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How to ensure you get your US visa
Dr Arun C Vakil |
January 18, 2006
Did you know that visitor or tourist visas to the US are perhaps the most popular visas among non-immigrant visa categories? In India, the largest number of visas are issued in this category every year.
A visitor visa or a tourist visa is known as a B-2 visa.
When this visa is issued, your passport is stamped with a B-1 B-2 approval. It confuses many people as the B-1 is a business visa given to businessmen and visitors going to attend conferences or exhibitions in their fields of specialisation.
However, though the stamp is the same, the objective of your visit is established during your visa interview itself. Do not get confused by the stamp.
To obtain a visitor's visa to the US, you must establish two things -- that the visitor classification is appropriate in your case and that you are eligible for the visa under the provisions of the US law.
The responsibility for determining the proper visa classification and eligibility of each applicant rests with the consular officer -- the visa officer at the US consulate who interviews candidates for visas initially -- and the US immigration inspector. The immigration inspector is the first officer you meet when you land at any US airport ie the port of entry.
What exactly is a visitor visa?
All B-2 visa applicants seeking admission to the US are presumed to be intending immigrants. This means that even though you are going to visit, it is assumed you just might actually want to settle down in the US and not return to India.
To qualify for a B-1 or B-2 visa, you must prove you have a residence of your own (not rented) in India that you have no intention of abandoning; that you wish to enter the US for a specifically limited period; that your purpose in doing so is to engage in legitimate activities of business or pleasure.
You cannot be classified as a visitor if you desire to remain in the US indefinitely or plan to seek employment during the course of your stay.
According to Section 214 (b) of the US Immigration and Nationality Act: 'Every alien shall be presumed to be an immigrant until he establishes to the immigration officer, at the time of application for admission, that he is entitled to a non-immigrant status under section 101 (a) (15).' All visitors to the United States, who have not applied to migrate to that country, are known as aliens.
Even if you satisfy the documentary and evidentiary requirements -- this means you provide the required evidence/ proof of supporting papers/ legal documents to show you will return to India -- the consular officer can refuse a visa if he or she is not convinced of your non-immigrant intent. He/ she has to believe you will return India when your visa expires; he/ she has to believe you will not use your tourist visa to scout for a job in the US.
This means that, even if you do prepare your case well, it will not insure you will actually get a visa. The reason: one consul's non-immigrant intent is another consul's intending immigrant (he/ she suspects the applicant is a possible immigrant and will not return home after arriving in the US on a non-immigrant visa).
Successful reversals of 214 (b) findings are infrequent. Once the visa is denied, it is difficult to get the decision changed in your favour at a second or subsequent attempt.
Many ask whether they can sign a bond with the US consulate; this means they give an undertaking that they will deposit a certain amount of money with the consulate and, if they do not return within a fixed period, they will forfeit this amount. Such a system DOES NOT EXIST with the US consulate. You cannot offer any bond for this purpose yourself until asked.
In other words, an element of subjectivity cannot be ruled out (to some extent, the 'luck' factor does play a part in helping you secure a visa).
Moreover, in a consulate like Mumbai, where over 500 persons apply for visas daily, every applicant sometimes has just 60-90 seconds to present himself/ herself well and represent his/ her case convincingly.
Are you eligibile?
The US law lists specific classes of persons who are not eligible to receive visas and are inadmissible to the USA.
These classes include:
~ Persons afflicted with contagious diseases (such as tuberculosis) or who have suffered serious mental illness.
~ Persons with criminal records involving offences of certain kinds, narcotic addicts and traffickers.
~ Persons who have sought to obtain a visa by means of misrepresentation or fraud.
~ Persons who are or have been members of certain organisations, including communist organisations, terrorist groups and those affiliated therewith.
A person who is found ineligible on these grounds can still get a waiver by filing a relevant appeal with the US immigration authorities. If granted, one can become eligible for a visa.
How to apply for a non-immigrant US Visa
You must apply for a visa at the US embassy or US consulate in India. You can also apply online.
Step 1: All non-immigrant visa applicants, except 'officials travelling on government business' and 'officials of international organisations travelling for official purposes', must pay the application fee and VFS Service Charge at a designated branch of HDFC bank before applying for a visa.
Step 2: Return to the VFS site and click on Apply for a non-immigrant visa link once the fees are paid. You will need to use the barcode number from your HDFC bank fee receipt in order to schedule an appointment.
Step 3: Report to the US embassy or consulate where your appointment for a visa interview is scheduled.
You will need to bring the printed appointment letter, visa application forms, one recent photograph, the original HDFC bank fee receipt with its two barcode stickers, and a Demand Draft for the Issuance Fee to the interview.
You can seek information at any US Visa Application Centre in 12 cities across India. You have the option of submitting visa applications across-the-counter at these centres after paying the application fee and VFS' Service Charge at a designated branch of HDFC Bank.
US Consulates in India
Each visa section has a jurisdiction as noted below:
New Delhi: States of Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal and Bhutan.
New Delhi Shantipath
New Delhi -- 110 021
Phone: (011) 24198000
Web site: http://newdelhi.usembassy.gov/
Chennai: States of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and the Union Territories of Lakshadweep islands and Pondicherry.
American Consulate General
Chennai No. 220 Anna Salai
Chennai -- 600 006.
Phone: (044) 28112060
Web site: http://chennai.usconsulate.gov
Mumbai: States of Maharashtra, Goa, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Union Territories of Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli.
American Consulate General
Mumbai Lincoln House
78 Bhulabhai Desai Road
Mumbai -- 400 026
Phone: (022) 23633611/2/3/4/5/6/7/8
Web site: http://mumbai.usconsulate.gov
Kolkata: States of West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur, Tripura, Meghalaya, Orissa, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Assam and the Union Territories of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
American Consulate General
Calcutta 5/1 Ho Chi Minh Sarani
Calcutta -- 700 071
Phone: (033) 22823611/2/3/4/5
Web site: http://calcutta.usconsulate.gov
Next: Documentation, details about photographs, fees and more.
The author is a US visa and immigration consultant based in Mumbai.