How Long Does It Take to Get a U.S. Visa After You've Applied?

Following Instructions Carefully Can Speed the Process

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The timing of your visa application is paramount to ensure that it arrives before you need it to embark on your travels. It's the policy of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Citizenship and Immigration Services department to process visa applications in the order in which they're received. That said, applicants should be sure to check the online processing status of their applications to stay up-to-date.

Best Way to Get a Visa in Time for Your My Trip

Start the application process as early as you can—and be patient. Follow the instructions from officials at your local U.S. embassy or consulate, and keep the lines of communication open. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand something. Consult an immigration attorney if you think you need one.

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

How Long You'll Have to Wait

If you’re applying for a temporary nonimmigrant visa—for example, a tourist, student, or work visa—your wait will usually be only a few weeks or months. If you’re trying to move to the U.S. permanently, however, and are applying for an immigrant visa with the eventual goal of obtaining a green card, the wait could take years. The government considers applicants case-by-case and factors in variables such as congressional quotas and the applicant’s country of origin and personal profile data.

The State Department offers online help for temporary visitors. If you're applying for a nonimmigrant visa, the government's online estimator will give you an idea of wait times for interview appointments at embassies and consulates around the world. The site also provides the typical wait time for a visa to be processed after a counselor has approved your application. However, some cases require extra administrative processing, increasing wait times significantly according to individual circumstances. This is usually fewer than 60 days but sometimes longer. Be aware that processing wait time does not include the time required to return passports to applicants by courier or local mail.

The State Department does grant expedited interview appointments and processing in emergencies. Contact the U.S. embassy or consulate in your country in case of an emergency. Instructions and procedures vary from country to country.

Visas Aren't Needed From Some Countries

The American government allows nationals from certain countries to come to the U.S. for up to 90 days for business or tourism without a visa. Congress created the Visa Waiver Program in 1986 to stimulate business and travel relationships with U.S. allies around the world.

You can visit the U.S. without a visa if you’re from one of these countries:

  • 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
  • Some British overseas territories

Other Considerations When Applying for a U.S. Visa

Security concerns can always be a complicating factor. U.S. consular officials check the tattoos of visa applicants for links to Latin American gangs; some with questionable tattoos are rejected. U.S. visas are declined mostly due to incompatible applications, failure to establish entitlement to nonimmigrant status, misrepresentation, and criminal convictions. Single and/or unemployed young adults are often refused. As U.S. immigration policy is in a state of flux, it's a good idea to check with your local U.S. embassy or consulate should you believe updated regulations might potentially cause issues that would impede the visa process.

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Moffett, Dan. "How Long Does It Take to Get a U.S. Visa After You've Applied?" ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Moffett, Dan. (2021, February 16). How Long Does It Take to Get a U.S. Visa After You've Applied? Retrieved from Moffett, Dan. "How Long Does It Take to Get a U.S. Visa After You've Applied?" ThoughtCo. (accessed May 31, 2023).