US Visas: Types, Costs, Deadlines & Requirements

A Guide to Get an Online US Visa

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If you are visiting or moving to the US then one of the first considerations for your travel plans is obtaining a visa to provide travel authorization to enter the US. The type of visa that you require varies depending on different factors including the purpose of your visit, the length of time you are intending to stay in the US and your country of residence.
Whilst some types of visa like the ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) are relatively easy to apply for, others can be more complex, for example if you are planning to work in the US or you are immigrating to the US.
This guide provides all of the relevant information that you require to decide which type of visa to apply for and how to make your application, including any important details that you should be aware of.

Steps to Apply for a US Visa

Apply for a US visa at a US Consulate or Embassy in your country of residence by following these simple steps:
1. Check if you need a visa.
2. Choose the type of US visa you want to apply for.
3. Complete the Non-immigrant visa Application Form DS-160.
4. Pay the application fee.
5. Book a visa interview.
6. Submit the documents required for your US visa application.
7. Attend the visa interview.
8. Wait for your application to be processed.

Tourist or Business Visas

If you are planning on visiting the US for business purposes or tourism, but your stay is going to be longer than 90 days then you will need to apply for a different type of visa i.e. a B1 or B2 visa.
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Work Visas

If you are not a resident of the US and you want to work in the US then you will require an appropriate visa to allow you to do so, which must be granted by the US government.
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Student Visas

The US has a range of different visas that form part of their border security, with student visas being a category with three types of student visa ( F-1, M-1 and J-1)
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Exchange Visitor Visa

There is the opportunity to exchange visitors to participate in approved exchange programs in the US by obtaining an Exchange Visitor Visa.
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Transit Visas

A Crewmember visa provides is for crew serving on a sea vessel or aircraft in the US.
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Journalist Visa

To be eligible for an I visa, the applicant must work in a media company that is based outside of the US.
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Religious Visa

Some occupations require a specific type of visa for entering the US and religious workers have their own visa type – R visa.
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Non-immigrant Visas

Any foreign national wishing to enter the US on a temporary basis is required to obtain a US non-immigrant visa.
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What Are the Visa Types in the U.S.?

There are different types of visa in USA, but they are grouped into two main categories:
  • Nonimmigrant visas. These US visas are issued for temporary visits to the United States only. They cover the following purposes: tourism, business, employment, family visit, and studying.
  • Immigrant visas. An immigrant visa is intended for people who want to move permanently to the United States, either through immigrant investor schemes or family reunions. immigrant visa
Let's take a deeper look at different types of nonimmigrant visas for the US:

Tourist or Business Visa

Tourists from a foreign country who want to travel to the United States for vacation or sightseeing must obtain tourist visas. This visa category has a limited validity term (its for temporary visitors only), and foreign nationals are not permitted to work in the United States under these visas.
A business visa is typically the ideal choice for business travelers who wish to do business activities in the US, such as having client meetings, attending conferences, or having sales meetings, etc.


To qualify for work visas and entry into the United States, a foreign national must fulfill the following requirements:
  • That business-related travel is why you are in the country.
  • Your financial situation is sufficient to support your stay in the country.
  • When your visa expires, you need to leave the nation and go back to your own country.
You are eligible for tourists visas if you:
  • Visit America for a holiday.
  • Visit a number of American cities.
  • Go see your family members or friends.
  • Attend social activities that various groups arrange.
  • To receive medical help/medical treatment.
  • Take part in music or sports-related events or competitions where there is no financial gain.
  • Enroll in courses for short-term study for which you won't receive money, such as culinary lessons.
NOTE: Canadian citizens can enter the United States from Canada or other countries without any type of visa.

How to Apply for B1 and B2 Visas?

Applying for B1 visas: At one of the accredited U.S. consulates, applicants must show up in person for an interview. Documentation referring to work, the reason for entrance, and other documents attesting to the applicant's desire to return to their place of origin must be included in addition to the usual application paperwork. The U.S. embassy in the applicant's nation of residency typically handles the application processing.
Applying for B2 visas: For an interview at one of the accredited U.S. consulates, candidates must show up in person. Essentially, the applicant must submit the regular DS-160 form and supply evidence of payment of the visa cost. They are also required to show documentation of their desire to go back to their home country and their financial ability to stay in the United States. Typically, the consular officer in the applicant's country of residency handles the application processing.

