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US visa appointment

What is a US Visa Appointment?

The U.S. visa appointment is an important part of the process to apply for both immigrant and non-immigrant U.S. visas. U.S. visa appointments are also commonly referred to as interviews. 

Applicants who are applying for an immigrant or non-immigrant from outside of the United States are required to attend a U.S. visa interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate, where a U.S. officer reviews the applicant’s application materials, including evidence of qualifications and background information, and asks the applicant questions about their desire to travel to, work, or live in the United States and their eligibility to do so. 

Applicants who are applying to adjust their status from inside the United States to a different visa type than the one they currently possess may need to attend a visa appointment if notified by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that one is necessary. The USCIS will send the applicant a notice of the interview’s date, time, and location. 

Do I Need a Visa Appointment? 

Generally, if you are applying for an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa from outside of the United States, it is safe to assume you need to attend a visa interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. There are only a few exceptions to the interview requirement, including applicants for visas reserved for dignitaries or government actors, such as the A1, A2, C2, C3, G1, G2, G3, or G4 visa. 

Moreover, visa applicants who are under the age of 14 or over the age of 79 are generally exempt from the interview requirement.

Some visa applicants who are applying for renewal of certain visas can also forgo the interview requirement if they are applying for renewal within the same visa classification. This includes the following visas: 

  • BCC visa
  • B1 visa
  • B2 visa
  • C1 visa
  • D visa
  • F visa
  • J visa
  • M visa
  • O visa

How to Schedule a Visa Interview?

The process for scheduling a visa interview is different for non-immigrant and immigrant visa applicants. The process for each is shown below. 

Scheduling Immigrant Visa Interview 

Before an immigrant visa applicant is ready to attend their interview, the applicant must have submitted their immigrant visa petition and completed Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application. After doing so, the National Visa Center (NVC), which processes the applicant’s submitted forms, will schedule an interview on the applicant’s behalf. The applicant, as well as their petitioner, will receive an email containing the interview’s date and time. 

Scheduling Non-Immigrant Visa Interview 

Before a non-immigrant visa applicant is ready to attend their interview, they must have submitted their non-immigrant petition and completed Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application form. After doing so, the non-immigrant visa applicant must schedule their visa interview on their own behalf with a U.S. Embassy or Consulate that is nearest to them.

Each U.S. Embassy or Consulate has its own scheduling protocols and appointment availability, so applicants should follow the instructions of the Embassy or Consulate specific to their situation at this website. A list of U.S. Embassies and Consulates can also be found at this State Department website.

What to Bring to Visa Interview? 

What to Bring to Immigrant Visa Interview

It is important to ensure the applicant has everything he or she is required to have before attending the visa interview.

First, prior to the interview, the applicant must schedule and complete a medical examination and vaccination requirements for themselves and any family member or derivative applicant who is applying for a visa with them. Applicants are required to schedule a medical appointment with an authorized physician in the same country where their interview will take place.

The medical exam must also be with an embassy-approved doctor. The applicant can find a list of doctors approved by the embassy where their appointment will be held by visiting the embassy’s website or by contacting them directly. The results of the medical examination will either be provided to the applicant in a sealed envelope or sent directly to the embassy. Applicants who receive a sealed envelope must not open it and must bring it to their interview. 

Second, applicants of all ages must bring certain documents with them to their interview. This can include photographs and original or certified copies of all civil documents, such as passport and birth certificate, which the applicant submitted to the National Visa Center. Each embassy should have a list available on its website of the documents that applicants are required to bring. 

What to Bring to Non-Immigrant Visa Interview

Applicants for a non-immigrant visa are required to bring the following documentation with them to their visa interview: 

  • A valid passport that will remain valid for at least 6 months beyond the applicant’s period of stay in the United States; 
  • Confirmation page for Form DS-160; 
  • Receipt showing payment of application fee; 
  • A photo of the applicant that conforms to Department of State photograph requirements;
  • Additional documents as requested by the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, including: 
    • Documentation showing the purpose of the applicant’s trip to the U.S; 
    • Proof of the applicant’s intent to leave the U.S. after their trip; and
    • Proof of the applicant’s ability to pay all costs of their trip

How Long Does it Take to Get a Visa Interview? 

The length of time it takes to get a visa interview can vary greatly depending on the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where the interview will be held. 

The NVC says it tries to have interviews scheduled within 3 months for immigrant visa applicants, but it can take much longer, depending on the circumstances. 

Many U.S. Embassies and Consulates experienced extensive delays for visa interviews throughout the COVID-19 pandemic due to compliance with health and safety protocols that limited staffing and required social distancing.

Not all embassies or consulates faced the same delays, however. Applicants should check with the embassies or consulates nearest to them about wait times for visa interviews. 

What if I Need to Reschedule My Interview? 

Applicants who need to reschedule their visa appointment should contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where their interview was scheduled. 

What if I Have an Emergency, Can I Receive an Earlier Appointment? 

Immigrant Visa Applicants

Applicants for immigrant visas who are dealing with a life or death family emergency that requires them to expedite the process may be able to do so only if there is a visa available for them. To request an expedited process, a request must be made to [email protected] including a scanned letter or statement from a physician or medical facility that certifies a life or death medical emergency exists. The letter should include the physician’s contact information, the applicant’s case or receipt number, as well as their name and date of birth or invoice ID number.

Non-Immigrant Visa Applicants

Applicants for non-immigrant visas may be able to expedite their interview date if they are facing an urgent and unforeseen situation, including a funeral, a medical emergency, or school start date. Each U.S. Embassy or Consulate has its own protocol for requesting an expedited interview. However, an applicant requesting an expedited interview date must show proof of the need to expedite.

A request to expedite is only available after DS-160 has been submitted and fees paid. An expedited interview appointment will not be granted in order for the applicant to attend a wedding or graduation; to participate in a business, academic, or professional conference; to assist a pregnant relative; or to enjoy last-minute tourism.

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Sweta Khandelwal

Sweta completed her Masters in Law from the University of California, Los Angeles and her JD from the Faculty of Law, Delhi University in India and has been practicing law for 15+ years getting visas, green cards, and citizenship for 1000+ clients, 100+ companies across 50+ nationalities.

Sweta has been recognized as a ” Super Lawyer, Rising Star,” and as amongst the ” Top 40 under 40″ immigration attorneys in California (American Society of Legal Advocates). She is also the recipient of the Advocacy Award by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Sweta is also a chartered accountant — the equivalent of a CPA. This makes her uniquely positioned to understand the immigration needs of her business clients in the broader context of their corporate objectives.

Sweta is actively involved with immigration issues and immigrant communities in various capacities. She has assumed key roles at the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), both at the local and national level. She has been a past chair at the Santa Clara Valley Chapter at AILA and has also been involved in various practice area committees at AILA National. Sweta has addressed multiple conferences/forums in the United States and worldwide on immigration and business issues.

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