Understanding the Visa Application Process

Before getting into the visa application process, let’s start with a better understanding of a visa itself. First, a visa permits access into a country. Second, the document gets stamped onto a person’s passport and presents the purpose and visit length to that county.

Whether or not you need a visa depends on your citizenship, length of stay, and planned activities. In addition, a Visa Waiver Program permits citizens of participating counties to travel to the United States for stays of up to 90 days without a visa. You can access a list of countries participating in the program here.

As you may be beginning to gather, the visas application process can get complex. So you might want to speak with an immigration lawyer near you to clarify the requirements.

What Are the Requirements for a Visa?

Each country has its visa requirements. Requirements for a U.S. visa include:

  1. Completing the DS-160 visa application form, which you can access here
  2. A valid passport (note that all visas go hand in hand with your passport)
  3. One photograph
  4. A receipt proving payment of the $160 non-immigrant U.S. visa application
  5. Social media account details
  6. Invitation letter
  7. Travel itinerary that shows your plans and flight reservation
  8. Proof of accommodation
  9. Sponsorship documents, if sponsored
  10. Property documents
  11. Employment documents
  12. Family documents like birth certificates, marriage certificates, adoption certificates, etc.
  13. Letter from a physician
  14. Fingerprint

In addition to these requirements, the visa type dictates the conditions for even more documentation. An immigration lawyer can sort through the essentials to ensure you don’t miss anything.

Many countries have inadmissibility guidelines. For example, you may be inadmissible if you have a criminal record, pose a security risk, or present a potential health concern, among others.

Types of Visa Applications

There are two categories of visas – non-immigrant and immigrant. The former refers to the fact that you do not become a country citizen, while the latter presents that you do. Ultimately, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) grants up to 675,000 permanent immigrant visas annually.

Four via sub-types apply worldwide, though requirements vary by country:

Tourist Visa

A tourist visa is a non-immigrant visa. So if you’re a U.S. citizen traveling abroad, you can travel to 174 different countries without any upfront work. However, depending on the country you’re visiting, you may need to complete a visa application on-site.

For tourists entering the U.S., the Department of State requirements a visa application and approval unless your country participates in the Visa Waiver Program.

Immigration Visa

This visa allows you to reside permanently in a country and equates to a Green Card. However, Green Card holders must wait five years before applying for citizenship. In addition, you can obtain an immigration visa through family, employment, investment, diversity lottery, refugee or asylum status, “The Registry,” or through the CIA director.

Student Visa

As you would expect, this visa applies to visiting a country for education where you attend classes or study particular subjects. As a result, acceptable stays may be only a few weeks or up to a year or more. A foreign national studying in the U.S. needs a U.S. Student Visa.

Work Visa

Work visas are strict and challenging to obtain regardless of country. In addition, they fall into a host of categories designated by letters:

    • E
    • H
    • L
    • O
    • P
    • I
    • TN/TD
    • J

These visas are difficult to acquire because countries want to give citizens the priority for job placement.

Entry Types and Duration of Visas

The INA classifies visas as single-entry, double-entry, or multiple-entry. Single-entry means the visa cancels as soon as the holder leaves the country. Not surprisingly, multiple-entry visas allow multiple entries into the country using the same visa.

Once issued, the visa generally must be used within a specific timeframe. But the validity of a vision doesn’t reflect the authorized period of stay in the issuing country. For example, if the authorized stay is 90 days, the 90-day period starts upon entry.

Talk to an Immigration Lawyer About Your Visa Application

If you’re looking to submit a visa application, talk with one of our immigration lawyers near you at our law offices in Montgomery and Bucks Counties. We can help you with any immigration matter, including naturalization and citizenship.

Our attorneys are versed in many legal concerns, including family law, litigation, business law, real estate law, and more.

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