How to spend a limited amount of time in the United States.
Most visitors to the U.S. are required to apply for visas from their home countries, before arriving in the United States.
Where to Apply
You will have to locate the consulate nearest you that is authorized to issue the type of visa you want. The U.S. Department of State’s website can help you find a consulate near you and provides other helpful immigration information. Be sure to check your local consulate’s website where you can find helpful information about hours and application procedures. Some consulates require certain applications to be submitted only by mail, not in person so it’s important for you to look into that yourself before applying.
You must do all or part of the visa application process in the country where you live. U.S. embassies and consulates outside your home country will typically refuse to accept your application — unless you can show a compelling reason why you are unable to apply at home. If for example, the U.S. has no diplomatic relationship with the government of your homeland, another country’s U.S. consulate may take your application. Check with the embassy or consulate where you want to apply.
How to Apply
For certain types of visas, such as visitor visas, applying involves simply filling out a few application forms and attending an interview at the embassy or consulate (though the final decision may be delayed while security checks on you are completed).
For student visas, applying is a two-step process. First, you must find a school to admit you and send you a special form. Then you take that form and your own application to the U.S. consulate. Check out this article to learn more about the application process for a student visa.
For most work visas, applying is a three- or four-step process. First you must find a U.S. employer willing to sponsor you. Then, your employer must file paperwork with the U.S. Department of Labor (for H-1B and H-2B visas) and an office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), requesting permission for you to apply for a visa. After your employer gets USCIS approval, the third step is for you to file an application for a visa at the U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country.
How Long You’ll Wait
Nothing happens as fast as it should in the world of visa applications. For example, while you used to be able to get tourist and student visas in as little as a day, this is rarely true anymore. Many embassies and consulates now require you to you mail in your application and then come in for an interview later.
For more help on applying for a visa, consult one of the following Nolo books: