Congratulations, your visa has been approved by the USCIS, so unless you are a Citizen/Resident of Canada, you now need to schedule an appointment with your local US Consulate and collect your visa.
The whole process typically starts at: http://www.ustraveldocs.com/ Following a successful interview, you will be granted a visa, which will be placed in your passport. The visa is the “sticker” they place in your passport. It is very different to your I-94, and you can read more on this on our web blog here.
Unfortunately, every US consulate is a little different with how they handle visa processing. What might be simple in London might be impossible in Kenya. Some are easier to get someone on the phone and others are about impossible to get a phone number from. It’s always a good idea to check your local consulate’s website for information about their procedures. Here is a link to the consulates in Australia for example (https://au.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/sydney/).
Although the different consulates have slightly different processes, there is one thing that remains constant. Unless you are a citizen of Canada, once your petition has been approved by the USCIS, you will need to arrange an interview with the consulate. This is typically done through this visa processing website (http://www.ustraveldocs.com/), occasionally you can call into a phone number (which happens to charge you by the minute). Once your interview is scheduled (after the below steps), you’ll need to go into the interview and answer any additional questions they have about you or your petition. If your interview is a success and there are no unusual circumstances, your visa should be issued in 3 – 10 days. If you have a criminal record or from a country known for terrorism, you should talk to us about the process immediately.
Due to the nature of scheduling a visa interview, it is something that will need to be done by you or a manager (someone who knows your schedule etc), and your law office can’t schedule it.
Getting an interview at a convenient time is typically possible, however there can be quite a backlog in the processing time, so be sure to set aside plenty of time leading up to your intended departure. Some consulates will work with your timeline whereas some are very inflexible. I cannot express the importance enough of planning this well in advance.
Occasionally due to a time constraint a client will attempt to schedule their appointment with the consulate ahead of receiving their USCIS approval notification which is sometimes possible but not recommended. You will just need your USCIS receipt number and to complete the steps below. The only risk is that if your visa is not approved in time, you could potentially lose your application fee not to mention the stress of dealing with a deadline like that.
Before your interview, you’ll need to prepare your application. To do this, you’ll need several things.
- You’ll need to go on to the website and complete the DS-160 form (http://www.ustraveldocs.com/)
- You will need to upload your digital photo (some consulates will request a “physical passport photo). Here are some of the requirements for the photos. Luckily the state department has a helpful photo uploading tool.
- In color
- Sized such that the head is between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches (22 mm and 35 mm) or 50% and 69% of the image’s total height from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head. View the Photo Composition Template for more size requirement details.
- Taken within the last 6 months to reflect your current appearance
- Taken in front of a plain white or off-white background
- Taken in full-face view directly facing the camera
- With a neutral facial expression and both eyes open
- Taken in clothing that you normally wear on a daily basis
- When you are filling out the DS form, you will need your passport, the I-129 approval notice, a copy of the I-129 forms (it lists information about your petitioner, project income etc), Travel itinerary, if you have already made travel arrangements. Dates of your last five visits or trips to the United States, if you have previously travelled to the United States. You may also be asked for your international travel history for the past five years. Résumé or Curriculum Vitae – You may be required to provide information about your current and previous education and work history. Misc Information – Some applicants, depending on the intended purpose of travel, will be asked to provide additional information when completing the DS-160.
Side Note: Some applicants will need to have additional information and documents handy while completing the DS-160:
Students and Exchange Visitors (F, J, and M): You will be asked to provide your SEVIS ID, which is printed on your I-20 or DS-2019, so you should have this form available when completing your DS-160. You also will be asked to provide the address of the school/program at which you intend to study. This information should also be on your I-20 or DS-2019 form.
Petition-based Temporary Workers (H-1B, H-2, H-3, CW1, L, O, P, R, E2C): You should have a copy of your I-129 available when completing your DS-160.
Other Temporary Workers: You will be asked for information about your employer, including the employer’s address, while completing your DS-160.
- After the DS-160 is filed (you should receive a confirmation), the next step is to schedule an appointment at your specific consulate.
- You’ll need to pay a fee to the consulate for issuing the visa. This is the “Visa Application Fee”, otherwise known as the “Machine Readable Visa” fee. Your consulate website will tell you where to pay this (typically a bank or post office).
- You may or may not need the I-797 approval notice from the Immigration Service in the US (getting this for you is our main job). Depending on your local consulate’s policies, you’ll either need the original (which we will send to you), a copy (which we will send to you), or nothing at all, because the Immigration Service sent the approval notice directly to your consulate.
- Issuance Fee: Depending on where you’re from, the embassy may charge you something called an “Issuance Fee” or “Reciprocity Fee”. These apply to citizens of certain countries, it may be worth your time to check the table here to see if the embassy will charge you this extra fee.
When you are going in for your Interview..
When you are in your interview, it is very important that you speak clearly and respectfully. Take a copy of your entire case, approval notice if available, and be sure to understand what was filed on your behalf. If Firstclass Immigration filed your case, ask our office if you have any questions regarding what was filed or information on the forms. Most times the interview will go smoothly, but you may from time to time encounter an officer who is not friendly. Remain calm and plead your case. If they ask you a question you are not sure of, tell them “I don’t know, but can call my attorney or manager”, and always remember the purpose of your visa. If you are entering as a Musician and they ask you about your career, don’t be humble, tell them about your successes. If you a specialty worker, don’t hesitate to tell them about the importance of your work.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to give us a call!!