Obtaining Work Visas

H1b - Foreign nationals who work in specialized fields like computer technology or engineering are eligible for this most common form of work visa in the U.S.
H-1B1 Visa - Only citizens of Singapore and Chile are eligible for H-1B1 visas. They have criteria similar to those for an H-1B visa.
H-2A Visa - People with an H-2A visa are permitted to work as seasonal and occasional agricultural workers.
H-2B Visa - These types of visas are almost the same as the H-2A, except that temporary workers are not limited to employment in the agricultural sector.
H-3 Visa - An H-3 Visa is for those who wish to attend training or education in the US that is not offered in their home country.
I Visa - For international journalists and film crews representing a foreign media outlet, this visa category is required. With such a visa, you as a temporary visitor can practice your profession while maintaining your primary office elsewhere.
L-1 Visa - These non-immigrant visas are for workers employed by foreign corporations connected to American enterprises. If an employee was moved to the U.S. division of their company, they would require this kind of work visa.
O Visa - A foreign individual who demonstrates extraordinary ability in science, business, education, athletics, or the arts is eligible for an O-1 visa.
Temporary Nonimmigrant Religious Workers: R-1 Visa. For anyone travelling to the US to work for a religious organization, this visa category is eligible.
P Visas are intended for performers who want to perform the United States, such as sports (competing for prize money ), singers, or artists.
If you work in a designated international organization and need to enter the USA, you need a G1 Visa.
For foreign government officials, an A1 Visa is required.
E visas are designed for people who have a free trade agreement with the US.

Internships and Student Visas

The student visa and internship visa are designed for those who want to study in America.

Types of Educational Visas

The types of this visa categories are F and M.
You require an F visa if you want to pursue academic studies in the USA at an authorised institution, such as a recognized American college or university, a private secondary school, or an authorised English language program.
An M visa is required if you want to participate in non-academic, vocational, or training activities at a U.S. institution.

How to Apply?

  • Fill out the DS-160 Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application form.
  • Schedule the meeting (interview).
  • When your visa interview is scheduled, go to the American embassy. The following items are required of you: a printed copy of your appointment letter, your DS-160 confirmation page, one recent photo, your current passport and all previous passports, as well as the original receipt for your visa fee payment.

Exchange Visitor Visa

People who participate in international cultural exchange programmes, practical training and work in the US are the ones who are targeted for the exchange visitor visa.
Here are some of the most common participants (exchange visitors) for this visa:
  • Academic level students
  • Professors and researchers
  • Teachers
  • Trainees in the profession
  • Tourists arriving for travel, consulting, study, etc.

Types of Exchange Visitor Visas

J1 visa - enables educational and cultural exchange programs via United States Department of State
Q1 visa - provides culture and employment exchange programs via US Immigration and Citizenship Services.

Types of Transit and Crewmember Visas

Crewmember (D) visas are for people who work on commercial sea vessels or international airlines while they are in the United States, providing services necessary for daily operations and planning to leave the country in 29 days on the same vessel or another.
Transit C visa - These visa categories are for foreign citizens passing through the United States on their way to another nation and making a brief stopover there on the way to their next destination.
Transit visa (C-1) - Transit visas are for people passing through the United States in continuous transit en route to another country
C-1/D visa - combines two visas for those who must board a ship or an aircraft as crew members for routine operations and services and who must transit the United States in order to reach the ship or aircraft they will join.

Media and Journalist Visa

The media (I) visa is a nonimmigrant visa for international media professionals who are temporarily visiting the United States to practice their profession while maintaining their primary office elsewhere.

Religious Visa

R1 - visa allows religious workers to enter the country temporarily in order to work in a religious occupation for a legitimate, non-profit religious organization there at least part-time.

ESTA Electronic System for Travel Authorisation: A Quick and Easy Wayto Get Access to the US

The automated system known as ESTA is used to assess whether foreign nationals are eligible to travel to the US under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Through this travel program, citizens of participating countries are able to travel to the US for up to 90 days for either tourism or business without a visa.
The ESTA application is simple and easy to complete, and apart from that, the entire process can be finished online within 20 minutes. Check whether your country participates in the Visa Waiver Program and apply for your ESTA today!


