When it comes to travelling to the US, particularly with recent changes in the security on their borders, it is imperative that you have the correct visa when you travel – or you could face a lot of trouble at the airport (and maybe even sometimes before you’ve boarded the plane!). A visa is issued by a U.S. Embassy or Consulate, and it entitles the holder to travel to the United States and apply for admission – although it does not guarantee entry. The purpose of your travel will determine what type of visa you will need to get, so it is important that you know exactly which one will suit your needs.
Visa Waiver Program
If you’re travelling to the United States for business, tourism or in transit for less than 90 days then you may be eligible to travel under the visa waiver program if you meet the eligibility. Citizens of particular countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, San Marino, Singapore, Taiwan and a number of European countries are eligible under the visa waiver program, as long as they have a valid e-passport and are travelling for business, pleasure or transit. They will also need to hold a return or onward ticket, and have received travel authorisation with an American ESTA visa. This can only be applied for online, and must be approved before travelling. The visa waiver program ESTA is far easier and less complicated than a tourist visa where you have to go to an embassy or consulate. However, if you have a previous arrest, caution or conviction, it is advised that you use a travel visa and not a visa waiver program visa as you could be faced with being turned away.
If you are not eligible for the visa waiver program, then you will need to apply for a travel visa. Non-immigrant visas will be processed at a U.S. embassy or Consulate, and you will need to schedule an appointment. Applicants aged 14 – 79 are required to apply for a visa in person through an interview. Firstly, you must fill out the online DS-160 form, and then pay the application fee to schedule in an interview. Then you will need to bring a number of documents and forms with you in support of your visa application including: confirmation page of the DS-160 application, appointment confirmation page, a passport or travel document, a colour photograph (5 x 5 cm) taken within the last six months, evidence of your status in the UK, evidence of previously issued U.S. visas, a declaration of any previous convictions, arrests or cautions and many others. Successful applications can take 3-5 workdays to process.
If you wish to enter the states and stay there indefinitely, then you will need an immigrant visa. These can be difficult to get, and will require medical examinations, a number of documents, and an interview before your application is even considered. The process is lengthy and complicated when it comes to immigrant visas, and there are number of different types that you can get depending on your requirements.