USA Visa Guide – Application, Requirements and Best Tips

Petr Novák

The vast majority of travelers to the USA today use a biometric passport and ESTA travel registration. There is no need to visit an embassy or attend an interview. Applicants simply fill in the form online, pay the fee, and are then eligible to travel. This article will assist those who must, or for some reason wish to, apply for a non-immigrant visa to the USA.

USA Visa Guide – Application, Requirements and Best Tips | © N i c o l a / & slgckgc /

  1. Table of Contents
    1. Who Needs to Apply for a Visa to the USA
    2. Where to Apply for a Visa to the USA
    3. USA Visa Price and Fees
    4. USA Visa Application Process
    5. What Documents Are Needed to Apply for a Visa to the USA
    6. Photographs for USA Visa: Rules, Sizes, and Parameters
    7. Visa Interview at the Embassy
    8. USA Visa FAQs

    Who Needs to Apply for a Visa to the USA

    Anyone to whom at least one of the following applies must apply for a visa to the USA:

    1. They have not been approved for ESTA travel registration
    2. They wish to stay in the USA for more than 90 days
    3. They are traveling to the USA for work, exchange, or study
  2. Where to Apply for a Visa to the USA

    You can apply for a visa at any USA Embassy; it doesn’t need to be in your home country. Children under the age of 14 are not required to attend the interview, provided their parents have a valid non-immigrant visa.
    You must schedule an interview at least one day in advance by 12:00 p.m. on the website. To book an appointment, you must first register.

  3. USA Visa Price and Fees

    The USA visa fees vary depending on the type.
    Payment must be made before the actual interview, exclusively through You can pay with a credit card, send a payment order through online banking, or go to the bank in person.

    Visa type Description Fee amount
    B-1 Travel $160
    B-2 Tourism $160
    C-1 Transit $160
    D Ship/Airline Crew $160
    E Treaty Trader/Investor, Australian Professional Specialty $205
    F Student (academic) $160
    H Temporary/Seasonal Workers and Employment, Trainees $190
    I Journalist and Media $160
    J Exchange Visitor $160
    K Fiancé(e) or Spouse of USA Citizen $265
    L Intracompany Transferees $190
    M Student (vocational) $160
    O Persons with Extraordinary Ability $190
    P Athletes, Artists & Entertainers $190
    Q International Cultural Exchange $190
    R Religious Worker $190
    T Victim of Human Trafficking $160
    U Victim of Criminal Activity $160
    TN/TD NAFTA Professionals $160
  4. USA Visa Application Process

    1. First, decide which type of visa you need
    2. Fill out the DS-160 form
    3. On the government website, pay the visa fee and schedule an interview at the USA Embassy. You must register for the interview at least one day in advance and no later than 12:00 pm. For instance, if you’re interested in attending an interview on Tuesday, you must apply by noon on Monday.
    4. Arrive at the USA Embassy no more than 15 minutes in advance, and remember to bring all required documents.
  5. What Documents Are Needed to Apply for a Visa to the USA

    🔴 Required Documents

    Submission of the following documents is required by regulations:

    • Passport
    • Receipt of fee from
    • Confirmation Page of completed DS 160
    • Passport-sized photograph (51 mm × 51 mm, or 5×5 cm) with a white background, taken within the last 6 months

    🟠 Documents Required for Certain Visa Categories

    For some types of visa, additional documents are required:

    • F and M visas: Original signed Form I-20.
    • J visa: Original signed DS-2019 form and, if the program is not sponsored by the U.S. government, proof of payment of the SEVIS fee. Participants in the Work and Travel program must submit proof of study and an index. High school exchange participants must submit contact information for their host family in the USA.
    • H, L, O, P, and R visas: I-797 approval notice, supporting documents, and for L visa applicants, a new Form I-129S.
    • C1 and D visas: An employment contract or letter from your employer and, if applicable, a seaman’s booklet.

    🟢 Optional Documents

    Along with these, I recommend bringing the following documents to the interview, which may increase the likelihood of being granted a visa:

    • Bank statements for the last 3 months
    • Work contract from your current job
    • Invitation letter from the private individual or business partner you are visiting
    • Students: Confirmation of studies and study index
    • Business: Extract from the trade or commercial register
    • Married couples: Marriage certificate and, in the case of a child visa application, the child’s birth certificate
    • For some types of work visas, a work petition is needed
  6. Photographs for USA Visa: Rules, Sizes, and Parameters

    When applying for a visa, you must submit one square aspect ratio photograph. Detailed instructions can be read below and at The government site offers a photo verification tool for photos taken. You can use both digital and scanned photos that are no more than 6 months old.

