How to Apply for a Tourist Visa for California? -

How to Apply for a Tourist Visa for California?

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California is a very popular travel destination and is the most visited state in the US. There are so many areas and attractions in California to visit, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, two cities that see a large volume of visitors each year.

California is the home to Hollywood, the Golden Gate Bridge and several national parks including Yosemite National Park. San Diego is also a very popular place to visit in California, with many travelers opting to do a road trip along the west coast to see as much of California as possible in one trip.

There are also some great beaches and a Disneyland in California, as well as many other top theme parks, making it ideal for family vacations. If you are thinking of planning a trip to California, then here is some of the key information that you need to know:

California Tourist Visa: Overview & Key Information

Any non-US citizen who wishes to travel to the USA must have the correct travel documentation. As well as having a valid passport, travelers must also obtain a visa for the purposes of their trip. If the visit is for tourism, then the traveler can apply for a tourist visa, the B-2 visitor visa, which is for temporary tourism, pleasure or visiting in the US.

If you are eligible for applying for an ESTA (see section regarding ESTA below) and have your ESTA application, accepted you will not require a visa. A tourist visa does not cover purposes such as employment, although amateur athletes and amateur entertainers are able to travel to California under a tourist visa or ESTA.

Who Qualifies for the California Tourist Visa?

  • Individuals who are visiting the United States temporarily, whether on business, for pleasure, or for medical care;
  • Those who intend to stay in the country for a certain, limited amount of time;
  • People who have permanent residence outside of the United States and who have strong social or economic links that will assure their departure from the country after their stay.

Activities Permitted With a Tourism Visa (Visa Category B-2)

  • Temporary stay;
  • Pleasure;
  • Visiting in the US;
  • Medical treatment.

What Activities Are Not Permitted on the California B-2 Tourist Visa?

  • Employment;
  • Study;
  • The professional performance or any other paid performance;
  • Work in radio, film, print journalism, or other media as a foreign press reporter;
  • Permanent residence in California.

How to Apply for Tourist Visa in California

To apply for a US tourist visa for California, you must complete the DS-160 tourist visa application form and provide all of the required information. There is also an application fee that you must make before you then schedule an interview at the US embassy in your home country. You will need to take a printed copy of your DS-160 confirmation page when you attend your interview at the embassy.

In addition, you require arecent photograph (5cm x 5cm), a printout of your appointment confirmation and your passport. If you have had a previous US visa, you should also bring evidence of this with you. Documents related to any medical conditions (e.g. letter from physician regarding your current health state) or criminal convictions should also be brought along to the interview.

Gather the Required Documents

  • Passport valid for travel to the United States - The validity of the passport must last at least six months after the intended stay in the United States (unless exempted by country-specific agreements). Everyone who requires a visa, including all family members specified in the applicant's passport, must file a separate application;
  • Confirmation page for the Nonimmigrant Visas Application - Form DS-160;
  • Receipt for paying the application fee;
  • Picture of the applicant.

Additional Documentation May Be Required

  • Supporting documents of income tax returns, tax payments, and ownership of a business or property;
  • Details regarding the journey's plan;
  • A letter from the applicant's company stating his role, salary, length of service and, if applicable, the business reason for his travel to the US.
  • Court and criminal records for any arrest or conviction.


Students should bring their most recent school results, transcripts and diplomas. They also need to bring with them proof of financial support such as monthly bank statements, fixed deposit slips or other evidence.

Working Adults

Working adults must provide a letter of employment from their employer as well as three months' worth of payslips.

Businessmen and Company Directors

Businessmen and company directors must bring documentation of their employment status and salary.

Visiting a Relative

It is necessary to bring proof that confirms the status of the relatives being visited (Green Card, valid visa, etc).

Previous Visitors to the United States

Those who have previously been to the United States must bring all documents confirming their immigration or visa status.

