Cities and Towns in the United States > Travel > How to Apply for a US Visa


Applying for the right visa to enter the US

Often referred to as “the land of opportunities,” the US offers a stable economy, social security, and the promise of improving your social status through hard work and commitment. This idea has attracted people from all over the world and motivated them to come to the US in the search of a better quality of life for centuries.

But what do you need to apply for to enter the country? Although some nationalities are exempt (such as Canadians), most non-American citizens will need to apply for a suitable visa permit before coming to the US.

In this article, we’ll give you a brief overview of the types of visas available in the US to help you choose the correct one. Learn about the average cost and the process to obtain yours.



A visa is a travel document issued by the Department of Homeland Security. It is attached to your passport, and it states the type of permit you hold, how long you are allowed to stay in the country for, whether you are entitled to work or not, and its expiration date.

Depending on the reason why you are travelling to the US, you may need to request a different type of visa. Broadly speaking, these permits are divided into two big categories:

  • • Non-immigrant Visas (for temporary visitors)
  • • Immigrant Visas (for those who want to stay permanently)
Please note: being in possession of a visa does not guarantee entrance to the US. This will be decided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or Customs and Border Protection (CBP) immigration inspector upon your arrival to the country.


If the purpose of your stay requires you to enter the US only for a limited amount of time, you’ll need to apply for a nonimmigrant visa. At the moment, there are over 20 types of non-immigrant visas. Some of the most common reasons to apply for a temporary visitor visa are tourism; visiting family and friends; studying; seeking medical treatment; coming to do temporary work (like an Au-pair, for example); or to do business. You can find a complete list of all the non-immigrant visas available here.

For more detailed information, you can read our article on how to apply for nonimmigrant visas.


These are visas issued to people who intend to move to the US permanently. To be able to apply, you must follow under one of the following categories:

  • Family/immediate relative of a US citizen: you are a US citizen’s fiancé, spouse, parent, or child and you intend to join them.
  • Sponsored employment: you have an employer willing to sponsor you (which means you intend to settle down in the US and do permanent work).
  • Other immigrants: you are a returning resident or a diversity immigrant.

For a complete list of all the immigrant visas, click here.

Please note: if your relative lives in the States as a lawful resident but is not a US citizen, they can only sponsor you as their spouse or their unmarried child.
How to apply for an US visa


Once you have checked whether you need a visa, and you’ve chosen the right one for your circumstances, you need to apply for your visa in your nearest US embassy or consulate.

The process and the documentation you’ll need to submit depends on the type of visa you’ve selected and the embassy or consulate you're applying from. However, in general you will need to:

  • 1. Fill in the right Application Form online and provide the requested supporting documents. Although documents vary depending on the type of visa you apply for, you’ll be likely to be asked to provide:
  • - Your passport (which will be returned to you once a decision has been made)
  • - A passport-like photograph
  • - The correct completed form (depending on the visa you apply for)
  • - Civil documents and copies of them (if applicable), such as a birth or marriage certificate. If they are not in English, translations will be requested too.
  • - Proof that you can support yourself financially
  • - Completed medical examination forms (if applicable)
  • 2. Pay your application fee (you’ll be told how when you apply)
  • 3. Schedule a visa interview. You can check the estimated appointment wait time here).
  • 4. Attend your visa interview (your originals will be given back to you at this stage)
  • 5.Await the decision by mail

If your application is succesful, you'll receive your passport by a courier service with your visa attached to it. Make sure you check the information printed on it is correct. If there are any mistakes, you’ll need to contact the embassy or consulate where it was issued to ask them to rectify it, as it won’t be valid otherwise.


Fees vary depending on the type of visa you’re applying for. As a guide, in 2022 you can expect to pay:

Visa fees

Visa fees are non-refundable. This means you will not get your money back if you apply for the wrong visa, submit incorrect or incomplete documentation, or are refused entry. If you are unsure, you can use the government’s Visa Wizard tool to help you decide which visa to apply for.

Know that other fees may apply too depending on your particular situation and visa type. For a complete list of all visa fees, you can check the following link.


Did you know?
  • • If your visa expires while you are in the US, you are allowed to remain until the date set by the immigration officer in your admission stamp or visa form.
  • • If your visa is still valid but attached to an expired passport, you’ll need to bring your old passport together with the new one to be allowed to enter the country. Do not remove your visa from the old passport or it will become invalid.
  • • If you have changed your name, you will need to apply for a new passport and a new visa permit.
  • • If the visa has been damaged, you need to apply for a new one.
  • • A visa can be renewed, but you will still need to apply and go through the whole process again. You may be exempt from going through the interview process again, but you should check with your local US embassy if this applies to you.
    You can also read

- What is the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)?

- Apply for a Nonimmigrant Visa to the U.S

- Apply for a Nonimmigrant Visa to the U.S (en Español)

- Public Holidays in the U.S. for 2022