USA Visa Application: how to obtain, when needed, where to apply for, costs and duration

Whether you are traveling to America for vacation, work, study or whatever, you are wondering how and when to apply for a visa for the USA. There are several types available according to your needs. Let’s find out more about it.

The visa application for the USA is a topic that affects all those people who, for various reasons, wish to reach America. Those who want to spend a simple holiday in the United States, without stopping for over 90 days, do not need to apply for a visa: in case the stay is equal to or less than this duration, in fact, the Visa Waiver Program will be required, applying ESTA, or the Electronic System for
Travel Authorization. If your stay, however, was longer than 90 days, it will become essential to have a visa, of which there are different types according to your needs. Let’s find out how to obtain the USA visa when it is needed, where to apply for it, costs and duration.

How to obtain the USA visa, requirements, costs and duration:

There are different types of visas, each of which must be requested based on the duration and type of travel to be made in the USA. Among the most common, there are:

  • Business Visa or B1: this is needed if you need to attend business meetings or conferences in America, for a maximum period of 6 months;
  • Tourist visa or B2: this visa must be requested if there is a stay longer than 90 days for a maximum of 6 months, as a tourist or for medical treatment;
  • Visa for transit or C1: it is used to cross the USA to reach another country;
  • Visa for crew members or D: this visa is necessary for anyone who is a member of an air or naval crew;
  • Visa for trade or investment or E: useful for undertaking a commercial or investment activity;
  • Student visa, F or M: if you are a student and you intend to attend a course of study, you will need to apply for this type of visa, in addition to being accepted by the school or university where you want to take the course and therefore be enrolled in the Students and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS);
  • Visa for journalists or I: it is a visa for those who carry out journalistic or media support activities;
  • Visa for cultural exchanges or J: who must take part in a cultural exchange program must request it;
  • Visa for temporary workers or H, L, O, P, Q, R: these are used to work for a limited period of time;
  • Visa for diplomats, officials or soldiers or A, G, NATO: this is for those who must take on diplomatic-official positions of a governmental or military type.

How do I get a visa and what documents do I need?

How do I get a visa? Most visa applicants must report to an American Consulate for an interview. The documents you need are:

  • 2 passport-sized photos;
  • Completed forms;
  • 1 valid passport that does not expire before 6 months;
  • Demonstration of having enough money for one’s stay;
  • Taking out medical insurance;
  • Demonstration of the purpose of the visit, by booking a return ticket or hotel;
  • Letter of guarantee from the school, in the case of a student visa;
  • Letter from the potential employer, in case of a work visa.

Visa costs for the US are priced at least $ 160 for a maximum of $ 265. The duration of the visa varies according to the specific case: it is valid, however, until the expiry date shown.

USA Visa Categories:

Work visa for the USA

The work visa categories are divided into:

Visa for crew members or D: this type of visa is necessary for those who work onboard ships or for international airlines;

  • Visa for representatives of media information or I: to obtain this visa, it will be necessary to prove that they are representatives of foreign media – such as television, radio or newspapers – who go to the USA to carry out their profession;
  • Trade and investment visa, E1 or E2: the E1 visa is for those who have to carry out business related to international trade on their own, while E2 for those who have to invest in an American company. This visa is aimed at citizens of the countries with which the United States has commercial relations;
  • Visa for religious worker or R: this visa is for those who go to the USA to perform religious duties, temporarily;
  • Visa for temporary jobs or trainees, H, L, O, P or Q: to obtain this type of visa, the employer must complete a form (I-129) which must be viewed by the Citizenship and Services Office of US immigration (USCIS).

D visa is often associated with C1, which is aimed at those who must pass between two countries via the United States: in the case of crew members who need to reach, for example, the ship or plane on which they will embark, the consular section provides for the issue of a joint C1 / D visa. Here are some cases in which staff may need this type of visa:

  • Pilots or flight attendants on airliners;
  • Commanders, engineers or sailors on a ship;
  • Lifeguards, cooks, waiters or other service personnel on cruise ships.

E1 and E2 visas are for citizens of countries with which the United States maintains a treaty of trade and navigation and who must travel to the United States for the following reasons:

To exercise important trade between the USA and the country of the treaty;
To develop or direct the operations of a company in which the applicant has invested or is in the process of doing so.

These types of visas were created to facilitate economic interaction between the United States and other countries, not as tools for foreign citizens to settle in the US or retire.

Trade/investor visas can be renewed or extended, but only if the work done continues to meet the requirements. Spouses and unmarried children – under 21 years of age – of the owners or employees can obtain E visas to accompany their family members, but the children will only be able to attend school and not work: of course, the certified copies of marriage certificates, birth certificates and
all the documentation necessary to establish the relationship between the applicant and his family.

Category I visas for journalists and media workers are designed for those who wish to enter the US as a press officer, radio or otherwise. Also, in this case, spouse and children – provided they are not married and up to 21 years of age – can apply for a visa in order to reach or accompany the main applicant, who will have to demonstrate that he can support his family in the USA.

Visas of category H, L, O, P, Q, R are indicated for temporary workers. Let’s see some:

  • H1B visa: suitable for highly specialized personnel, for example, those working on government research and development projects or cooperation projects managed by the US Department of Defense;
  • H2A Visa: for seasonal or temporary agricultural workers;
  • H2B visa: for non-agricultural workers with temporary or seasonal contracts;
  • Visa H3: for those who go to the USA for a non-medical or academic internship;
  • Visa L: for personnel transferred within the same company based in the United States and with highly specialized duties;
  • Visa O: for those who have an extraordinary ability in science, arts, education, business, cinema, TV and the like, provided they are recognized nationally or internationally;
  • Visa P: for internationally recognized athletes, sports teams and the like;
  • Visa Q1: for those who participate in international cultural exchange programs for sharing the history, culture, and traditions of the country from which they come;
  • Visa R1: this category is for those who intend to work with religious functions, temporarily.

There are annual limits on the number of categories. For more information, visit the Working in the US and Temporary (Nonimmigrant) Workers pages of the USCIS website.

Spouses and children – as already explained – can apply for a visa of the same category, except for Q1 visas.

Tourist visa for the USA:

B1 and B2 visas can be requested by:

  • Citizens who are not entitled to travel through the visa-free travel program (the Visa Waiver Program or ESTA);
  • People who, despite being entitled to ESTA, want to stay in the USA for more than 90 consecutive days for tourism or business reasons;
  • Who has been refused the visa application of another type;
  • Who was rejected at the entrance of the USA.

To obtain a tourist visa, it is necessary that:

  • The purpose of the trip is tourism or business;
  • You wish to stay in the USA for a limited period of time;
  • Your residence is not in the USA and ties and obligations guarantee your return to your country of residence at the end of your trip.

What documents should be presented in this regard? Since each case is different from the other, there are no documents that are the same for everyone, but the exact purpose of the trip must be demonstrated: for example, through documentation on the work, economic and family situation.

The tourist visa is generally valid for 10 years and, if it is issued with multiple entry, it can be used to make multiple trips until the expiry date, but without each trip exceeding 6 consecutive months. On the contrary, if a single entry visa is issued, it will only be possible to make a trip in 10 years or until the expiration date indicated and always lasting a maximum of 6 consecutive months.

The B1 visa is indicated for those who want to travel to the USA for a limited period and for business reasons, such as participation in seminars, meetings, and conferences. With this type of visa, however, employment is not allowed. To request it, you must complete the DS-160 form online and print the confirmation page, registering on the site and presenting the documents explained above. In case of approval, the visa is issued in 2-3 days.

Student visa for the USA:

Student visas are those of category F, M, and J: the first two are needed if you are students who intend to attend a course of study in the USA; while the latter concerns cultural exchange programs.