Despite travel restrictions being relaxed on 8 November 2021, routine visa services have not yet resumed. There is very limited appointment availability, so it will be difficult to obtain a tourist visa until resources return to normal service. However, citizens of countries that are members of the visa waiver program are able to apply for an ESTA to enable them to visit the US for tourist purposes for trips of less than 90 days.
If you are considering applying for a B1 or B2 visa then you may be unable to get an appointment, as there are very limited numbers available. If you do obtain a B1 or B2 visa to enter the US, as long as you are vaccinated you are currently allowed to enter the US with a B1 or B2 visa.
There is no limit on how many times you can enter the US on a B1 or B2 visa, although if you are regularly visiting the US for long periods, immigration officers may require evidence that you do not intend to immigrate to the US.
Yes, it is possible for H1B visa holders to travel to the US if they are vaccinated, as per the current US entry requirements. Due to the travel restrictions and other COVID related issues, the allocation of H1-B visas have not been fully doled out yet and there has been an additional lottery to help fill the quota.
When you are visiting the US on a tourist visa, you must provide bank statements to show you have at least $266 per day for the length of your planned stay. The US authorities ask for this to ensure that you can afford to pay for staying in the US to protect their benefit systems.
A tourist visa for the US will usually enable the visa holder to stay in the US for up to six months lawfully. However, it is possible to apply for an extension for a tourist visa in some cases. An ESTA allows citizens of countries that are in the visa waiver program to stay in the US for up to 90 days.
While visiting the US on a visitor visa, holders cannot:
  • Manage or operate a US business
  • Get paid by a US entity for activities performed in the US for the benefit of a US entity
  • Enroll in a course of study at a US education institution
Vaccinated travelers from accepted countries allowed to travel to the US do not have to quarantine. However, for any travelers who are not fully vaccinated but are allowed to travel to the US through an exception must self-quarantine for 7 days. Anyone who tests positive when arriving in the US must self-isolate.
Due to the impact of COVID-19, US visa services have not resumed to normal and it is much more difficult to get an appointment to obtain a tourist visa. It is recommended that you apply as early as possible before your trip and if you are eligible to apply for ESTA, this is the easier option for short visits to the US.
If you overstay the period of time allowed by your visa, you may face be barred from returning to the US for several years. The consequences of overstaying your visa will depend on how long you have overstayed and whether you have accrued unlawful presence.
Philippine citizens require a US visa to enter the US and this is currently difficult to obtain due to the limited amount of visa appointments that are available. If Philippine citizens have a dual citizenship with a country in the visa waiver program, they may be able to apply for an ESTA for their travel authorization instead.
If you are applying for a tourist visa, you can improve your chances by having stable employment in your home country, as well as having family obligations and property and personal assets. The more ties you have to your home country, the more it looks like you are not looking to immigrate to the US. For other types of visa, there are more specific ways of increasing your chances, such as gaining academic accolades and superior qualifications as a highly skilled worker.
You can apply for a work visa for the USA you should complete the relevant application. There are different types of work visas with different requirements, such as a temporary visa or H visas for professionals and academics. Usually, an employer will need to file a petition for the employee before a visa application is submitted. A fee for the visa must also be paid.
There are many different categories of US work visas that apply for different circumstances. The most common are for people in a specified profession, or academic field, or people who are applying for temporary seasonal work.
For most visas employers must obtain a Labor Certification to sponsor employees. The majority of employers are ones where sponsorship enables firms to fill roles where there are labor shortages.
In usual times it takes between two and seven months to get a work visa processed. However, due to the health pandemic routine visa services are not operating as normal. There is very limited availability for visa appointments, which means it could take much longer to get a US work visa.
Getting a H1B visa is generally quite difficult because you must have a job offer from a US company that is willing to sponsor you. H1B visas are limited to people with specialty occupations which are difficult to fill due to a lack of US candidates with the required experience and qualifications.
As most employment visas require a job offer, it is almost impossible to get a US work visa without a job offer from an employer who will sponsor them. However, visas for extraordinary expertise, investors of substantial amounts and people with extraordinary ability in arts, TV or entertainment can obtain a work visa if they meet the criteria.
To get sponsored in the USA you must meet the criteria such as being highly skilled in a field where there is a shortage of suitable US job candidates. You must have an offer for a job from a US employer and a signed contract and some non-immigration visas will require a Labor Certification
To get a job in the USA you need to apply for a role that is able to sponsor you and has Labor Certification. Generally, you will need to have specialist skills that are required to perform the job and for there to be a lack of suitable US candidates for the role.
A student visa in the USA is usually issued for the length of time that a student has been offered a course of study plus 60 days from the end of the course. Therefore, if the course is for two years, the student visa will generally be issued for this length of time.
F1 visas are generally issued for 5 years but if the I-20 form expires, the visa will no longer be valid. The I-20 must be issued by an approved educational institution to prove that the student is legally enrolled on a program of study in the US.
