As a requirement of employment for my upcoming Orlando job, I was required to schedule a visit to the local US Consulate. This was necessary to get my visa approved and finally board that plane to Orlando.
So what is a Visa?
A visa is normally a document or a stamp inside your passport which shows that you are allowed to enter the country for which it has been issued, for a set period of time.
For the United States (US) a tourist visa is normally set at 90 days but it can be less or more depending upon your specific circumstances.
How does this apply to the US and Florida?
A citizen of a foreign country who seeks to enter the United States generally must first obtain a U.S. visa, which is placed in the traveller’s passport. As shown in my earlier article about the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, certain international travellers may be eligible to travel to the US without a visa if they meet the requirements.
Unsurprisingly, there is a US visa to cover every situation: there are 36 types of visas listed on the state department page alone, so it can sometimes be a confusing process. These are generally broken down into two types
- Immigrant Visas
- Non Immigrant Visas – which we’ll be discussing in this article.
Here, for your information, is a picture of a standard US visa — it’s normally placed inside a blank page of your passport:
Why so much of a process?
Under American Immigration Law the presumption is that every visitor visa applicant is a possible immigrant. Basically the United States wants to ensure that when they let you in, you are actually intending to go home at the end of your trip. Therefore, applicants for visitor visas must overcome this presumption by demonstrating a number of things:
- The purpose of their trip is to enter the U.S. for business, pleasure, or medical treatment;
- That they plan to remain for a specific, limited period;
- Evidence of funds to cover expenses in the United States;
- Evidence of compelling social and economic ties abroad; and
- That they have a residence outside the U.S. as well as other binding ties that will insure their return abroad at the end of the visit.
So I want to come to Orlando, What’s next?
Firstly, find out where you local embassy or consulate is. You can follow the US State Department website which will guide you to the correct location here:
Normally you must apply to the consulate that is local to your place of normal residence. Ensure that you apply as far ahead of your trip date as possible. Don’t book your trip until you have your visas, as booking before you have your visas is a challenging game to play — and don’t you already have enough to worry about when it comes to planning your trip?
Since 9/11 everyone over the age of 13 and younger than the age of 79 will normally be required to make their way to the local consulate to be interviewed. It’s nothing too major but making this appointment is the first step to getting entry to the US. You can check the wait times by clicking here.
What do I require in order to apply for a US Tourist Visa ?
You need three things:
- Form DS-160, which you can learn more about and complete online.
- A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date of at least six months beyond the intended period of stay in the United States (unless your country has an agreement, click here). If more than one of you is included in your passport (a child for example), then each person desiring a visa must make a separate application.
- One 2×2 photograph. This is different to your standard Passport photo and cost me about £7.00 to get done in a photo booth.
Furthermore, anyone who attends an appointment normally has their fingerprints taken digitally while at the embassy. So please try not to shut your fingers in the car door a few days before!
If they can’t take your figure prints, then you’ll be asked to come back another day.
What’s it like visiting an Embassy?
Visiting a US Embassy is a nerve wracking experience: Luckily, the US Government has produced a little video for the London Embassy which explains it even better than I could:
One thing I would state is that you must arrive on time, as passing though security can take a little while. Oh, and bring a good book. It took me four hours to get my Visa signed off, and I really wished I brought something to read!
Visit America: It’s easier than you think
This video was produced by the US Department of State’s Bureau of International Information Programs in May 2012. The featured speaker is President Obama.
If you have any questions or comments then please leave them below or in our forum.
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