US Visa Appointment Process Explained

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When planning your trip to the United States, there are many things that you need to think about. But, first and foremost, the visa process should be taken very seriously. No matter what visa you are attempting to obtain before traveling to the United States, you will need to undergo a visa interview.

The U.S. government requires an interview be done to ensure that the applicant meets the applied-for visa standards. If you are looking for more information about the visa appointment process, the documents needed, and what to expect, then continue reading on. This guide will give you all the information you are looking for.

Steps to Follow to Get a U.S. Visa

This is a demanding section to explain because of the numerous types of visas available. However, in many cases, the visa processes are similar. We will go over the general steps that one must follow when applying for a U.S. visa.

  1. Gather all necessary documents needed for your type of visa: It’s important to have a valid passport, passport photograph, and other supporting documents that are specifically stated in your application.
  2. Complete Form DS-160: This form is the nonimmigrant visa application form, and needs to be filled out fully and correctly. Typically, this form is used for temporary travel to the United States and should be filled out for various visas you are applying for.
  3. Paying the necessary fees: Next, once you fill out all the information in the forms and gather the necessary documents, you must pay your application fees. The application is typically able to be paid in a check, money order, or online.
  4. Schedule your interview appointment and biometrics appointment: After you submit your forms and pay the needed fees, you will receive a number that will allow you to schedule your interview appointment and take your biometrics test.

Of course, these steps are subject to the visa you are applying for, and if you want more specific steps, it’s recommended to look online more about the visa you will be applying for.

Who Needs to Attend a U.S. Visa Appointment?

Generally, all who apply for a U.S. visa will need to attend a visa interview unless you are waived from doing so. In terms of attending your interview, obviously, you will need to be present. And, if you are traveling with your spouse or any dependents, then they must also attend the interview.

Ultimately, all applicants that are listed on your visa application form should be present for the interview. Unless your dependents and spouse will be traveling later, then they are not required to attend your interview. From there, they will be scheduled for a different interview slot.

However, the sponsor of your visa, if you have applied for a visa that requires one, does not need to attend the interview. Those that are attending your interview with you, must bring their passport, a copy of the appointment letter, the DS-160 forms confirmation, and any supporting documents to the interview.

How to Schedule a U.S. Visa Interview Appointment?

When it comes time to schedule your U.S. visa appointment, there are two types of appointments that you can schedule. The normal type of appointment you can schedule is for the majority of applicants, whereas the other type of appointment that can be scheduled is for emergency appointments.

Below, we will explain how to make appointments for both circumstances, and an additional route that you can take to make expedited appointments.

Booking Visa Appointments Under Normal Circumstances

For normal circumstances and normal visa applicants, booking a U.S. visa appointment is easy. You must first look for free slots and book your appointment at a time that works for you. It seems quite easy to do so, however, the appointments do fill up quickly, so the waiting time might be longer than expected.

Booking Emergency Visa Appointments

This will need to be done through the online portal in the case of emergency appointments for your U.S. visa. And, on top of that, you must make a small cover letter stating why you need an emergency visa appointment. Additionally, if you need this appointment due to a job, then having your employer create a letter stating why they need you for this position is required.

The bottom line is that if you need an emergency letter and must submit the proper documents to do so. Your consular officer will need to decide whether or not you meet the requirements for an emergency booking appointment.

Other Types of Visa Appointments

In addition to these two types of appointments, you can try to book an expedited visa interview appointment. However, this will only be available for some people in a few situations that are classified as emergencies. For example, if you need to make an appearance in a U.S. court, or if you have a family member that has recently passed away and you must attend a funeral.

If you are in a situation similar to those listed above, or another emergency and time-sensitive issue, then you pay the application fee and you must complete the DS-160 form. This works as a request form, and if approved by the U.S. embassy, you will be able to receive email alerts about upcoming appointments sooner.

This way, if you get an email, you are able to schedule an appointment as soon as the next day, but only if there are openings. When you receive the email, you can schedule your appointment through the online portal and move forward accordingly.

How to Schedule My U.S. Visa Biometrics Appointment?

For almost every visa, you will be required to undergo a biometrics appointment. This appointment is simply to take your fingerprints and verify your identity upon entering the United States. These appointments usually ask for fingerprinting, an iris scan, and a digital photograph of the applicant.

