The specific documents needed will depend on which visa type you apply for; however, everyone should possess certain essential ones.
Statements of Purpose should outline both your interest in and long-term implications of the field you have selected, along with any anecdotes or stories which help the officer connect to what you are telling him/her.
Understanding Visa Types
Various kinds of visas are available in the U.S., each depending on your purpose for travel and other factors. Some types are easier to acquire than others.
The U.S. Department of State recently released its January 2024 Visa Bulletin, providing updates on visa availability. This monthly bulletin features Dates for Filing and Application Final Action Charts; the latter indicates when intending immigrants can file applications for adjustment of status or immigrant visas.
Although visa numbers remain low, there have been some promising signs. The EB-2 visa for nationals of India and China has seen marked improvement, while immigrant investors applying for an EB-5 visa have also seen steady improvements.
Notable developments also include the T visa for victims of human trafficking and the U visa for investigators of such crimes; also popular among international employees is the U.S. work permit visa; additional options include the T.N. and E-1 visas, which apply specifically to specific fields of trade.
In January 2024, the U.S. State Department launched a pilot program that allows certain nonimmigrant visa renewal applicants to do it domestically rather than via embassies and consulates overseas. However, participation is strictly limited, and applicants must meet specific participation criteria.
People travelling to the USA on business, tourism, or both will require an itinerary outlining their entire trip – this should include purchased flight tickets displaying arrival/departure dates, accommodation arrangements, and any relevant details.
Students or workers applying for student or work visas must also enrol at an educational institution registered with the Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). Immigrant visa applicants seeking to bring family members must first have been sponsored by either a U.S. citizen or a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR), with diverse immigrant visa applicants needing to come from countries with lower immigration levels into the U.S.
Online Form Submission
The DS-160 form requires you to answer several basic questions about yourself. These will include your name, birth date, gender and citizenship status, and education and work experience information. In addition, your passport number and digital photo will also need to be provided.
If you apply for a visa with family, each individual in your group will require their own DS-160 form. If you require help filling it out yourself, an outside third party may assist with filling it out; they must, however, be a citizen or permanent resident of the U.S., capable of reading and understanding English, as well as being able to follow instructions given.
Submitting your petition promptly is vitally important. Adjudicating service centres have strict protocols regarding how they receive submissions, so submitting late could cause significant delays in processing. You can avoid this problem by sending it via the United States Postal Service, FedEx, UPS or some other bonded delivery service.
Payment of Visa Fees
USCIS recently proposed raising filing fees as part of its plan to recover the full costs associated with its operations and reduce processing backlogs. Current filing fees have remained unchanged since 2016 yet fall far short of covering them all, according to an announcement from USCIS.
The visa application fee is $205. Additionally, applicants pay an additional biometric services fee of $70. This fee covers fingerprint collection and photos for use during immigration processing. It must be paid online using a credit or debit card at the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) website.
Successful H1B 2024 applicants will receive a decision letter by mail that informs them their case has been approved, and they can collect their passport with its new visa foil from an Embassy/Consulate in the U.S. However, if the U.S. Consular Officer does not agree, their passport could be placed into Administrative Processing (221g). It is up to each individual to persuade their Consular Officer of their case’s merits so their case is approved quickly.
Scheduling Visa Appointment
Once your online application and visa fees have been successfully submitted and paid for, scheduling an interview appointment is time. Log into your CEAC account using your DS-160 barcode number and payment receipt, and select the appropriate embassy or consulate before selecting a date and time that works for you – remember, you must attend your interview to secure your U.S. visa!
If you can’t make it for an interview at its scheduled time, contact NVC and explain why and request an expedited appointment. NVC may only grant expedited appointments under certain criteria: travel for emergency medical treatment, attending weddings/graduation ceremonies/assisting sick/elderly family members/English language learning programs/business/academic/professional conferences, etc.
Ogletree Deakins will monitor immigrant visa processing closely and publish updates as new information becomes available on its immigration blog. Ogletree Deakins will continue to track visa issuance times closely and post updates as they become available on our immigration blog.
Once your form has been submitted online, the next step will be arranging a visa interview. A Consular Officer will meet with you face-to-face to review your application, answer any queries and decide whether your visa should be granted or denied. Be prepared for questions about your work history, travel plans and family in the U.S., and details of any clubs, charities or professional organizations you have participated in.
As per USCIS requirements, you must bring a passport-style photo for the interview. A digital version will not suffice, so please bring along a printed photograph instead.
USCIS states on its website that everyone applying for a visa must fill out Form DS-160, such as nonimmigrant visa holders reentering in the same category and Mexican citizens applying for T.N. visas. Renewal of these types of visas often allows individuals to qualify for interview waivers.
Biometric Data Collection
When government agencies contract with organizations to collect biometric data, strict requirements and regulations must be observed in terms of both physical and technical safeguards to ensure privacy for individuals whose biometrics data is being collected, stored securely, and only accessed by authorized personnel. Furthermore, contractors must comply with all laws and terms of their contracts regarding how data will be gathered, utilized, stored, etc.
The Department of State recently unveiled an H-1B visa renewal program, enabling foreign nationals to renew their visas in the U.S. rather than travelling overseas to reduce visa backlogs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors. To be eligible, applicants must meet specific criteria and apply online at a dedicated State Department domestic renewal website; additionally, they must have been previously authorized to work in the U.S. while maintaining their status; this limited program is expected to run through April of 2024.
Visa Processing Time
Unnecessary delays or errors in processing visa applications can be avoided with an understanding of the visa application process, which typically involves several steps like securing admission, paying the SEVIS fee, filling out Form DS-160 and attending interviews – so starting early and seeking guidance from experienced immigration attorneys or advisors are essential components to its success.
Once selected, visas typically become available within several weeks or months; however, processing times can differ depending on the complexity of your case and USCIS’s workload.
Applicants should stay abreast of visa processing times for their country of origin, as these can change rapidly with changes to USCIS policies and procedures. The monthly Visa Bulletin summarises immigrant visa availability by category, including final action dates and Dates for Filing charts; EB-1 worldwide and EB-2 India priority dates remain current this month.