Each year, millions of people from around the world visit the United States for tourism and short-term business. It is very easy to make a mistake during the visa application process.
If you plan to visit the USA for tourism, here are three important things that you should know:
1. Get access to a computer.
Without internet, the visa process will be a complicated one. For citizens of most* countries (see below), the first step in getting a tourist visa is submitting an online application.
You must also have a contact email address. Only after submitting the online application can you schedule your visa interview at a U.S. Consulate.
2. Organize your finances.
Last month, I worked with a Cambodian woman who wished to visit her family in the United States.
Even despite challenges such as her lack of computer access and language barrier, completing her application was a real struggle, especially when it came to her finances.
This woman worked in subsistence farming in a rural area of the country. Her income fluctuated with the seasons, and she often depended on support from her family in the U.S.
Because of this, financial information was scarce and she was unable to show how much she earned. A lack of verifiable pay is insufficient for a successful visa application.
However, she was able to overcome this dilemma. In order to complete her application (which requires a monthly income), she took her previous years’ income and divided by twelve. By doing so, she was able to complete this application, and satisfy this portion of her visa application.
Many tourists, especially those with family in the United States, do not make very much money. If your income would be considered ‘impoverished’ by U.S. standards, you will need a U.S. based financial sponsor to support you.
Sponsorships require detailed information from the sponsor, and he/she will need to fill out a sponsorship form with physical proof of his/her income and send it to you.
3. Purchase refundable airfare.
Travel plans can be a “Catch-22” – they can create a difficult situation if you do not want to make travel arrangements until your visa is approved, but need to show your travel arrangements in order to obtain your visa.
This is a common question I receive, and unfortunately, there’s no easy answer.
However, the best chance to minimize risk is to purchase refundable tickets around the same time that you schedule your visa interview. While refundable tickets might be more expensive, the credibility that you’ll earn by having proof of your travel plans (especially your return home) is well-worth the price.
Disclaimer: Keep in mind that this is not a comprehensive list of what’s required to obtain a Tourist Visitor visa. Rather, these are frequent questions and common mistakes that applicants make in the process.
For detailed information about the Tourist Visitor visa, you can visit the website for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for a step-by- step process.
*Citizens of many countries are exempt from the B-1/B- 2 visa requirement for visits up to 90 days.
You can see if your country might qualify for an exemption by clicking here.