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How to apply for US tourist visa?

Ieva Miltina Ieva Miltina 27 June 2021
18 view 6 min. read

It is the land of dreams. The place where anyone can become who they want to be, and the place we all are somewhat familiar with, thanks to the global media and movie industries. Yes, I am talking about the USA, and this article is where you will find all the basic information that will help you to figure out how to apply for US tourist visa. A map to arranging this diplomatic formality that will open the gates to the promised land.

Exactly due to the widespread image of this almighty land of opportunities, millions of people try to visit the USA each year. Some want to see the Great Canyon, and some want to have a wedding on a whim in Las Vegas. Others want to experience the vibrancy of the Big Apple or see their chances at moving there for life. And, imagine, it is the most minuscule amount of things you could do when visiting this vast country. A question like: "how long can I stay in the US on a tourist visa?” is therefore completely obvious, and I am on a mission to give you the answer in the following paragraphs. You will hear about the United States of America tourist visa requirements and a whole bunch of advice about the procedures. Of course, there will be some practical information like America tourist visa price and processing time, so you don't have to go searching around the whole web to get an impression of the practicalities. Shall we?

What is US tourist visa?

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According to the visa policy of the United States of America, tourism accounts for a short visit aimed at vacation, visiting family and friends, or for medical treatment. These are the basic reasons that will require obtaining a tourist or B-2 visitor visa to the US. Are you curious and want to know, "how long can I stay in the US on a tourist visa?" The default answer would be - 6 months, but it might differ in each case which is why you should clarify this when contacting the embassy before or during your application process.

It is very important to highlight that this B-2 visa is not a guarantee that you will be allowed to enter the USA. It is merely proof that the officials in the embassy have checked your documents and you are eligible for entry. The actual decision will be made by the officer at the port of your entry, but that is another whole topic itself.

Please also note that under no circumstances this visa permits you to perform any paid activity. Should the purpose of your travel change during the trip, make sure to change the nonimmigrant status promptly.

Who needs to obtain a US tourist visa?

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Most travelers are required to arrange a visa to enter the US. Nationals of countries that are included in the US Visa Waiver Program should submit an application in the Electronic Authorization System (ESTA) to be allowed to stay in the country for up to 90 days. The average processing time of this request is around 25 minutes, and it costs 14 USD if the application is approved. Here is a list of countries that are eligible for such authorization:

Andorra, Denmark, Iceland, Lithuania, Portugal, Switzerland, Australia, Estonia, Ireland, Luxembourg, San Marino, Taiwan, Austria, Finland, Italy, Malta, Singapore, United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Japan, Monaco, Slovakia, Brunei, Germany, South Korea, Netherlands, Slovenia, Chile, Greece, Latvia, New Zealand, Spain, Czech Republic, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Norway, Sweden. And citizens of Canada and Bermuda do not need visas for tourism by default.

Unfortunately, if your country of origin was not mentioned above, then you will have to go through the full application process.

How to apply for US tourist visa?

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The process is quite simple, but the several steps might have a different sequence depending on the diplomatic mission you submit your application to. Generally, the procedure should go as follows. First, you fill the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application (Form DS-160) and print out the confirmation page to bring with you to the interview. After your US tourist visa application is submitted, you should upload your photo that fits the guidelines and schedule an interview appointment for US visa. The waiting time for these appointments may differ depending on the season, the purpose of your travel, or many other reasons. It is why it is suggested to arrange this well before departure.

The next step before going to the interview is to pay the US tourist visa fees and gather all the required documents to bring with you. You can read more on the United States of America tourist visa requirements right below. Then the appointment itself and a short wait of 3-10 days.

What are the United States of America tourist visa requirements?

By default, the required document list is very short and simple. You will need a valid passport that will expire no sooner than 6 months after you depart from the US. Then you will need two confirmations - the printed out Form DS-160 confirmation page and the proof of the visa fee payment. If the upload of your image failed, you would need to present a passport-type colored photo when arriving at the appointment.

That's the base pack of documents. But in some cases, the officer might ask for additional information concerning your travel or life back at home. Some examples of such documents, among others, might be the proof of the purpose of your trip, the intent to leave the US after your visit, the ability to pay all the costs during your trip, and others. Consult the embassy you will visit for the interview to get these ready before arriving there on the spot. And now, let's talk about the potentially scariest of the steps in the application process.

What are US tourist visa interview questions, and how to be ready for them?

Ok, let me give a brief overview of the US tourist visa interview questions before getting into too much detail. Always remember that their goal is to make sure that you are traveling for the reasons you say you do and that you will leave back to your homeland when you intend to. Many of the questions might seem suspiciously detailed, but that is a technique to figure out any inconsistencies that might hinder your application. Don't be too afraid - if you travel just for tourism and answer truthfully, there should not be too many concerns about getting especially prepared before the interview. Another suggestion is - to make it easier on yourself, just answer their questions and don't go into too much detail. It will save you from needing to explain more than necessary and might as well help you to get through the interview easier. So what are the questions you can expect? 

It can be anything about the:

• purpose of your travel (e.g., Do you have any friends or relatives in the USA? Do you have a booking for your travel? Why are you traveling at this particular time?)

• your finances (e.g., How will you pay for your trip? How much do you earn for a living?)

• the reasons for coming back to your country (e.g., Are you married? Do you have any intention of remaining in the US?)

How high are US tourist visa fees?

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By default, in the United States of America tourist visa price is 160 USD. In some cases, it may be waived, but be ready to pay up this sum if you want to get into the US. The fee is nonrefundable and has to be paid before your interview. For some nationalities, there could be additional visa issuance fees. You can find out if this applies to you in a very convenient search mechanism on the U.S. Department of State - Bureau of Consular Affairs website.

Let’s round this up. Yes, the path to obtaining a US tourist visa might be terrifying. After all, in the case of a negative answer, you risk missing the most promising destination of them all. But my approach is always simple - the best you can do is be well prepared and give your all when the moment comes. With that said, I hope this article has helped you in doing just that. And the newly gained awareness of the required formalities will be a great base for an easy and successful result. I don’t know your particular goals for visiting the land of the dreams, but I wholeheartedly wish you all the luck and speedy results for your US tourist visa application!

* Please take into consideration that the whole travel industry is still somewhat limited due to the worldwide Covid-19 health concerns. Some countries have suspended any foreign travel, and the situation might change day by day. It greatly affects the visa issuing procedures, too, and the USA is not an exception. It is smart to check the existing restrictions that apply to both travel and local life before paying for any bookings or reservations. Alternatively, get yourself bookings that include a free refund or change of dates in case the initial plan is disrupted by an unwanted change in the national regulations. A little extra research and planning will go a long way in these times!

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Ieva Miltina
Ieva Miltina Activist and entrepreneur

Ieva Miltina is an activist and entrepreneur of many sorts. By profession project manager of marketing and culture events, in her heart she is a passionate traveler and a cook, soon to become a pastry chef. Deeply rooted in non-formal education she has been involved in youth work since her teenage years and up till nowadays holds a deep interest in innovative approaches to learning and personal development, which she transfers to people from all Europe during various international trainings. Always looking for new discoveries and adventures she happily shares her positive view on the world and the neverending stories with the people who cross her path. While studying hospitality and tourism management she wrote a thesis on home-chefs, which ignited her dream of owning her cozy and heartwarming home restaurant, which will hopefully materialize very soon. Meanwhile writing articles and doing food photography she is working towards another dream of hers - becoming a published author someday. 

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