Those that are younger than 14 and over the age of 79 are exempt from taking the biometrics portion of the visa interview. And, sometimes, other applicants are exempt as well because not every visa requires this type of biometric screening.

Be sure that you have submitted the original visa application and paid the fees. You will be contacted about your biometrics appointment scheduling when you do so. You can schedule your appointment via the online portal.

There is a scheduling a biometrics appointment tab that allows you to easily choose an appointment day and time. When you attend this appointment, you must bring with you the following items:

  • Your appointment letter
  • The DS-160 confirmation page
  • A photograph of the applicant taken within six months of applying
  • The current passport that was used to apply

Supporting Documents Required for US Visa Appointment

When you make your visa appointment after submitting your application, you should gather the necessary documents long before your interview date. Depending on the visa you are applying for, and your individual case, the documents you need will vary.

In general, the documents that are needed for your U.S. visa appointment include the following:

  • Your valid passport
  • The visa application form’s payment receipt
  • Your DS-160
  • Your original birth certificate and an official copy of your birth certificate
  • A valid email address and address
  • If applicable, a U.S. letter of invitation
  • Other supporting documents that are more specific to the visa you are applying for

Do I Need a Medical Exam for a U.S. Visa Interview?

Along with your visa appointment that needs to be scheduled, you will also need to undergo a U.S. visa medical exam. The USCIS requires a medical exam to be done by an authorized doctor in the country you are applying from.

What Documents Are Needed for US Medical Examination?

When you attend your appointment, you must bring with you all the necessary documents. These documents include:

  • The visa interview letter
  • Your valid passport
  • Passport style photographs
  • A full copy of your immunization records

What Medical Tests Are Needed for a US Visa?

During your medical exam, you will undergo a physical examination. This examination will look at your eyes, ears, nose, throat, and organs. Next, you will have to give a background of your medical history, and have blood taken. Finally, the last step of your medical exam will need to get chest X-rays to be done.

What Must I Do with the U.S. Medical Examination?

All in all the medical exam is carried out in order to rule out coming to the U.S. for medical care. If you have serious diagnoses and illnesses that will require extensive care while within the country, you won’t be approved for the visa you are applying for.

If you pass the medical exam and have no previous serious medical conditions, you should have nothing to worry about. The authorized physician that you see to undergo the medical portion of your visa application will give you the result of your exam in a sealed envelope.

These results must not be opened under any circumstances. They will go with you to the consulate or embassy when the day comes that your visa appointment is scheduled.

Attending the US Visa Interview Appointment

When it comes time to attend your U.S. visa appointment, it’s best to prepare well in advance so things don’t go haywire when you arrive. It’s been said that on appointment days, the wait times for your U.S. visa appointment are long due to a long queue.

We are going to give you everything you need to know about attending your U.S. visa appointment. Below, we will go into more detail about what to do before your visa appointment.

Arrive at the Consulate

You should arrive 10 minutes early to your appointment, just to avoid any backlogs or early starts. Believe us; it’s better to be way early than to risk missing your appointment.

Fingerprint Verification

When you arrive at your appointment at your Embassy, you will need to go through detectors that ensure your security and the security of the U.S. embassy or consulate. Please, don’t worry, this is all mandated, and everyone will experience this.

Once passing through, you will receive a token to get your fingerprints done. You will just wait for your number to be called and then scan your fingerprints. When this is done, you can wait for further instructions.

Enter the Interview

Following the above steps, you will wait in the lounge and wait for your turn. The officers will call your name, and you can bring up all the documents you brought to begin the interview. Once you are in the interview room, you will be asked countless questions based on what visa you are interviewing for.

Trust us, the waiting time for your U.S. visa appointment will be worth it because a legal visa could come out of it. But, first, you must complete the interview. Below, we will go over what you can expect in your U.S. visa interview and the questions that you may be asked during the interview.

What Can I Expect at a U.S. Visa Interview?

The interviewing officer will be behind a glass window in the interview room, and you will speak through it and answer questions. First, your documents will be verified. So, the more proof and evidence you have for obtaining a legal visa, the better.

Then, you will be asked various questions related to the type of U.S. visa you will be applying for. These questions must be answered honestly and correctly in order to establish the reasons behind your application.

