How Long Does It Take to Get a Visa?

What Is the Wait Time for a US Visa?


The timing of your visa application and advanced travel planning are paramount to ensure that your visa arrives on time. The US Department of Homeland Security's Citizenship and Immigration Services states that they generally process the visa applications in the order they are received, but those applying for visas are advised to check their processing times online in order to stay up to date.

 

How Long Will I Have to Wait to Get My Visa?

If you’re applying for a temporary nonimmigrant visa--for example, a tourist, student or work visa--the wait could be measured in a few weeks or months.

But if you’re trying to move to the United States permanently and are applying for an immigrant visa and looking to eventually get a green card, for example, then the wait could take years.

There is no simple answer. The government considers each applicant on a case-by-case basis and factors in many variables such as quotas set by Congress as well as the applicant’s country of origin and personal profile.

The US Department of State offers online help for temporary visitors. If you plan to apply for a nonimmigrant visa, the government has an online estimator that will help give you an idea of the wait time for interview appointments at US embassies and consulates around the world.

The site will give you the typical wait time for your visa to be processed and available for pickup or delivery by courier after a counselor has made the decision to approve your application. However, some cases require extra administrative processing, usually less than 60 days, but sometimes longer.

When administrative processing is required, the wait times can vary significantly according to individual circumstances.

Keep in mind that the State Department does grant expedited interview appointments and processing if you have an emergency situation. It’s important that you contact the US Embassy or Consulate in your country if you have an emergency.

Instructions and procedures can vary locally from country to country.

The State Department says the following: "It should be noted that the 'Wait Times for a Nonimmigrant Visa to be Processed' information by country does not include time required for administrative processing. Processing wait time also does not include the time required to return the passport to applicants, by either courier services or the local mail system."

What’s the Best Advice for Getting My Visa in Time for My Trip?

Start the application process as early as you can, and then be patient. 

Work with officials at your local US Embassy or Consulate, and follow their instructions. Keep the lines of communication open, and don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand something. Consult an immigration attorney if you think you need one.

Show up at least 15 minutes early for your interview to allow for security checks, and have all of your documents prepared. Conduct the interview in English if possible, and come dressed appropriately--as if for a job interview.

Could It Be That I Don’t Need a Visa to Visit the United States?

The US government allows nationals from specific countries to come to the United States for up to 90 days on business or tourist trips without a visa requirement.

Congress created the Visa Waiver Program in 1986 to stimulate business and travel relationships with US allies around the world.

If you’re from one of these countries, you can visit the United States without a visa: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, the United Kingdom and some British overseas territories.

Other Considerations When Applying for a US Visa

Security concerns can always be a complicating factor. US consular officials check the tattoos of visa applicants for links to Latin American gangs, and some applicants with questionable tattoos are rejected.

Most reasons US visas are declined are because of incompatible applications, failure to establish entitlement to nonimmigrant status, misrepresentation and criminal convictions, to name just a few.

Young adults who are single and/or unemployed are often refused.