Most foreign nationals traveling to the U.S. require a visa. Most Canadian citizens and many citizens from Visa Waiver Program countries can travel to the U.S. without a visa for a short period of time. Most other foreign nationals require a nonimmigrant visa to enter the U.S. Visas are issued by the U.S. Embassies or Consulates abroad.
Many U.S. Consulates have country-specific documents requirements for nonimmigrant visa applicants. The following are the most commonly requested documents for petition-based work visas:
- Original Approval Notice from USCIS (Form I-797);
- Original passport (with at least two (2) blank visa pages). Passport should be valid for at least six (6) months;
- Application fee;
- Reciprocity fee (if applicable);
- Completed Forms DS-160;
- One (1) passport style photograph;
- A complete copy of the nonimmigrant petition filed with the USCIS (form I-129 and attachments);
- Copy of three (3) most recent paystubs;
In addition to the documents listed above, dependents (if any) must complete and submit separate application forms (Form DS-160) and proof of their relationship to the principal applicant, which may include original Birth and Marriage Certificates (long form).
Processing times vary from consulate to consulate. Average wait time and processing time are published in electronic format by the U.S. Department of State and can be accessed at the following link:
Please also note that some consulates instituted drop box programs, which enable (or in some countries, require) certain categories of applicants to submit their applications remotely via drop boxes. In-person interviews for these applicants are typically waived and their visas are issued and returned by mail or courier.
U.S. Consulates must confirm whether nonimmigrant visa petition has been approved by USCIS for a particular applicant, before they can issue a visa. They are now able to access the details of approved nonimmigrant visa petitions through the Petition Information Management Service (PIMS). The Kentucky Consular Center (KCC) has ceased e-mailing scanned copies of approved petitions to posts. The electronic PIMS record created by KCC is now the primary source of evidence to be used in determining petition approval.
Security Clearances / Administrative Processing
Some applicants require security clearance before they can be issued visas. Whether or not a particular visa application will be subject to security clearance depends largely on the field of study and nationality of the applicant. Security clearance typically delays the process of issuance of a visa anywhere from one (1) to three (3) months. Having a detailed resume on hand and a letter from employer, explaining the details of the work or research conducted by the visa applicant may expedite this process. Additional documents may be requested by the U.S. consulate from the applicant in order to complete this process.