    1️⃣ Dimensions

    For digital photos, the minimum size is 600×600 pixels and the maximum size is 1,200×1,200 pixels. If you choose to scan a photo from paper, the original size of the photo must be at least 51 × 51 mm and the resolution when scanned must be at least 300 pixels per inch.

    2️⃣ Color

    The photograph must be in RGB color.

    3️⃣ File Format

    Only the .jpg format is accepted.

    4️⃣ File Size

    The maximum file size is 240 kB, and the compression may not exceed 20:1.

    5️⃣ Content of the Photo

    The photo for the USA visa must show the entire face, neck, and shoulders from the front. The expression must be neutral, without a smile, with eyes open and looking directly at the camera. The head must be positioned in the center of the photograph, not pointing up, down, to the side, or toward the shoulders. All facial features must be visible, and no other objects, people or other parts of the applicant’s body should be visible. The size of the head from the top of the head, including hair, to the chin must be 50-69% of the total size of the photograph. The background of the photograph must be simple, light, and without shadows.

    6️⃣ Technical Requirements for the Photograph

    The entire face must be sharp and in focus. Brightness and contrast must be even. A proper photograph must be free of shadows in the face or background. Underexposure or overexposure is undesirable.

    7️⃣ Other Requirements

    Glasses are allowed in the photograph provided they have clear lenses and do not reflect light, shadows, or frames obscure the eyes. Glasses with dark lenses are only allowed for medical reasons. Head coverings or hats are permitted for religious reasons only, but may not cover any part of the applicant’s face.

    Examples of acceptable and unacceptable visa photographs can be found on the government website.

  7. Visa Interview at the Embassy

    Appointments for visa interviews must be made in advance. When scheduling the appointment, the names of all accompanying persons must be provided. For security reasons, it is not possible to arrive more than 30 minutes before the time of the appointment. All electronic devices such as phones, tablets, or laptops will be confiscated at the front desk.

    Different USA embassies in different countries may have different entry requirements. It is recommended to read the embassy website thoroughly.

  8. USA Visa FAQs

    Is It Possible to Transfer a Valid USA Visa From an Old Passport to a New One?

    This depends on the country that issued your passport. While USA law allows you to use an old passport with a valid visa along with a new valid passport, some countries do not permit this practice.

    I Already Have a Visa for the USA, but My Passport Will Expire Soon. What Is the Minimum Mandatory Validity Period of My Passport After I Leave the USA?

    For most countries in the world, there is no six-month validity requirement after departure. In other words, you can return from the USA even just one day before your passport expires. Always verify this information on the official USA website. For a list of countries included in the Six Month Club, refer to the government’s website.

    Can I Apply for a USA Visa in Another Country, or Do I Always Have to Apply in My Home Country?

    It is generally advisable to apply for a visa in your country of permanent residence. However, according to law, you can apply at any USA consulate anywhere in the world. Be aware that in such cases, applying for a visa might be more complicated, as the authorities may ask for proof that you intend to return to your country of residence.

    Can I Apply for a Visa to the USA if I Have Been Convicted?

    Yes, you can apply for a visa; however, you must also bring any documents relating to your misdemeanor, felony, or other offense to the interview. This includes information about the conviction, the date of the trial, and the type of offense.

    Who Must Attend the Visa Interview in Person?

    All applicants between the ages of 14 and 79, inclusive, must appear in person for the interview. For children under the age of 14, at least one of their legal guardians must be present. Those over the age of 80 are not required to attend the interview. Diplomats heading to the USA on a business mission, including those to international organizations such as the United Nations, are also exempt.

    How Much Money Do I Need to Have in My Bank Account to Get a Visa to the USA?

    There is no set amount, but it should be sufficient to cover all your expenses for the duration of your stay.

    Will the Fee for a USA Visa Be Refunded if It Is Not Granted?

    No, the fee is non-refundable.

    How Long Does It Take to Process a Visa to the USA?

    The time it takes depends on your efficiency and the current availability of interview dates. The USA side releases interview dates a few days in advance. Once the visa is processed and approved, it will be delivered to you by courier.

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