Traveling the world can be one of the most exhilarating experiences in your life. It opens so many doors for new and exciting discoveries and can be completely life-changing. Unfortunately, depending on where you are coming from and where you are going, it can also be a major headache. While travel to the United States is easy for some, for others, it is a bureaucratic nightmare.
Do I need a visa?
The first step in planning your trip to the United States is to figure out whether or not you need a visa at all. If you are a member country of the U.S Visa Waiver Program (VWP), then congratulations are in order. You get to travel to the United States for 90 days visa-free. If you are traveling to the U.S. from one of these countries, you simply need to get approval through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).
ESTA is an automated system that gathers some biographical information about applicants to determine their eligibility for travel to the United States. Authorization comes through almost immediately. There is a four dollar processing fee and an additional 10 dollar authorization charge if approved.
Make sure to apply during the planning stages before you buy plane tickets. Even with a valid ESTA, there is still the possibility that you will be turned away by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the port of entry. Fortunately, as long as your ESTA is valid, this is an unlikely outcome.
Member countries of the VWP include:
● Czech Republic
● New Zealand
● Republic of Korea
● San Marino
● United Kingdom
Several other countries are in talks with the United States about joining the program and could be admitted soon, including the four European Union countries that are not currently member countries of Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, and Romania.
Not eligible for Visa Waiver Program
If you are not a citizen of a member country of the VWP, or you wish to remain in the United States for more than 90 days, then you will have to apply for a visa in order to come to the United States.
There are several different visa types, depending on your purpose of travel. You may be coming to the U.S. to study, get married, or to find a job. All of these options require a different type of visa with a different visa application process.
For many travelers coming to the United States, however, the trip is meant to be a short term one. For those planning a trip to the U.S. for business, the B-1 visa is what you will need, while those traveling for tourism will require a B-2 visa. If you are traveling through the United States and merely stopping briefly in the country on your way, then the Transit C visa is going to be what you need.
Applying for a B-2 Visa
For those wishing to come to the United States for tourism under the B-2 visa, you will need to go through a two-step process.
The first step is to complete Form DS-160 online and print the confirmation page. Step to is to go to https://ais.usvisa-info.com/ to pay the application fee and schedule an interview. Applicants under the age of 14 or over the older than 79 may be eligible to apply via courier, rather than through an in-person interview.
Traveling during the pandemic
Unfortunately, the situation with the COVID-19 global pandemic has caused many travel and immigration issues. The United States Department of State has temporarily suspended routine visa services at all U.S. embassies and consulates in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.
When international travel will return to normal is anyone's guess. For those planning a trip to the U.S., be prepared to wait a while longer before you are able to make the trip. In the meantime, stay home, stay safe, and be patient. Your travels may be delayed. However, with all the possibilities presented by international travel, it will be worth the wait.