The bottom line is that your visa interview officer will attempt to verify all information you have presented in your application and ensure that the questions you are answering align with the desired visa.

What Are the Types of Visas and Visa Interviews

In total, one can apply for four main categories of United States visas. These categories include:

  • Tourist visas: If you plan on visiting the United States for a short period of time and seeing all the most popular sites, then this visa is for you.
  • Business visas: For those who wish to stay in the U.S. for up to 180 days and travel around as a tourist, these visas are classified as business visas.
  • Student and Internship visas: The visas that fall under this category are visas that allow individuals to participate in study opportunities and programs, internships, and exchange programs.
  • Immigration visas: These visas are all visas that allow immigrants to permanently stay in the United States. Commonly known as green cards, these visas allow the adjustment of status for obtaining these cards.
  • Work visas: These visas include all eligible visas for immigrants to come and work illegally in the United States. The only requirement is that you need a concrete job offer from a U.S. company.

Because there are so many various types of visas that you can enter the U.S., there are also various types of visa appointments and interviews that can take place. Of course, some of the visas listed above don’t require you to interview because you are only staying for a short period of time, however, others will require interviews.

Tourist Visas

A tourist visa in the U.S. is a B-2 visa and is only made for tourists who wish to stay in the country for up to 180 days. And, because of this, you may be required to attend a visa interview. If you are 13 years of age or younger, then an interview will not be required.

If you are between the ages of 14-79, then you may be asked to come in for an interview. This interview can be scheduled at the U.S. consulate or embassy closest to you. For this interview, you will need a valid passport, your DS-160 form, the application fee, and passport-sized photos.

For this interview, if you are asked to take it, you will be questioned about the purpose of your elongated trip, when you intend to leave the U.S. and if you have the necessary funds to support your extended trip.

Business Visas

So, this type of visa is a bit confusing because it is sometimes grouped in with tourist visas. However, this B-1 visa is for business travelers who wish to stay in the country for 180 days.

The same criteria will be present for this type of visa, similar to the B-2 tourist visa. Those that are under the age of 13 will not need to present themselves for a visa interview, whereas others between the age of 14-79 may need to appear for a visa interview.

For this type of visa interview, you will be asked about your consultations with businesses in the U.S., or to speak about a convention you are attending for business purposes.

Student and Internship Visa

If you are a student and are wishing to travel to the U.S. for university, collect, an internship, or an education exchange, you are able to apply for multiple types of student visas. These types include:

Additionally, under these visa categories, au pairs and travel program students are able to enter the U.S. with this type of visa. As with other visas, you will need to undergo a visa interview. You will need to bring with you information about your academic preparations, and your future travel plans outside of the U.S.

And, the immigration officer that’s performing the interview will ask you about costs while you are living in the country. For these types of visas, you must be able to cover the expenses throughout your stay.

Immigration Visas

Visas in this category are very important to talk about because immigration visas are visas that are linked to green cards. There are various categories of these visas, that include visas like:

  • The EB-1 priority worker visa
  • The EB-2 visa for skilled workers
  • The EB-3 visa
  • The EB-4 special immigrants visa
  • The EB-5 immigrant investor visa

For these types of visas, you will absolutely need to undergo an interview. And at this interview, the stakes are higher. But, there are a few visa interviews that you will need to complete for your green card.

If you are within the United States and applying for a green card, you will need to undergo a special interview for adjustment of status. Or, if you are applying for a green card while abroad, you must go through consulate processing and compete for your interview abroad.

A green card is a great document to obtain because it allows you to work and live legally in the U.S. A green card also can give you the option to become a U.S. citizen which will, of course, require more interviews and a civic and English test. But, this information can be looked at if you make it to this process.

Work Visas

As we have stated above, by having a solid job offer from a U.S.-based company, you will be able to apply for work visas. Work visas include the following types of visas:

These visas are for specific working groups to come and legally work in the United States. Likely, these visas are for skilled workers or investors that wish to put funds into the economy. For these types of visas, you will need to attend an interview.

This interview will take place in your country of origin, at a U.S. embassy or consulate closest to you. The question that you will be asked in this interview includes questions about your future employer, your length of employment, the pay you are receiving, and your past credentials and degrees.

What Do Visa Interview Officers Check at a Visa Interview?

