Frequently Asked Questions About: Getting a US Visa
Whether you’re applying for a work, student, immigrant or any other US visa, the process is rarely straightforward — and it often results in a lot of questions.
Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding the US visa process.
1) How long will it take before I get a US visa?
This is perhaps the most frequently asked question regarding US visas, and with good reason. Unfortunately, it is one of the most difficult questions to answer.
There is usually a wait time to receive an appointment to apply at the US Embassy or Consulate in your area. Depending on where you live, what type of US visa you are applying for, and whether or not many others are also applying for visas, this wait for an appointment can be anywhere from just a couple of days to a couple of weeks.
Visitor, student, work and other nonimmigrant visas are the easiest appointments to get — often within a week. Appointments for immigrant visas, including the dual-intentK-1 fiancé(e) visa, may take up to two weeks or even a month in some remote areas.
If you would like a more specific approximation, the US Department of State has ahandy tool on its website that helps you calculate how long it will take in your area to get a consular appointment.
At your appointment, the consular officer decides whether or not to grant you a US visa. If you are granted a visa, there is a processing time before you receive it — usually around a week, but it may take up to 60 days, especially with immigrant visas.
2) What is a police report, and why do I need one to get a US visa?
A police report can be obtained at your local police department. It will show your criminal history. If you have no criminal history, the police department will still check your name against its databases and print out a report with your information showing that you have a clean record.
3) Does having a criminal history affect my US visa application?
This question is more frequently asked than you might think! Some people committed small crimes when they were younger, but they have paid the price and have had a clean record ever since.
The answer: It depends on the type and frequency of criminal activity. US immigration officers often will overlook smaller crimes, like petty theft, if it happened only once and not recently. Having a DUI on your record is a little more serious, but it won’t disqualify you from obtaining a US visa, especially if you have shown that you have paid the fines and went to classes.
If you have a recent DUI or more than one on your record, or if you have any more serious crimes, you may want to consult an immigration attorney on how best to proceed with your visa application.
4) Why would my visa application be denied?
In addition to serious criminal convictions, there are a number of reasons why the US may choose to deny your visa application:
- You have a communicable disease that may endanger public health, like tuberculosis.
- There is insufficient proof that you’ve been vaccinated against preventable diseases such as mumps, measles, rubella, tetanus and hepatitis B.
- You have physical, mental or behavioral disorders that might pose a threat to the safety of others.
Consular officers will also deny visa applications of anyone they believe to be a drug user, drug trafficker, prostitute, terrorist or spy.
5) What should I expect at the US border?
Even though you may have been granted a US visa, there is no guarantee that it will get you into the United States!
Be prepared by completing the following tasks:
- Fill out the Form I-94 that you are given on the plane to the best of your ability.
- Have your passport and any other travel and identification documents ready.
- Answer the officer’s questions truthfully about what you are planning to do with your time in the United States.
- If you cannot speak English well, have a certified translator draft you a letter in English that lists the language or languages you do speak so that border patrol officers may better assist you.
Even if all of your paperwork is in order and you have already submitted a background check, the first priority of border officers is security, and they will most likely check your name against several databases. You can be turned away if it appears that you are lying about your intentions — for example, talking about moving to the US full-time if you have only a visitor or other nonimmigrant visa.
With some preparation and the answers to these frequently asked questions, getting a US visa will seem like a much smoother process.