All Indian passport holders need a visa to visit the United States. The US visa allows you to travel to the US for leisure, business, medical or private purposes and stay for up to six months. The visa is issued for up to 10 years* and you can stay for up to six months at a time.
You can apply for a US visa online up to three months before your planned date of travel to the US. At the time of online application, you are required to schedule two appointments; the OFC appointment at the Visa Application Center (VAC) and the visa appointment for a personal interview with a US consular officer at the U.S. Embassy or local Consulate. It will take 3 to 5 weeks to get a decision on your visa application, but the processing times do vary.
This detailed article will help you understand the US visa application process and procedures you need to go through in order to obtain a visa to the United States.
Eligibility Criteria for Indians:
You must prove that:
- You will return back to India on the planned date.
- You have no intentions to settle in the US.
- You have enough funds to cover your travel, accommodation and sightseeing expenses.
- You are able to support any dependents (spouse, children or close relatives) travelling with you.
- Provide details of the travel plans and activities that you will undertake while in the US.
- If travelling for business, submit all documents relating to the business trip.
- If visiting for medical treatment, submit all the documents relating to the treatment.
- If travelling for an event, submit all the documents relating to the event.
US Visa Appointment:
The estimated wait time for an interview appointment may vary depending upon the time of travel, location, and visa category. Furthermore, there can be significant delays in getting an appointment due to increasing backlog of incoming visa appointment requests and staffing. Hence, it is very important to apply well in advance of your intended travel date. Always review the visa requirements on the US Embassy or Consulate visa section for the latest updates, local procedures and instructions as they keep changing from time to time.
Expedited Interview Appointment:
The Consular officers may consider your request to expedite your interview date only in the case of an emergency travel such as death in your immediate family, medical emergency (serious illness) or school start date. You will need to provide solid proof for requesting an earlier appointment. Reasons such as attending wedding ceremony, graduation ceremony, participating in an annual business/academic/professional conference, assisting pregnant relative, or enjoying last-minute tourism does not qualify for expedited appointments.
The OFC appointment takes place before the visa interview. During the OFC appointment, you are required to provide your biometric information, such as fingerprints and photograph. You will also be required to present your original passport (along with old passports if any), DS-160 application form, OFC appointment confirmation page and payment receipt. The OFC appointment is scheduled on a different date (prior to the interview) and does not include a visa interview. Once you complete your OFC appointment, you will be able to attend your visa interview on another date as scheduled.
The US Visa Interview:
Following your OFC appointment, you are required to attend the visa interview with a US consular officer at your local US consulate. Every applicant aged between 14 and 79 years are required to attend the interview at the US Embassy or Consulate. Applicants below 13 years and above 80 years are normally exempted from the interview. However, the consular officers have the discretion to request an interview of any applicant, regardless of age.
The interview has two possible outcomes for the visa application; either issuance or refusal of the visa. The consular officer will interview you to determine whether you are qualified to receive the US visa. If you fail to establish that you are eligible for a visa, the consular officer may refuse that application. The decision on whether you qualify to receive a visa under the U.S. law will be based on the information you provide through your application form and during your visa interview in response to questions. You must therefore demonstrate that you meet the requirements under U.S. law to receive a visa.
Financial evidence for your visa:
How much bank balance is required for US visa?
You need to show through your documents that you have enough money to fund your US trip and if you are taking family members along (dependent spouse or kids), you are required to show adequate funding for their needs and expenses as well. The most essential materials to support your case should be your original bank statements with average account balance, tax forms showing annual income, salary slips, personal funds such as fixed deposits, personal assets such as property ownership, shares and securities, others investments etc. Please note that, there are no definite rules or facts about the amount of money required to show in your bank account. However, from our clients experiences, its safe to show some where between 3 lakh – 6 lakh in your bank account, apart from other investments. Showing good amount of finances and investments will certainly strengthen your visa application and will convince the consular officer that you have a well-established, stable life in your home country.
Required Documentation for US Visa Application:
You are required to carry the following forms and documents in support of your USA visa application:
- Confirmation page of DS-160 application form: Carry a print out of your online application confirmation page with barcode.
- Print out of appointment confirmation page and fee payment receipt.
- Covering letter (optional): A detailed letter that mentions the purpose of visit, duration of stay, details of dependents travelling and any other information that is required for the officials to know.
- Passport: Valid passport, issued within the last 10 years and valid for at least three months after the end date of the trip with at least two subsequent blank pages for the visa stamp and entry/exit stamps.
- Photographs: One recently clicked coloured photos on white background. You are required to upload the photo while completing the DS-160 form online.
- Evidence of sufficient funds: You must show proof that you are able to pay for all costs relating to the trip and have the financial means to fund your living expenses as well as any dependents while in the US.
- Original bank statements of last three months.
- Pay Slips of last three months.
- Income tax returns of last three years.
- Personal funds such as Fixed deposits.
- Personal assets such as property documents, shares, others investments etc.
- Personal Financial Sponsorship: If you have a financial sponsor who is paying for your trip and providing you the money to meet your living expenses in the US, such as your parents or spouse or host in the US.
- Letter from the sponsor confirming details of the sponsorship. The letter should include your name, name of the sponsor, relationship with the applicant, duration of the trip, length of financial sponsorship and amount the sponsor is giving for the trip or statement confirming they will cover all your expenses.
- Passport copy of the sponsor.
- Bank statements of the sponsor of last three months.