Ultimately, a visa interview is solely to determine whether or not you were lying on your application. In this interview, officers are checking to see if you are who you say you really are. By getting fingerprints taken and analyzing biometric data, security checks can be completed and looked at for each applicant.

Officers will screen the documents you have brought and ask you varied questions based on your visa. Truthfully, most of the background work is done prior to the interview. In order to qualify for the interview, you must be 90% of the way to getting approved in most cases.

With the high number of applicants the U.S. goes through, it’s better to have the work done beforehand and only interview candidates that are likely to be approved. However, we must say that just because you are invited to interview, doesn’t mean you will automatically be approved. Other factors will be looked at, so the only thing you can do is be prepared.

What Is the U.S. Visa Interview Wait Time?

United States visas are the most sought-after visas, which means that the wait times may be longer than expected. Ultimately, the waiting times will vary depending on the USCIS office, consulate, or embassy where your interview is held at.

After submitting the application and supporting documents, the wait time for your interview is within three months from when USCIS receives your documents.

How Long Do Visa Interviews Last?

Because of the high volume of visa interviews that are carried out in the U.S. each day, these interviews don’t last long. The visa application process is long, the appointment schedules are long, and the wait times are long, however, your actual interview will only last around 15 minutes.

As long as you have filled out your application correctly, brought the supporting documents, and can answer the questions quickly and precisely, your interview will be fast. And, the quicker it is, and the better it goes, the faster you will receive a visa decision.

What Happens After the U.S. Visa Interview?

The best part about a U.S. visa interview is that you will likely receive the outcome of your visa on the spot. In most cases, you will receive approval or denial directly following the interview. If your visa is approved, you will get your passport back with your visa inside of it.

If your visa is denied, you will receive a reason as to why this was the decision that was made. From there you will have your passport returned back to you. It’s up to you whether or not you appeal the decision or ask for a reconsideration.

Can I Cancel My Appointment and Can I Do It?

In many situations, canceling a visa appointment isn’t a great decision. After all the time, effort, and money that goes into a U.S. visa application, canceling an appointment usually only happens sometimes. But, sometimes things will change and situations could come up or maybe a U.S. visa isn’t on the radar anymore.

In order to cancel a U.S. visa interview, you must call the VAC and let me know as soon as possible. It’s important to let them know that you are not looking to obtain a U.S. visa at this time, or the reason why you are canceling.

Can I Reschedule My US Visa Interview, and How to Do It?

Yes, you are able to reschedule an appointment for your U.S. visa; however, it can be challenging. In order to reschedule, you must call the VAC and have them manually change it, or you can do it yourself via the online portal.

When rescheduling, your appointment will be moved to the next available time slot and date. But, when rescheduling, there are two different types of visa appointments that are available.

  1. Rescheduling a nonimmigrant visa appointment: Similar to the information we gave above, you are able to call the VAC and have them change your appointment. Additionally, you can change your appointment online if you give a valid reason for rescheduling.
  2. Rescheduling an immigrant visa appointment: For this type of appointment, you need to call the NVC or the national visa center and give them the reason why you want to reschedule. If they deem your reason is valid, your appointment will be rescheduled.

If you do choose to reschedule your appointment, just know that it will delay your visa processing times. And, if you reschedule your appointment more than twice, you may be required to pay penalty fines or begin a new application.

How Many Times Can You Reschedule a Visa Appointment?

If you have a serious reason to reschedule your visa appointment, of course, you are able to do so. However, there is a limit on how many times you can cancel your appointment. Generally, visa applicants are only allowed to reschedule their appointment four times, which does not include their initial appointment.

This can be done four times without penalty. You are able to go ahead and reschedule your appointment after four times, but there will be a penalty of waiting 90 days. This means that your application will take longer to complete.

What if I Am Late for My Interview?

First, we must stress the importance of being on time for our visa appointment. If you find yourself running a bit late, and there’s not a line of people waiting before you, you will be in trouble. Ultimately, your interview will be canceled.

If this happens, you will need to schedule a new appointment. On the other hand, if you’re running late and there is a backlog in the queue, consider yourself lucky. Likely, your interview will go ahead.

What Happens if I Don’t Show Up for My Interview?

The answer to this question is quite simple. If you show up for your interview, then it will look good for your application and visa. By not showing up, you won’t complete the final task of obtaining a U.S. visa.

