Visa to US – practical guide

There are already so many articles about getting a visa to US but once I needed some information, I couldn’t find an answer for my questions. Luckily, we have already gone through that process and we have the visas in our passports. I have decided to write my own article about it and it will contain all necessary information for those who want to apply for a US visa.

Visa to US for an Egyptian

How does applying for a visa look like for a person who is from outside EU and lives in Poland based on residence permit? We hesitated a lot before applying for a visa because we were worried that we wouldn’t get it only because of Mohamed’s Egyptian passport. However, going to the USA and seeing the Grand Canyon and other beautiful places was so important that we took our chances.

Obviously, I haven’t found any information about how the visa process looks like for people who live in Poland based residence permit. As if people like that have never applied for US visa or no one has ever written anything about it. Since we went through this, I will describe for you how an application for that person looks like, what is different and if it’s difficult to get a visa.

Types of visa

There are several types of immigrant and nonimmigrant visas you may choose from. If you are going to the USA as a tourist, you apply for a nonimmigrant visa B (Visitor Visa). When you are applying for visa B you can choose B1 which is a business visa, B2 a tourist visa or a combined B1/B2 which is both business and tourist visa.

B2 visa will be enough if you are going to the US as a tourist. However, if you have a scientific conference to attend there or you have any business to do there like signing a contract, you have to apply for B1 visa. I recommend you apply for both types. Why? The application is the same and you may need the B1 visa too. We both applied for both B1/B2 visa.

Visa application step by step

Before I describe in details how to fill an application and how a visit in the embassy looks like, a short cut of how to proceed with applying for a visa step by step.

1. Fill DS-160 visa application

2. Pay for the application

3. Book visa appointment in an embassy or a consulate

4. Appointment in the embassy and information about visa

How to fill DS-160 application

Filling DS-160 application is intuitive but it has some parts that may cause questions if you are applying for the visa for the first time. I divided the following part into paragraphs according to the parts of the application itself and I will describe for you how to fill more complicated questions. I will also show you what the difference between the application for a person with Polish passport and a person with Egyptian one is.

You fill DS-160 here. Start with selecting a place where you will submit your application, write down a code and click “start an application”. On the next screen you will see our Application ID. Write it down somewhere because you will need it every time you want to retrieve your application or correct something there.

Personal Information

Here is where you provide basic personal data. Your name(s), surname(s), marital status, home address and nationality. Pay attention to the following points:

Full name in native alphabet: Poles for example, just write again their full name and surname. Egyptians, on the other hand, write their full name in Arabic script.

Have you ever used other names? For women who change their surname after getting married, this is where they should provide their maiden name

Do you have a telecode that represents your name? Most of us will answer no. Poles and Egyptians don’t have a telecode

Do you hold or have you held a nationality other than the one indicated above on nationality? If you are a holder of a passport of another country, you have to add this infromation here

Are you permanent resident of a country/region other than your country/region of origin (nationality) indicated above? – here is when a person who has a permanent residence permit in Poland (or any other country) provides that information

National Identification Number – for Polish citizens it’s PESEL number. As for Egyptians, we added the Egyptian ID number, although my husband has the Polish Identification Number as well. No one asked us about it nor checked anything because in the embassy they check the residence card separately

U.S. Social Security Number and U.S. Tax Payer ID – if you have never lived in the US, you should mark “Does Not Apply”

Personal data for an Egyptian

What’s more, if an Egyptian is filling the application, he/she may encounter difficulties related to “surnames” and “given names” parts. All because of many names that Egyptians have. So, as a “surname” you write the last name that appears in your passport, and the rest are “given names”. If someone’s name is Mohamed Salah Ahmed Mahmoud Hassan, “Hassan” is a “surname” and Mohamed Salah Ahmed Mahmoud are “given names”. This is not that obvious so I’m explaining it. We put it differently in the application and they corrected it for us in the embassy to be as above.

Address and Phone

I think this part is pretty easy. Insert your home address and if your mail address is different, you will have to add it too. At the end write down your email address.

Passport

This is where you provide data of your passport: number, issuance date and expiration date.

Passport/Travel Document Type – choose “Regular” unless you are an owner of a diplomatic passport 😉

Passport Book Number – neither Poles nor Egyptians have Passport Book Number, so mark “Does Not Apply”

Country/Authority that Issued Passport/Travel Document – a country where your passport was issued

City – a city where your passport was issued

Travel

Here you put a reason of your travel to US. As I have mentioned before, if you are going there as a tourist, you choose B as category of the visa. Then you select whether it’s visa type B1, B2 or B1/B2.

Later on, you should add planned arrival date to the USA. If you don’t have exact plans yet, put the most probable date.