- Official Financial Sponsorship: If you are travelling for business reasons and are receiving full sponsorship from your company or the host company in the US.
- Covering letter (sponsorship letter) on the company letterhead confirming that they will cover all of your travel and living costs in the US. The letter should include your name, employee number, designation, duration of employment, duration of the official trip, length of financial sponsorship and amount the company is giving for the trip or statement confirming they will cover all your expenses.
- Company bank statements of last three months.
- Employment Status
- If Employed: Leave sanctioned letter from the company, employee card, pay slips of last three months.
- If Self-Employed: Business registration documents, partnership deed, company bank statements of last three months, business card.
- If Retired: Pension book or statement.
- If Freelancer: Professional certificate (documents pertaining to the profession), contract copy (if consultant with a company), business card.
- For Students: You must submit documents relating to your current pursuing course or education.
- School/college/institution ID card.
- Bonafide certificate.
- Itinerary for your trip: Submit a detailed travel plan of the places you plan to visit and what you intend to do. Include travel dates, destinations, scheduled tours, tourist attractions, meeting agendas, event timeline and so on.
- Reserved return airline ticket: Do not make final travel plans or book confirmed tickets as there is no guarantee that you will get the visa. If you still wish to book in advance for securing low airfares, it may be advisable to book a fully refundable ticket.
- Visiting Relatives or Friends in the US:
- Informal, recent invitation letter from your host in the United States.
- Photocopy of the bio data page of your host’s passport and, if applicable, photocopy of the US residence permit.
- Contact details and residential address of host in the US.
- Minor Applicant: You must submit separate application form for each child.
- Copy of parent(s) or legal guardian’s biodata page of the passport.
- Legal Birth Certificate.
- Business Visa: You have to show proof of the business activities you will be undertaking in the US.
- Original, recent and signed formal invitation letter from the US company on the company letterhead, confirming the type of business relationship, travel purpose, duration of business trip(s) and if applicable, confirmation that travel and accommodation expenses will be covered. If you’re going on a business trip within the same company, you will still need to submit a separate letter from each office, Indian and US.
- Original, recent and signed covering letter on company letterhead, confirming designation of employee, duration of employment, business relationship with US company, travel purpose, duration of business trip(s) and if applicable a guarantee that all travel expenses will be covered.
- Registration certificate of the Indian company.
- Travelling for medical treatment or to attend social, musical or sports event: Submit documents pertaining to the purpose of travel.
- Letter from hospital for undergoing medical treatment.
- Invitation letter for participation in social/musical/sports event.
US Visa Application Process:
Step 1: Complete the online DS-160 form for each person applying for the visa regardless of age. (separate application forms are required for each applicant).
Step 2: Print and keep aside the DS-160 barcode page.
Step 3: Pay the non-refundable visa application fee online via debit or credit card or at the AXIS bank. Print out the receipt.
Step 4. Schedule two appointments each, for OFC and visa interview.
Step 5: Prepare all necessary documents for your appointment (original and copies) but only submit the documents if the consular officer asks for it.
Step 6: Attend your first OFC appointment at the Visa Application Center to get your biometrics (fingerprints) and photograph taken.
Step 7: Attend the Visa Interview at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate.
Check US Visa Status:
- Visit the visa status check page.
- Select the visa application type: nonimmigrant visa (NIV) or immigrant visa (IV).
- Select the location.
- Enter the Application ID or Case Number.
- Enter the code as shown.
- Click on submit to view your visa status.
Processing time & return of passport:
If your application is approved, visa processing will take up to 5 working days and a further 2 days for delivery of the passport. If your application has been refused, the consular officer will affix a rejection stamp and return the passport immediately with a letter explaining the reason for rejection. It may be important to note that processing periods are estimates only. The Embassy or Consulate does not guarantee visa issuance or visa processing times in advance. It is therefore recommended to apply well in advance of your trip and make refundable travel arrangements that can be scheduled/canceled in case of delay in the processing.
Collecting passport in person:
It is not possible to collect your passport in person from the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. As soon as your application has been processed, your passport will be handed to the courier service for delivery.
Arriving in the US:
The USA visa alone does not guarantee entry into the United States. It only allows a person to travel to a US airport and request permission to enter the United States. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials and Department of Homeland Security (DHS), at the port of entry have sole authority to permit or deny admission to the United States. After you present your passport, visa, and Immigration form at the port-of-entry, the US official will make this decision. Once you are allowed to enter the United States, the official will provide an admission stamp or paper Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record.
Valid US Visa in expired passport:
A valid US visa in an expired passport is still considered valid. Unless canceled or revoked, a US visa remains valid until its expiration date. If you have a valid visa in your expired passport, do not remove it from your expired passport. You may use your valid visa in your expired passport along with the new valid passport for travel and admission to the United States.
US Visa Renewal:
Whether you are applying for the first time or renewing your visa, the visa application process is the same. The only difference is renewing a US visa does not require a personal interview (there can be exceptions). There is a “Dropbox” Facility for applicants whose visas are about to expire or expired in the last 12 months. You are required to schedule an appointment to drop off your passport and visa application documents at one of the 11 drop-off locations in India. After you submit your application, you will receive notification once your visa has been processed.
Also read: How to renew US Visa for Indians
Its absolutely normal to feel overwhelmed with the US visa process. At Akbartravels.com, our Visa Experts have years of experience dealing with this type of complicated processes and will take much of the stress and uncertainty out of the process. Feel free to contact us with all of your worries. We’d love to hear from you.