US visa categories and their requirements

Young traveler

Millions of individuals around the world aspire to enter the United States every year for tourism and immigration. Approximately 22.1 million individuals entered the US in 2021. If you’re looking to visit or move to the US, you will need to obtain a visa to enter.

A valid visa is one of the first prerequisites of a US visa. Your passport gets stamped with your visa upon approval, thus signifying that you have been approved to enter the US.

There are several types of US visas, but they fall under two main categories. These categories primarily differ in the allowed length of stay within the US.

The categories include:

  1. Immigrant Visas: This visa type is for people who are looking to permanently relocate to the US.
  2. Nonimmigrant Visas: This visa type is issued for business visits, tourism, family visits and study purposes. 

If you have obtained a nonimmigrant visa, your stay within the US is approved for a limited time and the visa holder would have to return to their country after it expires. Immigrant visas however are permanent, and visa holders do not have to worry about leaving after expiry as these visas can be renewed.

Requirements to Obtain a US Visa

When applying for any type of visa, it is important to first gather all necessary documentation. A US immigration attorney can also help you compile necessary documents for your application, according to your visa type. 

Again, it is very important to have these documents ready before you apply because the process can get difficult if you face a rejection the first time around. If you meet the visa criteria and have submitted the right documentation, you can easily get the visa you’re applying for.

The documents required for a nonimmigrant include:

  • Valid Passport: The passport should be valid till at least 6 months after you’re supposed to leave the US. To attach your visa, ensure that you have enough space on your passport. 
  • DS-160 Form: A DS-160 application is required to be filled out and submitted to begin processing your application. 
  • Passport Size Photographs: This is a pretty standard requirement for all types of visas. The applicant’s photo must be clear with a plain background. This picture should be uploaded onto the system when submitting your DS-160 form. If you’re having trouble uploading it, you also have a chance to provide these photos before your visa appointment. It is advised to keep extra copies with you just in case, even if the photos were uploaded online. 
  • Social Media Details: Applicants have to provide details of all social media accounts used by them in the past 5 years. They do not have to provide the passwords, just the usernames and other contact information such as email, phone number etc. This is done to run background checks on individuals to see if there are any red flags before allowing them into the US. 
  • Application Fees: You would also have to attach a receipt of the payment of the application fees. Remember, the process of paying is different from European visas. The fees has to be paid in advance to schedule your interview, instead of paying your fee at the appointment day. It is also important to note that the fee cannot be refunded if you cancel your appointment. Rejections also do not qualify for a refund.

If your documentation is not in English, you would have to get it translated by a reliable third party. Make sure that the translators have been approved to certify such translations by the US embassy. 

Biometric Verification

Applicants will have to submit biometric details such as fingerprints when applying for a US visa. The decision to verify the details could either be before the interview or after, depending on the embassy that you’re applying through. 

There are a few exceptions for individuals, where it is not required for them to submit fingerprints. These include:

  • NATO Applicants
  • C-3, G-1, G-2, G-3, A-1, A-2 (Diplomatic and Foreign Visas)
  • Children under the age of 14
  • Individuals above the age of 79

Getting Travel and Healthcare Insurance

If you’re travelling to the US for a short period of time, you can get affordable travel insurance through various providers. The amount of coverage depends on the amount of premium you’re paying, but it is always recommended to get a good plan as compromising on health is not a wise decision. Compare options and select the one that best fits your requirements and budget.