Address where you will stay in the USA. That’s the part that is usually problematic for people who apply for a tourist visa. Well, what should you write there if you don’t know anyone in the US and you can’t put an address of a friend? Don’t worry. We don’t know anyone either, we don’t have any aunts or uncles in the US. You can, however, put an address of a hotel where you intend to stay during your trip. This is exactly what we did. We put an address of a hotel in New York.

Travel Companion

Provide information whether you are travelling to the US with someone and if you are going there as a part of a group. If you are travelling with someone, provide full name of this person and what is the relationship with your travel companion.

Previous U.S. Travel

In this part, answer if you have ever been to the USA before, if you have ever been issued or refused a U.S. Visa or if you have been refused admission to the United States. If you are using our visa guide, I suppose you are applying for the first time and you will answer no to all those questions.

U.S. Contact

Once again you have to add information about a contact person in the US. If you have a family member or a friend there, you can put their name and address. What to do if you don’t know anyone there just like us? Mark “Do Not Know” in “surnames” and “given names” and in “organization name” add a name of the hotel where you are planning to stay. Then in “Relationship to You” select “other” and add the hotel address.

Family

At the beginning you have to provide name, surname and date of birth of your mother and father and answer whether any of them is currently in the U.S. Then again you answer a question about any other relatives who live in the USA. After that, if you have marked before that you are married, you will have to provide personal data of your spouse. Given names, name, date of birth, country of origin and place of birth.

Work/Education/Training

That’s an interesting section of questions. You have to select your primary occupation from the list and then add information about your place of work: company’s name, address, contact number, start day of your contract, monthly salary and few words about what you do at work. What have I said that it’s an interesting section of questions? Because it looked differently for me and my husband.

We filled the application in the same way. Even when I was reading instructions about the application on other blogs, I found there information about the same questions as Mohamed got (which means that doesn’t depend on the nationality). However, I didn’t get them in my form. What kind of questions were they? While I had to provide only my current work place, Mohamed had to include all places he has worked at during last five years. On next pages he also had to add information about his educational background, place he visited in the last 5 years (they had no idea what they asked about, we thought there wouldn’t be enough space to mention it all 😉 ) and foreign languages he speaks. Apart from that there was a question like “Do you belong to a tribe?”.

Security and Background

The most interesting set of questions is almost at the end of the form. There are five pages of questions that may seem strange if you are applying for the first time. To give you an example, there are questions whether you have any mental disorder or you are addicted to drugs, maybe you have been arrested or you are going to the US to engage in prostitution. Do you seek to engage in any illegal activity while in the United States? Do you seek to engage in any terrorist activities? Are you a member of a terrorist organization? Have you ever participated in a genocide, tortures or in recruitment of child soldiers? These are only examples of questions that appear at the end of the form. They may seem illogical but, anyway, you have to answer them all.

Photo for visa application

At the end of the application, you have to add a photo. You will find exact photo requirements here. On the right hand side of that website you will find a “Photo Tool”. It’s a program you can download and check whether your photo is correct.

Application is almost submitted

After adding the photo, you need to submit the application. You should all your answers again and check if the provided data is correct. If yes, submit the application. Now, you just have to pay for it and book an appointment in an embassy or a consulate.

Another interesting fact is that submitting the application looked different for us too. Because of Mohamed’s country of origin, he also had to read a fact sheet about female genital mutilation… Yes, I know that in Egypt female genital mutilation is a real problem, but still it seems strange to me. If you come from that part of the world, for sure you have something to do with female genital mutilation… Anyway, the application is submitted 🙂

Paying for the application

After submitting the application, you have to pay the fee. The payment is non-repayable. It’s actually a fee for application process not for a visa, so if your application is rejected, you don’t get any money back. The fee is 160$. You pay in your local currency according to the embassy’s currency rate. You pay the fee here. Create an account, log in and pay. You can pay through a bank transfer, credit or debit card.

Appointment in the embassy

Booking an appointment in an embassy

On the same website where you pay the fee, you can also book the appointment in an embassy. In Poland you can book it in the embassy in Warsaw or in the consulate in Cracow. While booking the appointment, you will also have to provide information about picking up the passports. You can choose from delivery by a courier or pick it up in person from a designated pick up point.

How long do I have to wait for an appointment?

To be honest, it’s very short waiting time. I was really surprised that we got our appointment so quickly. We paid for the applications on Tuesday and we could book the appointment in the embassy in Warsaw for next Tuesday, which is only a week later.

Documents required for the embassy appointment

Passport – it had to be valid for at least six months after the planned visit in the US

DS-160 confirmation page – you will print it after submitting the application with a photo

A printed copy of your appointment letter – which is a document that confirms your fee payment

One photo – only if you didn’t submit one in your application or it doesn’t meet the requirements

Old passports – according to the email you receive after booking an appointment, you have to bring all your old passports as well. We took them all but no one checked them

Extra documents?

