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What You Really Need To Know When Applying For A US Tourist Visa

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When Jake and I realised that we could potentially be passing through 32 countries in our journey from Argentina to Alaska, there were definite pangs of anxiety at the thought of how many visa applications we might have to process.

I stumbled upon this website Visa HQ which offers a slick and easy user experience, providing you with clear and actionable entry information for every country you plan to pass through. For anyone who is planning to pass through any of the countries on our Inca to Inuit route I have saved a handy table with Visa requirements for each country detailed You can access it here

The main Visa we had to secure was our North America Visa. Normally an ESTA will suffice for all trips that are less than 90 days. A quick trip to the ESTA site and 14USD later and voila you’re free to go on your merry way. Naturally it was never going to be quite that easy for Jake and I. With no idea of when we would arrive in the States nor a clue as to how long we would be staying within the US, we were unsure how to proceed.

3 hours spent in front of the computer one Sunday afternoon and we had managed to complete the first stage of our application. If like us you are looking to spend more than 90 days in the US as a tourist you’ll need to apply for a B1/B2 Visa application. It’s a pretty hefty form so set some time aside to make your way through it. You’ll need to have:

  • Your passport to hand (making sure it is still valid for six months beyond your stay in the US)
  • Travel Itinerary (you will need to enter where you plan on staying upon arrival to the US)
  • Dates of your last five visits to the US

You can access the application form here

Once completing you’ll need to have £112 on hand to pay for the Visa, slightly steeper than the 14USD for an ESTA. Once you’ve paid you can then book your appointment to the US Embassy for your interview, this is where the fun really begins.

Luckily Jake and I took the morning off work in order to accommodate for our interviews. It’s a good job we did as the whole process from arrival to leaving with an approved Visa took three hours. There are a couple of things we’d wished we had known before attending our interviews.

Firstly, if you’re dropping into the Embassy ahead of going to work avoid taking your laptop with you. No laptops are allowed in the premises. Jake was asked to take a trip to the local chemist – Audley Pharmacy and put down a fee to leave his laptop in their safe hands for the time we were at the Embassy. If you do need to take a laptop with you, I’d advise dropping it off here first before heading to the Embassy as it’s about a five-minute walk away.

 

Secondly your appointment time isn’t the start of your appointment. The queue to get through security outside the Embassy is roughly 40 minutes. As such you will be queuing alongside people who have appointment times about 30 mins either side of your slot. I’d advise getting to the Embassy 30 mins before your slot to allow for getting through security.

Make sure you go straight to the front of the queue upon arrival and ask which queue you need to be in. There are three to four queues on the go at once so make sure you’re in the right one. Also, you could be spending 40-60 minutes outside so bring an umbrella just in case.

Once inside the building you will have two separate interviews that are roughly 40-60 minutes apart. Your finger prints will be taken so make sure you don’t have any broken skin or cuts on your finger tips. If you do this could prevent you from being able to process your application. Make sure you have 4 passport sized pictures with you as these will be needed for your application to be processed.

You’ll need to leave your passport at the Embassy for up to 2 weeks after your application so don’t plan any holidays or weekend trips out of the country during this time. If your application is successful you will then need to go and collect your passport from one of their courier depots.

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