California Tourist Visa Application: Step-By-Step Guide

  • 1. The first step in applying is to complete the Electronic Application for a Nonimmigrant Visa (DS-160) form.
  • 2. The second step is to pay the visa application fee.
  • 3. Applicants scheduling visa appointments.
  • 4. After making an appointment, the visa applicants should go to the US embassy or consulate on the scheduled date and time for the interview with consular officer. On this occasion, they must bring a certified copies of the appointment letter, the DS-160 confirmation page, one photograph taken within the last six months, as well as a valid and old passport.

California Visa From UK

Citizens of the United Kingdom must obtain a visa or an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) visa waiver to enter or transit through the US as a visitor.

Of course, even though the UK is on the visa waiver program, it doesn't mean that UK citizens will necessarily get an ESTA, but that depends on other factors as well (In the “Who Is Eligible for an ESTA" section, a more detailed explanation).

California B-2 Visa: Additional Information

There is no guarantee that a visa will be issued. Therefore, it is recommended not to buy a ticket before the visa is approved

A valid US visa in a passport that has expired is still valid. A visa is valid until the expiration date unless it is cancelled or revoked.

Extending Your Stay on a California Tourist Visa

If a person wishes to extend their stay in the United States, it is necessary to extend visa validity. They must file Form I-539, application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before the expiration of their authorized stay. It is recommended that the request for an extension of stay be submitted at least 45 days before the end of the approved stay.

The request for an extension of stay can be submitted by persons who:

  • Lawfully admitted to the United States with a nonimmigrant visa;
  • Did not commit a crime;
  • Did not violate the admission requirements;
  • Have a valid passport.

Visit California with an ESTA

If you are a citizen of one of the countries that is in the Visa Waiver Program, then you can apply for an ESTA instead of a visa, provided that you are not planning on staying in the US for a period longer than 90 days. This means that you do not need to attend the embassy for an interview and you simply need to fill in the short ESTA application form. It is a much faster process and it also costs less to apply for than a US tourist visa.

Who Is Eligible for an ESTA?

  • Citizens of countries that are part of the visa waiver program;
  • Those whose journey lasts 90 days or less;
  • Persons who do not currently hold visitor visas;
  • Persons who have not been arrested;
  • Individuals who do not have a criminal record;
  • Persons who have not been deported from the US.

ESTA Requirements

  • Valid biometric passport from a Visa Waiver Program country;
  • Valid email address of the traveler;
  • The home address and phone number of the traveler;
  • Telephone and email emergency contacts for travelers;
  • Children must also have their own ESTAs.

What Are the Benefits of an ESTA?

  • ESTA is an easier way to get permission to visit the US than a visa because the application process is very short and simple;
  • The applicant needs to fill out the online form, which takes no more than 10 minutes (It is possible to fill out the form using a mobile or desktop);
  • ESTA can be processed very quickly as it is automatically electronically linked to the holder's passport;
  • The application fee for a US visa is significantly higher than an ESTA, with most non-immigrant visas costing $160 to apply. An ESTA application is much less expensive;
  • Can be used for multiple visits to the USA.

Written by Abisola Fikayomi

Abisola is an accomplished writer interested in US Travel, immigration, passports and visas. She’s passionate about exploring new places and cultures and willing to share her experiences, expertize and findings with others. That is her primary drive for specialising in this industry.


It depends on what country the person is coming to California from - if a person who wants to visit California comes from one of the countries that are in the Visa Waiver Program, then they can apply for an ESTA instead of a visa, provided that they do not plan to stay in the US for more than 90 days.
If the person is from a country that is not included in the visa waiver program, then a visa is required.
To apply for a visa, an individual must complete the DS-160 tourist visa form and provide all required information. In addition, applicants must pay an application fee before scheduling a visa interview at the US Embassy. Next, the visa applicant must take a printed copy of their DS-160 confirmation page when they attend the interview with the consular officer at the embassy. A recent photograph (5cm x 5cm) of the applicant, a printed confirmation of his appointment and his passport are also required.


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