F and M visas are visas for anyone who wants to study in the United States: F is for academic studies, M is for professional and non-academic studies. Before you can apply for an F or M visa, you must apply for enrollment and be accepted by a school recognized by the SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program), so as to be enrolled in the SEVIS system: in this case, for more information, it is You can visit the EducationUSA website and the Study in the States to find SEVP certified schools.

At least 3 days before the interview, a fee must be paid: the instructions will be provided by the American school, which will take care of generating the I-20 forms for the applicant and any family members. With this type, the USA can be accessed up to 30 days before the study program start date.

The category J visa for cultural exchanges is aimed at:

  • Students of various educational levels;
  • Primary, secondary and specialization teachers;
  • Trainees hired by institutions, agencies or firms;
  • Professors who wish to teach or attend specialization courses;
  • Research scholars;
  • Who wants to take professional courses in the medical and paramedical fields.

ESTA

The ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) is an electronic travel authorization, which must be requested before going to the USA and which is part of the Visa Waiver Program, a visa-free travel program: thanks to the latter it is, in fact, possible to enter the USA without a visa. In order to take advantage of the Visa Waiver Program, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Citizenship of some countries, including Italy;
  • Stay not longer than 90 days;
  • I travel only for tourism or business purposes.

Travel authorization is linked to the electronic passport with which it is requested. How to get ESTA? You simply need to apply, by filling out a form and making a $ 14 payment, before waiting for an answer. It is advisable to apply at least 3 days before departure. Since release, ESTA is valid for 2 years and allows you to make multiple trips to the United States.

The visa interview for the USA

To obtain a visa for the USA, you must attend an interview, so you must make an appointment at the embassy and fill out a form in all its parts. Once the appointment has been made, you will have to go to answer some questions in English, explaining the reasons for your trip. For visa application, proceed as follows:

  • Fill in the DS-160 form online, also printing the confirmation page or the I-20 form issued by the school, or the DS-2019 form issued by the school for the J visa;
  • Register with the Official US VISA information and appointment services;
  • Pay the fare (MRV) online;
  • Book an appointment for the interview;
  • Bring the credentials issued by a professional journalistic association, in case of visa I or receipt of SEVIS payment, in case of student visa;
  • Go to the interview with the necessary documentation, that is, the form confirmation page, a valid passport, 1 passport photo, employment contract and employer’s letter of employment on headed paper, documentation about your family, economic and social situation in Italy.

If the request is approved, the visa will be issued within 2-3 working days and the passport forwarded to DHL where, after about 3 more days, it will be possible to withdraw it. In any case, DHL will inform the withdrawal instructions by e-mail. In the event that the visa is not approved, the passport will be returned at the end of the interview together with a letter explaining the reasons for the refusal.

What to do if they refuse the visa and why they refuse it:

As for ESTA, it is quite rare that this will be denied and, in this case, it would still be possible to enter the USA thanks to a visa: this procedure, however, takes more time and you need to go to an embassy or consulate to perform the standard procedure.

Visa refusals can, however, occur for some reason: for example, when applications are not correctly presented or are incomplete. In general, the solution is to re-submit the application to the American Consulate in a correct and complete way. Famous is the case of the cartoonist Zerocalcare who had to go to the United States to draw at the New York Comicon, but to whom the visa was denied: the reason for the refusal was his travels to Iraq and Syria, shortly before leaving for the USA.

Generally, you can file an appeal against the visa refusal for the United States with the American consular authorities or with the authorities of the American Immigration Department. The possibility of success is closely linked to the causes that led to the refusal of the visa itself. Most situations can be remedied such as, for example, in the event that the documentation is incomplete or an application not properly prepared.

In case of refusal of the E2 visa, the reasons can be determined by failures in the explanation of the investment operation and the future prospects of the activity to be carried out in America. It could then happen that there is little clarity in the explanation of the tasks to be performed, as can happen for the L visa.

Finally, what to do in case of refusal? The solution lies in the reformulation of the visa application for the United States of America: depending on the case, it could be a partial or complete revision with new supporting documentation.

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