Travel to the United States has been severely restricted for a great deal of international travelers. Travelers from nations antagonistic to the United States experience some of the harshest restrictions and require the most comprehensive security clearances. Visiting relatives in the U.S., especially for those who do not speak English, proves quite a daunting task.
What Is a Visa?
This may seem like a silly question, but first time international travelers have likely never seen a visa before. Most visas look like a temporary ID on thick paper, like a business card, with a stamp that denotes the person is a visitor to the country. A passport usually does not suffice for first-time travelers; travelers must document why they need entry into the United States.
What Type of Visa Do You Need?
Planning what you need to do on a trip to the U.S. well before your departure can save many headaches during your trip. If you strictly get a travel visa and then decide you love the land so much that you wish to live in the U.S. and find employment, you will need to reapply for a business visa. Employers will not hire you unless you have a legal right to work in the country.
Do You Qualify for a Visa Waiver?
Some countries work together with the United States to make travel between the countries easier and less restricted. The Department of Homeland Security offers the Electronic System for Travel Authorization; ESTA costs nothing and can automatically determine your eligibility for travel within the U.S. Those who choose not to use this system will have to fill out the paper form I-94W.
The United States assumes that all applicants for travel visas plan to immigrate to the U.S. To overcome this assumption, visitors must prove that they plan to stay for a limited time, are financially able to stay in the U.S., have residence outside the U.S. and hold compelling ties to their home country, usually a sizable family and established employment.
Once you can prove you only plan to travel, head to your local U.S. consulate or embassy. At the embassy, fill out the Nonimmigrant Application Form DS-156. Also, it is suggested that you fill out the supplemental form DS-157; this form is required for male visitors ages 16 to 45 and all visitors from nations considered by the U.S. to be state sponsors of terrorism.
One must possess a passport valid for the next six months, a 2-by-2 photograph and the required fee, usually $131 for the DS-156 form.
Who Is Ineligible?
Before spending time and money applying for a visa, make sure you are eligible for a tourist visa. The consular officer may consider you ineligible based on his interpretation of the law. Get healthy before your trip because communicable diseases are grounds for denials. Drug addiction and offenses usually disqualify one from receiving a travel visa. Those with serious criminal offenses are likely to be denied a visa.
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