However, if you are, for any reason, unable to make your appointment, you must contact the embassy or consulate as soon as you know.

What if I Need to Change My Address on My US Visa Appointment?

Let’s say you need to change your address on your visa application after scheduling your appointment. What do you do? Luckily, the online portal is very helpful with things like this. First, you need to log in and start to update your profile.

After doing this, you must choose what you wish to update. Which, in this case, will be your address. You can pick this option and choose to update your address. However, it’s important to note that you have until 11:59 p.m. on the day before your interview to make changes to your profile.

How Do I Get an Appointment Waiver?

When it comes to the U.S. visa appointment interview waiver, there are a few qualifications that one can hold to forego the visa interview. Ultimately, the visa waiver is made for those who do not need to appear at the Embassy or take a biometrics test.

We have listed the applicants who can be considered for an interview waiver in the above sections. But, if you qualify, how do you get one? We will list the steps needed to get an appointment waiver below:

  • After paying the visa application fee, you must then complete the nonimmigrant visa electronic application form. This form is known as Form DS-160.
  • Then, online, you are able to answer interview waiver questions to see if you qualify for the waiver. When compiling these questions, you will find out if you do in fact qualify for a waiver and that the website will offer you additional information.
  • The additional information on the website will allow you to move forward with your interview waiver. Generally, you will need your passport, the receipt from your payment, and the number from Form DS-160.
  • From there, you can print out the interview waiver confirmation letter and send all these documents, along with your completed form, to USCIS. If USCIS finds the file incomplete, you will be notified and able to rectify your application packet.

Can I Get a U.S. Visa without an Interview?

In general, no, you are unable to get a basic U.S. visa without an interview. However, there are some candidates that are waived from interviewing for a visa. Some of the qualifications to receive a visa waiver include:

  • Being under the age of 14 years old, or over the age of 80
  • You were already living in the U.S. and can provide previous evidence of entering on a legal visa
  • You are renewing your visa from a previously approved visa

There are more qualifications that one can meet in order to obtain a visa without an interview; however, there will be much proof needed and further applications to fill out.

Top Tips for a Successful Visa Interview Appointment

It always helps to have some tips you can keep in mind regarding your visa appointment. Below, we will give you some tips that can help you prepare for your visa interview.

Showing Strong Ties to Your Home Country

It’s imperative to know that all non-immigrant visas are pending until you can convince the USCIS officers that it’s better for you to come and permanently reside in the United States.

This can be done by expressing love for your hometown and some future plans you may have there while also stating that the U.S. is the better decision and, depending on the visa you are applying for, it’s important to show strong ties to your country of origin for the initial visa approval.

Speaking in a High Level of English

The visa interviews are conducted in English and now in the language, you are fluent in. If you are coming to the United States, you may be expected to speak the language, so it is important to at least have a knowledge of the language.

In most cases, you are able to also entrust a translator ahead of time, and bring them with you to your interview. This way, if you aren’t too confident about speaking English, you can have some assistance.

Based on the Visa, Be Knowledgeable About It

No matter the type of visa you are applying for, you should know about the specifics of it, the criteria, and the consequences of violation. By knowing your visa in and out, officers will be able to approve your application confidently.

Make a Great First Impression

Because interviews are so common and scheduled at all hours of the day, it’s important to really prove to the officer that you are a great fit for the visa you applied for and the country as a whole within the first few minutes.

These visa interviews are very short, so if you don’t give a great impression off the bat, they won’t be so kind when it comes to making a decision for your visa application.

Have the Necessary Supporting Documents in Order

We cannot stress this enough; supplemental documentation for your visa and mandatory supporting documents are imperative to have. Check before attending your visa interview, and then check again to ensure that you are organized and following the instructions you have for your visa.

An Attorney Can Help You Through the Process

We understand that applying for a U.S. visa is a serious decision and commitment with all that comes with it. Not only is the U.S. visa process a long one, but it can also be very expensive. And after going through the whole process and paying the mandated fees, there is no guaranteed decision.

If you are interested in going forward and applying for any type of U.S. visa, it pays to seek the skilled assistance of an expert. At ImmigrationDirect, we are with you every step of the way when it comes to the U.S. visa process. We support consultation with immigration lawyer for your questions about a visa, or if you wish to begin your journey to the states.

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