Apply for a U.S. Visa
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
- How long does my passport have to be valid in order to apply for a U. S. visa?
- Do I qualify for the Visa Waiver Program?
- What is the fee for ESTA and who has to pay it?
- If I travel to the United States without ESTA, what happens?
- If I am a third-country national living in Nigeria, can I apply for a nonimmigrant visa in Nigeria?
- Do all nonimmigrant visa applicants have to come to the Embassy/Consulate General for an interview?
- I have a nonimmigrant visa that will expire soon and I would like to renew it. Do I need to go through the whole visa application process again?
- My passport has expired, but the U.S. visa in it is still valid. Do I need to apply for a new visa?
- I have dual citizenship. Which passport should I use to travel to the United States?
- How can I extend my visa?
- Must I submit my visa application form electronically?
- What is "administrative processing?"
- How do I read and understand my visa?
- My visa will expire while I am in the United States. Is there a problem with that?
- What will happen when I enter the U.S.?
- I did not turn in my I-94 when I left the United States. What should I do?
- I have lost my Green Card and need to return to the U.S. very soon. What do I do?
- I have questions on submitting my DS-160 and printing the confirmation page. Where can I go for more information?
- What is Section 214(b)?
- How can an applicant prove "strong ties?"
- Is a denial under Section 214(B) permanent?
- Who can influence the consular officer to reverse a decision?
Questions and Answers
Q.1 How long does my passport have to be valid in order to apply for a U. S. visa?
You must possess a passport valid for travel to the United States with a validity date at least six months beyond your intended period of stay in the United States (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions).
Q.2 Do I qualify for the Visa Waiver Program?
You qualify for the Visa Waiver Program if you are a citizen of a Visa Waiver Program country, possess a machine-readable passport, are traveling for temporary business or a visit of less than 90 days, meet other program requirements, and have obtained an authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).
You must be a citizen of a Visa Waiver Program-eligible country in order to use this program. Permanent residents of VWP-eligible countries do not qualify for the Visa Waiver Program unless they are also citizens of VWP-eligible countries. We recommend you visit the Visa Waiver Program website before any travel to the U.S. to determine if you are eligible for the VWP.
Q.3 What is the fee for ESTA and who has to pay it?
ESTA registration is required for all travelers to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. There is a US $14.00 fee for ESTA registration. The fee can be paid online using a debit card or any of the following credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover. Third parties (travel agents, family members, etc.) can pay your ESTA fee for you if you do not have the correct type of credit card. If the ESTA registration is denied, the fee is only US $4.00.
Q.4 If I travel to the United States without ESTA, what happens?
Visa Waiver Program travelers who have not obtained approval through ESTA should expect to be denied boarding on any air carrier bound for the United States. If you are allowed to board, you can expect to encounter significant delays and possible denial of admission at the U.S. port of entry (i.e., arrival airport). ESTA registration usually only takes a few minutes to complete, authorization often arrives in seconds, and it is valid for two years.
Q.5 If I am a third-country national living in Nigeria, can I apply for a nonimmigrant visa in Nigeria?
Applicants are generally advised to apply in their country of nationality or residence. Any person who is legally present in Nigeria may apply for a visa in Nigeria. However, applicants should decide where to apply based on more than just convenience or delay in getting an appointment in their home district. One thing to consider, for example, is in which consular district the applicant can demonstrate the strongest ties.
There is no guarantee that a visa will be issued, nor is there a guarantee of processing time. If refused, there is no refund of the application fee.
Q.6 Do all nonimmigrant visa applicants have to come to the Embassy/Consulate General for an interview?
Yes, for most applicants. There are only a few exceptions to the interview requirement. The following applicants generally do not have to appear in person:
- Applicants for A1, A2 (official travelers on central government business), C2, C3 (central government officials in transit on central government business) or G1, G2, G3, G4 (central government officials traveling in connection with an international organization, or employees of an international organization)
Q.7 I have a nonimmigrant visa that will expire soon and I would like to renew it. Do I need to go through the whole visa application process again?
