Applying for a Visa to visit the USA

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SO, there I was; with my renewed passport but, without a Visa to visit the USA.  I haven’t been on a holiday for a very long time and well, I do deserve to treat myself sometimes.  We all do.

 

Note:  Do not even bother with trying to contact the Visa contact centres.  They can only provide you with information, already available online, regarding the various types of Visas.  They have absolutely no contact with your local application centres or consulates.  The e-mail addresses provided also will not help much as it goes through to the same contact centres.

 

Types of Visas.

 

There are various types of Nonimmigrant Visas to visit the United States.  In fact, when I checked, there were a total of 32 types of Nonimmigrant Visas.

 

As I was just intending on visiting as a tourist, I opted to apply for a Standard Visitor Visa, also known as the US B2 tourist Visa, or just the B2 Visa.

 

The US B2 Tourist visa is valid for 10 years after issue. It means that after that time, you will need to renew your B2 Visa if you want to stay in the United States long-term again. Also, it allows you to stay in the U.S. for a maximum of 180 days Per Entry.  That is 6 months, just in case it is late at knight when you’re reading this.

 

What Are the Eligibility Criteria for a Tourist Visa?

 

To be eligible for a US Tourist visa, the purpose of your visit should be one of the following:

 

  • Have a holiday in the United States.
  • Tour various cities in the United States.
  • Visit friends or family.
  • Participate in social events hosted by various organizations.
  • Visit for medical treatment.
  • Participate in events or contests related to music or sports, for which you will not receive payment.
  • Enroll in short study courses for which you will not receive credit (ex. cooking classes).

 

Note:  A visa allows you to travel to a US port of entry (i.e. airport), but does not guarantee entry into the United States. The Department of Homeland Security, US Customs and Border Protection officials at the airport have authority to deny you entry to the United States.

 

Steps I followed to apply for my US Visa

 

Below are the steps, just for posterity, that I followed to obtain this Visa.

 

When viewing the below info, please keep in mind that I was applying as a South African citizen and that I am 100% blind so, this might not be an ideal way for you to apply for your Visa to the US.

 

  1. Make sure you are familiar with the photo requirements for the Visa. You will need to upload a digital copy with your online application.  Contact the US embassy in South Africa for up-to-date information.  To make sure that your photo is acceptable, used the photo tool provided by travel.state.gov.  I personally had my photo taken by a professional company as I am 100% blind.
  2. Complete the online application.
    • Keep in mind that Microsoft Edge and Safari web browsers are not supported, according to the website. So, stick to Google’s Chrome or Mozilla’s Firefox.
    • TO make things go a bit smoother, you should have the following documents available while you complete your DS-160 form:
      • Passport
      • Travel itinerary, if you have already made travel arrangements.
      • Dates of your last five visits or trips to the United States, if you have previously travelled to the United States. You may also be asked for your international travel history for the past five years.
      • Résumé or Curriculum Vitae – You may be required to provide information about your current and previous education and work history.
      • Other Information – Some applicants, depending on the intended purpose of travel, will be asked to provide additional information when completing form DS-160. I was asked a ton of questions on military, terrorism, human trafficking, etc.
      • I did not see any reference to disability or special needs/accommodations.
    • It is advisable to view the up-to-date Consular Electronic Application Center – Instructions whilst completing your application.
    • It took me about five hours to complete the application online.
    • Regular timeouts occurred so, I strongly advise you to save your session after every single step.
    • I received a U.S. DoS – CEAC Confirmation e-mail from DO-NOT-REPLY@state.gov containing my electronic Visa application confirmation page, as per my selection, so that I could print out my confirmation page.
    • I then had to register on the US Department of State Visa Appointment and Information system’s website at usvisa-info.com so that I could pay, schedule an appointment, etc.
    • Once registered, a confirmation e-mail was sent from donotreply@usvisa-info.com and I had to click on the confirmation link contained within.
    • You guessed it! I received, yet another confirmation e-mail, confirming that my account was successfully created on the US Department of State Visa Appointment and Information system website.
  3. Pay the non-refundable visa processing fee via cash deposit or by credit card. All this is done on the Official U.S. Department of State Visa Appointment Service’s website at https://ais.usvisa-info.com/en-za/niv/, as mentioned above.
  4. When I tried to make payment, the website indicated that no appointments were available and that I just had to settle for refreshing the page, every so often, to check, and check, for openings in the schedule. Not very intuitive.
  5. I regularly checked the wait times on the website every 12 hours or so.
  6. I finally found an appointment slot and made payment.   I paid by credit card and the process was fully accessible.
  7. I then printed out the barcoded confirmation form and saved a soft copy for my own reference.
  8. I was then able to schedule my US visa interview at the nearest US Consulate General. My nearest US Consulate General was in Johannesburg.
  9. I would advise you to gather your documents and any supporting documents that may be required and make copies of all of these. In my case, I made electronic copies as well and uploaded it to my personal cloud just in case.
  10. I attended my interview. The security on the outside was ignorant with regards to my guide dog but, US Consulate staff quickly intervened and I was permitted entry. I was treated with dignity and it was clear that the US Consulate staff were aware of persons with disabilities and how to assist them.
  11. My interview took less than 5 minutes.
  12. I was able to collect my passport once the embassy notified me. This was about 7 days after my interview.

 

So, this is it.  It might seem daunting at first but, if I could manage it, you can too.

 

If you do not have a passport yet, get one.  Travel and explore the world.  Learn about new cultures and people. Believe me, you will thank me one day.

 

Good luck.

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