Application Process For A Visa Waiver Or B-1 Or B2 Visa
Portions of the content on this page are available as public information on the USCIS website.
Over 38 countries participate in the Visa Waiver Program, which allows for visa-free entry into the United States and is applied for here: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/.
Like the B-1 Business Visa and B-2 Pleasure Visa, the Visa Waiver Program allows aliens to enter for a limited duration to perform the same business and leisure activities.
Unlike the B-1 Business Visa and B-2 Pleasure Visa, the Visa Waiver Program is not specific to either business or tourism; it can be used for business and leisure.
One important difference between the B-1 Business Visa and B-2 Pleasure Visa and Visa Waiver Program is that the Visa Waiver Program is limited to only 90 days.
A final important difference is that unlike the B-1 Business Visa and B-2 Pleasure Visa, upon entry with the Visa Waiver Program, with limited exceptions, an alien is unable to extend her stay, change from the Visa Waiver Program nonimmigrant status to another nonimmigrant status, or file to adjust status to immigrant status. An alien who wishes to change or adjust status would need to depart the United States and apply for the appropriate visa abroad.
Applying for the B-1 Business Visa, B-2 Pleasure Visa, or Visa Waiver Program
Applying for the B visa is generally a four-step process:
- The first step is the creation of DS-160: Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application. Each visa applicant, including children, must complete and have a separate application. The link to create an application is here: https://ceac.state.gov/GenNIV/Default.aspx
- Before starting, it may be helpful to review the FAQ here: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/forms/ds-160-online-nonimmigrant-visa-application/ds-160-faqs.html
- You may wish to prepare your travel, employment, and address history before starting.
- It is also a good idea to keep a record of the DS-160 confirmation page (it has a barcode). It will be useful if you wish to retrieve an application or review it.
- The second step is to pay the nonimmigrant visa fee, or MRV fee, which is currently $160 per applicant. Please note that these fees are paid with the local currency of your home country, and how it is paid may vary. Certain consulates in China, for example, may allow for Alipay or WeChat pay. Specific instructions for your country can be found here: https://www.ustraveldocs.com/
- The third step is to complete visa scheduling. This includes setting a pickup or courier address for your passport and visa if approved, connecting a nonimmigrant visa fee voucher to a DS-160, and scheduling an appointment. Please note that each country may have a slightly different scheduling system. Please use https://www.ustraveldocs.com/ to forward you to the correct system. Each system will require that you register an account, and will generally be available in English and the language of your home country. You may schedule appointments through the web system.
- The fourth step is to apply for a nonimmigrant visa with an interview with a consular officer. You may review general instructions for preparing, but you will always require the following:
- DS-160 confirmation page;
- Passport; and
- 2×2 US passport photograph
Additionally, you can prepare supporting evidence demonstrating your reasoning for visiting the United States. You should be prepared to explain and detail your plans for entering the United States. Your inability to articulate why you are visiting the United States, the duration of your stay, how you intend to pay for your trip when you will be attending, etc. may result in a 214(b) denial for immigrant intent.
- You will receive the result of the interview immediately and the interview will likely take no longer than five minutes. If you are denied, keep a record of documents given to you and try to transcribe the conversation you had with the officer. If you are approved, you will surrender your passport and likely receive a visa in your passport shortly.
Utilizing the Visa Waiver Program is much more straightforward. To apply, the nonimmigrant alien should apply for an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). To do so, create a new application on the United States Department of Homeland Security’s ESTA program here: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta
Most applications are processed within 72 hours and should be applied for before you travel. The ESTA registration is valid for two years or until the passport expires, so timely renewal should be considered.
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