don’t go to the embassy with your tablets, laptops, cell phones, handbags, backpacks, and luggage since you will not be allowed into the embassy with all that. Items like cigarettes, lighter, sharp objects, food items, etc. are not also allowed.
You can enter with all your documents and have to be in a transparent folders and plastic bags.
VI. At the Interview
US Visa Officers have so much years of experience and are also well trained to make the right decisions in granting qualified applicants the visa to enter the United States. Be very honest with your answers and be confident. Ask the Visa Officer to repeat questions if you did not hear or understand. Be firm on your answers and don’t change it if you are asked to repeat.
When the Visa Officer detects that you are too desperate in getting the visa, he or she can easily deny you. Do not try to impress the Visa Officer with long answers while you can keep the answer short. Be straight with your answers and be brief as possible. Been fluent in English is very important since Visa Officers will not have much time and they can sometimes be impatient.
Carry along all important documentation alongside the mandatory and additional documentation requirement stated above. For quick location of where each document is, make time to arrange your documents very well so that you can retrieve them easily.
VII. Interview Questions and Answers
US interview questions are not fixed but there can be some constant questions that can be asked. During the interview, you will be asked a few questions but the way you answer questions can lead to you been more questions. These questions can be the same as what you already have in your DS-160 or completely different.
There are top 5 US visa interview questions it is highly probable you would be asked and can lead to other subsequent or follow-up questions. Therefore, when preparing for the interview ask yourself what possible question can follow a question like ‘What do you do for a living?’. A follow-up question can be ‘how much do you earn as salary?
Let’s take a look at the top 5 possible questions, they are as follows;
- Why do you want to go to the US?
- How long do you plan to stay in the US?
- Have you been to the US before?
- Have you been to other countries?
- What do you do for a living?
VIII. Visa Decision
Unlike other countries like the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Spain, Germany and the likes, the visa application process require submission of documents and after 5-15 working days a decision is made and your passport would be returned to you without the attached documents. With the US visa interview, you will be told the result of the visa at the end of the interview. Therefore, at the end of the interview, you will know whether your visa is approved or denied or whether you application requires additional information.
- Upon approval of visa, you will be given a small piece of paper stating when you can expect your passport to be ready for collection or delivery depending on country you attended the interview.
- Upon denial also, you will be given your passport and documentation you presented and a sheet of paper marking the section under which your visa application was denied.
- If the visa officer needs additional information, you will be given a sheet of paper with details and the steps to continue from there.
Step 4. Pick up Passport
Passport pick up is the last stage of the entire process If your visa is approved, passport will be ready for pick up within 3-10 working days. You will be notified via email or SMS that your passport is ready for pickup. There is a possibility of errors occurring on your visa so make sure to verify your visa for any discrepancy after receiving your passport. If you see any discrepancy, contact the consulate/embassy immediately.
There are some activities that cannot be done while on a visitor visa. Therefore, make sure you acquire a right visa for the interned purpose of travel. Some of the activities that cannot be done on a visitor visa are as follows;
- Paid performances, or any professional performance before a paying audience
- Arrival as a crew member on a ship or aircraft
- Work as foreign press, in radio, film, print journalism, or other information media
- Permanent residence in the United States