Each nonimmigrant visa application is a separate process. You must apply in the normal manner, even if you had a visa before and even if your current nonimmigrant visa is still valid.
Q.8 My passport has expired, but the U.S. visa in it is still valid. Do I need to apply for a new visa?
No. If your visa is still valid you can travel to the United States with your two passports (old and new), as long as the visa is valid, not damaged, and is the appropriate type of visa required for your principal purpose of travel. (Example: tourist visa, when your principal purpose of travel is tourism). Also, the name and other personal data should be the same in both passports, (unless the name change was due to marriage). Your nationality, as indicated in the new passport, must be the same as that shown in the passport bearing the visa.
If your name changed due to marriage, you can travel to the United States with both passports as well as your marriage certificate.
Q.9 I have dual citizenship. Which passport should I use to travel to the United States?
If one of your nationalities is not U.S., you can apply using whichever nationality you prefer, but you must disclose all nationalities to the Embassy/Consulate General on your application form. U.S. citizens, even dual citizens/nationals, must enter and depart the United States using a U.S. passport.
Q.10 How can I extend my visa?
The validity of a visa cannot be extended regardless of its type. You will need to apply for a new visa.
Q.11 Must I submit my visa application form electronically?
Yes, you must complete the DS-160 and bring a printed copy of the the DS-160 confirmation page with you when you go for your interview at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate General.
Q.12 What is "administrative processing?"
Some visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after your interview with a consular officer. You are advised of this possibility when they apply. Most administrative processing is resolved within 60 days of the visa interview. This web page on the Consular Affairs website has more information about administrative processing.
Q.13 How do I read and understand my visa?
As soon as you receive your visa, check to make sure all your personal information printed on the visa is correct. If any of the information on your visa does not match the information in your passport or is otherwise incorrect, please contact the issuing authority (i.e. the U.S. Embassy/Consulate General) immediately.
The expiration date of your visa is the last day you may use the visa to enter the U.S. It does not indicate how long you may stay in the U.S. Your stay is determined by the Department of Homeland Security at your port of entry. As long as you comply with the Department of Homeland Security decision on the conditions of your stay, you should have no problem.
Further information about interpreting your visa can be found at the Department of State's Consular Affairs website.
Q.14 My visa will expire while I am in the United States. Is there a problem with that?
No. You may stay in the U.S. for the period of time and conditions authorized by the Department of Homeland Security officer when you arrived in the U.S., which will be noted on the I-94, even if your visa expires during your stay.
Q.15 What will happen when I enter the U.S.?
Q.16 I did not turn in my I-94 when I left the United States. What should I do?
This process is being automated but if you receive a paper I-94 and you returned home with your Form I-94 (white) or Form I-94W (green) Departure Record in your passport, it is possible that your departure was not recorded properly.
Do not give your I-94 or I-94W to the U.S. Embassy or any other office.
If you departed by a commercial air or sea carrier (airlines or cruise ships), your departure from the U.S. can be independently verified, and it is not necessary to take any further action, although holding on to your outbound (from the U.S.) boarding pass can help facilitate your reentry next time you come back to the United States.
If you departed by land, private vessel or private plane, visit the Customs and Border Protection web site for further instructions.
Q.17 I have lost my Green Card and need to return to the U.S. very soon. What do I do?
If you have not been out of the U.S. for 12 months or longer, please contact us at LagosIV@state.gov to obtain a boarding foil application form. To qualify for a boarding foil you must complete the following:
- Complete and submit Form I-90, ‘Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card’
- Proof of lawful permanent residence (i.e., form I-551 or copy of "green
- Affidavit of Loss or Police Report (if "green card" was lost/stolen/"misplaced")
- Proof of your departure from the United States (i.e., airline tickets, boarding passes, passport stamps, etc.)
- Valid Nigerian or international passport
- One (1) passport-sized color photograph (full face, white background)
Q.18 I have questions on submitting my DS-160 and printing the confirmation page. Where can I go for more information?
