There is no way around it, applying for an American visa is not easy nor fun. The list of requirements are never ending, the paperwork: laborious, the anxiety: nauseating, and there’s not much information online to guide you.
After my application, I thought I would put the experience to good use and offer a breakdown of how to apply for your visa.
Step 1 – Application
So you want to go to USA… The first step is deciding what’s your reason for visiting and choosing one of the following visas:
– Temporary Employment
– Study & Exchange
– Family-Based Immigration
– Fiancé(e) to marry U.S. Citizen & live in U.S.
– Employment-Based Immigrants
– Diversity Visa Program
Step 2 – Visa Payment:
You click on ais.usvisa-info.com/en-za/niv or ais.usvisa-info.com and create an account where you fill in your personal information & you have to pay for the visa, it costs $160 (depending on the exchange rate, I paid R2480.00). You can pay via Cheque or Credit Card or Cash Deposit at Absa – (No EFT allowed).
Step 3: Booking an Appointment
After processing your payment; you will receive an email notification (I made a cash deposit and received mine 1 hour later) and you can login to the site and pick a date for your appointment. The consulate is open everyday (except weekends, US & SA Public holidays) from 8am to 5pm but visa appointments are only on Monday – Thursday.
Step 4 – Visa Appointment (Interview):
You must appear in-person for the interview. Only visa applicants with scheduled appointments are allowed to enter the Consular Section. Parents or legal guardians are allowed to accompany minor children.
You want to portray yourself as a professional. Although there is no written requirement for this but I’d advise you to wear something “semi-formal”. For my appointment I wore jeans, sneakers and a coat and there was lady behind me who was wearing leggings, sneakers and a hoodie.
The following documents are required for all visa types:
• Passport – must be valid for at least six months beyond the period of stay in the United States (unless exempt by country-specific agreements.)
• Passport containing the most recently issued U.S. Visa (if applicable).
• Nonimmigrant Visa Application: DS-160 Form confirmation page.
• Appointment Confirmation and Instructions page which will be emailed to you after paying for the Visa.
• One 5 x 5 cm colour photo taken within the last 6 months. (Make sure you get the right size, US Visa picture is bigger than your standard ID/Paspport picture. You can get two pictures at Kodak for R45.)
• Intention to depart the United States upon completion of your travel. (Return Flight)
• Sufficient funds to cover all expenses while in the United States. (3 months Bank Statement and/or Pay Slip)
• Evidence that you have significant ties to the country to which you intend to return at the end of your stay in the United States (Investments like a car in your name or a letter from your employer stating that you will be working for them when you return)
What happens when you get there?
At the entrance, you stand in a queue where a consulant will check to ensure you have all the correct documents then you proceed to security where you will be searched. You are also asked to switch off your phone and leave it at reception “security”.
Upon security check you follow the yellow footprints and you will enter the interview area where you are given a security pamphlet with information about your rights while in the US and keeping safe (human trafficking etc).
Then you follow the red footprints which will lead you to the 2nd consulant who scans your picture and checks your documents then you follow the green footprints and the third consultant will check your documents and scan your fingerprints.
After this you follow the blue footprints to see another consultant for your actual interview. I was quite nervous as I didn’t know what to expect and I thought it would be a formal interview in an office but you just stand by a window and you answer questions. I was asked 2 questions: “What are you doing in the US?” and “Do you have any friends or family in the US?” Then the consulant said “Approved” and that was it. The whole process took less than 10 minutes.
Note: There is a less than 1% chance that the visa officer will take a look at your documents, and this happens when he or she is not satisfied with your interview responses. Answer correctly and you will get approved – it’s as simple as that!
The passport is delivered to a DHL of your choice within 3-5 days after the application at no cost. If you would like for DHL to deliver it to your house there’s an additional fee.
* Disclaimer: All my tips are based on requirements for South Africans applying for a USA Visa. I am unfamiliar with the requirements of other nationalities. Please check your embassy’s website for official visa application requirements and details.*