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Simplifying the US Visa Process for Indians

6 steps to guide you with the basics of a non-immigrant US visa.

The United States of America attracts millions of tourists annually. Being one of the top countries in every globetrotter’s bucket-list, the 50 glorious states of the USA undoubtedly have a lot to offer.

But let’s face it – Applying for a US visa seems more tiring than white-water rafting amidst the Grand Canyon.

Don’t fret. There’s an organised way out, that will ensure you experience a hassle-free visa procedure.

Before proceeding, we need to wrap our heads around the objective of a non-immigrant visa. The non-immigrant visa is issued to those who wish to travel to The States for business (visa category B-1), pleasure, visiting or tourism (visa category B-2) or both (B-1/B-2), only for a short duration of time and to accomplish a certain purpose. The reason why the US visa laws appear to be so strict is because they want to make sure that travellers have strong ties in their country of residence and hence will not overstay their welcome.

Several countries across the globe form a part of the Visa Waiver Program, where residents of these countries are exempted from taking a US visa, under certain conditions.

India is not a part of this Program, making the visa a mandatory affair.

Step 1: US Visa Form Filling

The first step is the US non-immigrant visa application. To apply, you can log on to https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/, the Consular Electronic Application Center, where you can choose your location of residence and proceed with the online form filling of DS-160. Make sure you read the instructions carefully and then advance to the following step, without leaving any question unanswered.

  • The language of form-filling must be English.
  • Attach a recent digital passport-size photograph
  • Electronically sign your application form and then submit it.

Your completed form DS-160 will have a confirmation page with a barcode on it. Take a print out of the same, bring it along during the interview round and retain it until your trip.

Step 2: Visa Fees

After you apply for non-immigrant visa to US, you will reach an online payment gateway.

The visa fees defer depending on the type of visa you apply for. In case of a DS-160 non-immigrant visa application, the fees are $160, which roughly comes up to INR 11,200.

The fees are subject to change based on the current exchange rate. The fees must be paid prior to the personal interview, either electronically (bank transfer) or in cash at an affiliated back, as mentioned on the https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/ website.

Step 3: Visa Interview Appointment

The visa appointment requires you to make yourself available on 2 separate occasions, first for the Biometrics, i.e., Fingerprinting and Digital Photograph at the Visa Application Center (VAC) and second for a personal interview at the US Embassy or Consulate.

You may apply for your visa appointments at https://cgifederal.secure.force.com/.
Identify which US Consulate you need to apply to, depending on the location of your residence.

Credits: http://www.path2usa.com

State of Residence in India Applicable US Consulate
Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Bhutan and the Union Territories of Chandigarh and New Delhi New Delhi US Embassy
Shantipath, Chanakyapuri
New Delhi 110 021
Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, the Union Territories of Lakshadweep islands and Pondicherry Chennai US Consulate
US Consulate General
No.220 Anna Salai
Chennai 600 006
Maharashtra, Goa, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and the Union Territories of Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli Mumbai US Consulate
US Consulate General, C-49, G- Block,
Bandra Kurla Complex,
Bandra (East), Mumbai 400 051
West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur, Tripura, Meghalaya, Odisha, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Assam and the Union Territories of Andaman and Nicobar Islands Kolkata US Consulate
US Consulate General
5/1 Ho Chi Minh Sarani
Kolkata 700 071
Andhra Pradesh Hyderabad US Consulate
US Consulate General
Paigah Palace
1-8-323, Chiran Fort Lane,
Begumpet
Secunderabad 500 003

In order to make a visa appointment, you will require:

  • Your passport, whose validity is for at least 6 months beyond your intended period of visit
  • DS-160 Form Confirmation page
  • Receipt of visa payment fees.

The US Embassy enables you to make Emergency Appointments on humanitarian or medical ground. You will encounter an option for the same while booking an appointment online.

In case you want to reschedule or cancel your appointment, log on to your profile on http://www.ustraveldocs.com/. The website also allows you to check your appointment wait time in your selected embassy.

Step 4: Biometric Visa

The Biometric Visa is a process that must take place at least a day before your personal interview. Under this, your fingerprints are digitally scanned and a photograph of yours is taken.

Children under the age of 7 and senior citizen over the age of 79 are exempted from the fingerprinting process. However, they must be present at this stage, since their photographs will be used as a proof that they were present at the day of the appointment.

The documents required for the Biometric Visa stage are:

  • Your passport, whose validity is for at least 6 months beyond your intended period of visit
  • DS-160 Form Confirmation page
  • Receipt of visa payment fees
  • Appointment confirmation page.

Step 5: Personal Interview at the Consulate

This is the big day! This is the most important part of the US visa process for Indians. There are a set of procedures and strict security inspections that take place once you are inside the Consulate. You will be guided accordingly. Food and beverage items, even water, any electronic equipment, including cell phones are prohibited inside the consulate. There is no storage area in the consulate either. So make sure you familiarise yourself with the security guidelines before entering.

Once again, you will be asked to undergo a fingerprint verification and then directed to wait until your turn arrives. Upon being called, you will have your personal interview, during which all your documents will be checked. It is recommended that you provide all the necessary information truthfully and confidently.

The requirements for non-immigrant USA visa interview are as follows:

Step 6: The Wait

In most cases, the interviewer will instantly inform you about the approval of your visa. In case they don’t, you may track your visa status on https://ceac.state.gov/CEACStatTracker/Status.aspx, by entering your DS-160 barcode number and location of interview.

Once your visa is approved, you can collect your passport at a ‘pick-up’ location you chose while scheduling your interview, or you will receive it by a courier service. You will be notified about the same via an email and SMS. You may track your passport on http://www.ustraveldocs.com/in/in-niv-passporttrack.asp or https://cgifederal.secure.force.com/.

In case your non-immigrant visa is denied, you will be notified about that particular section of law under which it’s applicable.

You may reapply for a visa after ensuring all your grounds are clear, by referring to https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/general/denials.html to know more about visa denials.

Although the process seems lengthy, if you carefully adhere to the instruction on the above mentioned websites, you’ll be in a good space. All the best!

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