Our call center is unable to provide assistance on the application form. Any inquiries on completing the DS-160 can be addressed on the following website, http://travel.state.gov/visa/forms/forms_4401.html.
The United States is an open society. Unlike many other countries, the United States does not impose internal controls on most visitors, such as registration with local authorities. Our immigration law requires consular officers to view every visa applicant as an intending immigrant until the applicant proves otherwise. In order to enjoy the privilege of unencumbered travel in the United States, you have a responsibility to prove you are going to return abroad before a visitor or student visa is issued.
Q.19 What Is Section 214(b)?
Section 214(b) is part of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). It states:
Every alien shall be presumed to be an immigrant until he establishes to the satisfaction of the consular officer, at the time of application for admission, that he is entitled to a nonimmigrant status...
Our consular officers have a difficult job. They must decide in a very short time if someone is qualified to receive a temporary visa. Most cases are decided after a brief interview and review of whatever evidence of ties an applicant presents. To qualify for a visitor or student visa, an applicant must meet the requirements of sections 101(a)(15)(B) or (F) of the INA respectively. Failure to do so will result in a refusal of a visa under INA 214(b). The most frequent basis for such a refusal concerns the requirement that the prospective visitor or student possess a residence abroad he/she has no intention of abandoning. Applicants prove the existence of such residence by demonstrating that they have ties abroad that would compel them to leave the U.S. at the end of the temporary stay. The law places this burden of proof on the applicant.
Q.20 How can an applicant prove "strong ties?"
Strong ties differ from country to country, city to city, and individual to individual. Some examples of ties can be a job, a house, a family, a bank account. "Ties" are the various aspects of your life that bind you to your country of residence: your possessions, employment, social and family relationships.
Imagine your own ties in the country where you live. Would a consular office of another country consider that you have a residence there that you do not intend to abandon? It is likely that the answer would be "yes" if you have a job, a family, if you own or rent a house or apartment, or if you have other commitments that would require you to return to your country at the conclusion of a visit abroad. Each person's situation is different.
U.S. consular officers are aware of this diversity. During the visa interview they look at each application individually and consider professional, social, cultural and other factors. In cases of younger applicants who may not have had an opportunity to form many ties, consular officers may look at the applicants specific intentions, family situations, and long-range plans and prospects within his or her country of residence. Each case is examined individually and is accorded every consideration under the law.
Q.21 Is a denial under Section 214(B) permanent?
No. The consular officer will reconsider a case if an applicant can show further convincing evidence of ties outside the United States. Unfortunately, some applicants will not qualify for a nonimmigrant visa, regardless of how many times they reapply, until their personal, professional, and financial circumstances change considerably.
An applicant refused under Section 214(b) should review carefully their situation and realistically evaluate their ties. They may write down on paper what qualifying ties they think they have which may not have been evaluated at the time of their interview with the consular officer. Also, if they have been refused, they should review what documents were submitted for the consul to consider. Applicants refused visas under section 214(b) may reapply for a visa. When they do, they will have to show further evidence of their ties or how their circumstances have changed since the time of the original application. It may help to answer the following questions before reapplying: (1) Did I explain my situation accurately? (2) Did the consular officer overlook something? (3) Is there any additional information I can present to establish my residence and strong ties abroad?
Applicants should also bear in mind that they will be charged a nonrefundable application fee each time they apply for a visa, regardless of whether a visa is issued.
Q.22 Who can influence the consular officer to reverse a decision?
Immigration law delegates the responsibility for issuance or refusal of visas to consular officers overseas. They have the final say on all visa cases. By regulation, the U.S. Department of State has authority to review consular decisions, but this authority is limited to the interpretation of law, as contrasted to determinations of facts. The question at issue in such denials, whether an applicant possesses the required residence abroad, is a factual one. Therefore, it falls exclusively within the authority of consular officers at our Foreign Service posts to resolve. An applicant can influence the post to change a prior visa denial only through the presentation of new convincing evidence of strong ties.
For information about visa ineligibilities other than 214(b), please visit the Department of State's Consular Affairs website.