Getting a student visa for USA is usually quite an easy process, provided that you are able to get an offer for a program of study at a college. Students must be able to provide evidence that they can afford their study fees and living costs while they study in the US. When there are no COVID-19 restrictions or delays, applying for the student visa is fairly straightforward if you have the offer letter and bank statements with the required finances.
Student visas are being processed but travel restrictions may affect students. Also, it may be more difficult to book an appointment at the embassy to have your visa interview due to the backlogs and changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The F-1 student visa is a non-immigrant visa that is for international students who have been accepted on a full-time course of study at a US education institution, including university, college and high school students. The student must provide evidence that they have been offered a place as part of their visa application.
Yes, if you have been accepted for a program of study in the US you can apply for the F-1 visa to travel to the US and live there for the duration of the course. To obtain a F-1 visa you would need to attend a visa interview at the US embassy and provide the required documents.
After your F1 visa is approved, you may need to pay a visa issuance fee. You will need to have fingerprint scans taken to record digital records and the embassy will take your passport while the visa is being issued. You will then get contacted when your passport is ready to be collected.
The US exchange visitor visa (J-1) is a non-immigrant visa for students taking part in an exchange program. It enables foreign national to study train or teach in the US.
The appointment availability for visa interviews at embassies is currently very limited, so it is difficult to obtain a visitor visa for the US right now. Travelers who are eligible for an ESTA should be able to visit the US for business, tourism or medical purposes by applying for an ESTA instead.
Yes, it is possible to get married to someone in the US if you have had a visitor visa issued. It will not help you to obtain permanent residence unless your spouse is a US citizen and then you are able to apply for a green card.
To get a transit visa for the US you would need to complete a C-1 visa application and arrange an interview at the US embassy. Travelers who are from a visa waiver program should apply for an ESTA instead, as the process is much quicker and will allow transit in the US.
Yes, any traveler who is entering the US, even just to take a connecting flight must obtain a transit visa or an ESTA if they are eligible as part of the visa waiver program.
Generally, it is easy to obtain a transit visa by submitting all of the required documents but since the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become more difficult due to low availability of embassy appointments.
C1, C2 and C3 visas are valid for up to 29 days or the date that you are due to depart the US as determined by your flight ticket. If you are eligible for an ESTA, you can use it for transit purposes and it is valid for two years or until your passport expires.
The cost of the US transit visa is $160 and you may be required to pay other fees depending on any additional charges that the embassy applies.
A journalist visa (I-Visa) is a non-immigrant visa for journalists and media representatives who are visiting the US for journalistic purposes. People working in the press, radio or other types of media such as film production can use an I-Visa to work in the US.
Any non US citizen requires a visa to work in the US, including journalists. Foreign nationals who work in the media, press or radio industries can apply for a journalist visa (I-Visa) so that they are able to enter the US for journalistic purposes.
Generally, foreign nationals who are journalists can apply for the I-Visa to allow them to work in the US for journalistic purposes. However, due to COVID-19, it is currently more difficult to get a visa processed due to the limited number of embassy appointments.
The requirements for being approved for a religious visa to USA is that you must have been a member of a non-profit religious organization for at least two years and you must be visiting the US for working in a religious capacity.
An R-1 visa is initially issued for 30 months but it is possible to apply for an extension and the maximum length of extension is for up to 5 years.
A US religious visa is categorized as an R-1 visa and it is a temporary visa to allow religious workers to work in the US in religious capacities. To be approved for a religious visa, you would need to have held a role as religious worker for at least two years.
The R-2 visa is a temporary visa that is available to spouses and children under 21 of R-1 visa holders so that they are able to enter the US to join them while they are working in their religious capacity.
Yes, it is possible for churches to sponsor an immigrant who will be working for the church in a religious capacity. The church must be a genuine non-profit religious organization affiliated to a religious denomination for the church to be able to petition a visa for a religious worker.
The application fee for an R-1 visa is $180 although there may be additional costs depending on which country you are applying from. Some embassies charge a filing fee that could be $460, so you will need to check with the embassy for the country you are applying in to see what the R-1 visa cost is in total.
The length of a non-immigrant US visa depends on the type of visa that you are granted. Some visas will be issued for six months, while it is possible to get a 10 year non-immigrant visa.
When you are applying for a non-immigrant US visa you will be required to provide documents related to the type of visa that you are applying for. There are some requirements that apply to all US visas, such as completing the DS-160 form, having a valid passport, providing an acceptable photo and a receipt to show that you made the payment for the DS-160.
There are three main non-immigrant visa categories, which are:
  • Tourism or business
  • Study
  • Work
Non-immigrant visas are for people who want to visit the US on a temporary basis for tourism, business, study or work purposes. Citizens of countries who are in the visa waiver program can apply for an ESTA that will allow them to visit the US for tourism, business, medical or transit purposes for a period of up to 90 days.


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