The same email says also that you may bring other documents that might help your application. All the blogs I read before going to the embassy were clear about it: don’t take any extra documents because no one is even going to look at them. Documents from work and other similar stuff? No one is interested in that. However, we panic a bit if it comes to visas. Okay, I panic 😉 So we both brought documents from work that confirmed how long we work in the same company, what type of contract we have, what is our salary. And you know what? No one looked at it 😉 But I felt better having them.

In the embassy

We work in Warsaw so this is where we booked an appointment. The US embassy is located on al. Ujazdowskie 29/31 but the entrance for people who apply for a visa is on Piękna Street. You will see a long queue for sure. Yes, this is it.

Before enetering

In front of the building there is an employee of the embassy who speaks both Polish and English. He directs people to a correct counter and says what documents you should prepare. He calls people according to the time of appointment. There are several people for the same hour. That’s normal. At the beginning you will need a DS-160 confirmation page (the one with the photo). You give it together with the passport at the counter and another employee checks your data and puts a sticker on your passport.

Security check

Then you go for the security check inside the building. This is where you leave your mobile phone. You will get a number to pick up the phone when you are leaving. Remember that you cannot bring any electronic devices, food, drinks, backpacks or sharp objects to the embassy. The best thing to do is to take only the documents needed for your application. You are allowed to leave only your mobile phone at the security area so if you bring a laptop or another device, you will cause yourself more problems.

After entering the building, you have to take off your jacket and pass through metal detector. Exactly as at the airport. Later on, you pass to a hall where you will have your visa interview.

From one counter to another

The hall is pretty big and you may feel a bit lost. First you go to one of two counters on the left. There, an employee checks your passport, asks some questions to check the information in the application, he asked us for example if we were married. He also corrected Mohamed’s name and surname because we said that we had written it wrong in the application. Everything in nice atmosphere and quick. Okay, it wasn’t that quick in our case because he had to check really a lot of stuff. Three people left the counter next to us and we were still waiting. The employee also asked for Mohamed’s residence card and asked what the purpose of his stay in Poland and for how long he has lived here. At this counter you also get a number for the queue of the second counter.

Counter number 2 is where you leave your fingerprints. First one hand, four fingers, a thumb, then second hand, four fingers, a thumb. Done. We go to the last counter. Actually to the queue of the last counter.

Interview

Counter number 4 is the magical place where you have your visa interview. There are few counters and the interviews are held in Polish or in English. When we were in the embassy, there was only one English speaking counter and 2 or 3 for Polish speakers. We chose the English one to make it easier for both of us and there was a shorter queue. We fastened all the process this way. A nice employee took our passports, asked some questions about our travel plans to the US, where we work, what do we do, how much we earn. He also asked Mohamed how long he has been living in Poland and what is the base of his stay. That’s it. It may have taken 3 minutes. At the end we got a piece of paper with information what to do next and where to follow the status of our passports. Visas granted 🙂

Important questions

When will I know if I got the visa?

Right away 🙂 After the interview, either they take your passport or give it back to you. If the second situation happens, that means you didn’t get a visa. However, if they keep your passport, that means you were granted a visa and you have to wait for few days for your passport with the visa.

How long do I wait to pick up my passport with the visa?

We had our interview on Wednesday. On Saturday we got a text message with information that the passports are ready to pick up. The delivery point in Warsaw is closed on the weekends so I picked them up on Monday. Waiting time for the passport is 3-5 working days. You can follow the status of our passport after logging in to the ustraveldocs website.

How long do I get the visa for?

The tourist/business visa type B is granted for 10 years. Of course, 10 years apply to Polish citizens. Other nationalities, especially the countries that are not members of EU, have other visa limits. Mohamed with his Egyptian passport got the visa for 5 years.

Visa to the US – our impression

Finally it turned out that it wasn’t necessary to worry about the visas. It’s not that difficult to get a tourist visa to the US 🙂 How does a situation look like for people from outside EU who live in Poland and have a residence permit? From our point of view, it’s not that difficult. However, remember that our case doesn’t have to be the same as others’. Mohamed has been living in Poland for 5 years. He has had the permanent residence permit for two years and he has a stable job here. And what’s more, he has family here which is me. For sure it helped that he has stayed in Poland for quite long and he has a stable job. Also, we are going to the USA together and I have the Polish citizenship. With all those conditions, we didn’t have to worry 🙂

If you have any questions about applying for the business/tourist visa to the US, ask in the comments. I will try to answer and help you 🙂

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