Preparing for your visa application can be a stressful and difficult process. But if you give yourself enough time to do research and prepare the documents needed for the particular visa you’re applying for, you’ll have a higher chance of having your visa approved on the first try.

An important thing to keep in mind is that a recent policy memorandum has changed the process a bit. Visa applications may now be denied at the discretion of authorities without submitting a Request For Evidence (RFE) or sending the applicant a Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID). This means that if your visa application is missing any documentation when submitted, your application could be denied without officials requesting the information that is necessary to complete the process.

It’s never too early to start preparing your visa application and compiling your documents. So even if you aren’t planning to apply for a while, it’s still a great idea to get a head start.

Different types of visas

Before you dive into the process of applying for your visa, you’ll first need to do your own research to identify which type of visa you need.

There are several different types of visas, though the two major categories are “Immigrant” and “Nonimmigrant.” You can read all about the different categories and specific visas by visiting the Directory of Visa Categories page on the U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs website.

Depending on the type of visa that you are applying for, you may be required to submit more information or very specific documents, such as petitions and affidavits showing the support of US sponsors, sponsoring employers, or fiancés.

When preparing your visa application, you may want to consult with an immigration attorney. Many immigration attorneys will offer you free legal advice pro bono, at no cost to you.

Documents needed for U.S. visa application process

Here is some of the most important documentation to make sure you have available when preparing your visa application:

  • Passport
  • Travel itinerary, if you have already made travel arrangements.
  • Dates of your last five visits or trips to the United States, if you have previously traveled to the United States. You may also be asked for your international travel history over the past five years. 
  • Résumé or Curriculum Vitae – You may be required to provide information about your current and previous education and work history. 
  • Visa application forms – A list of types of visas and their respective forms are available here.
  • Divorce or death certificate(s) of any previous spouse(s) for both you and a U.S. citizen sponsor
  • Police certificates from your present country of residence and all countries where you have lived for six months or more since age 16. (Police certificates are also required for accompanying children age 16 or older.)
  • Medical examination. (Vaccinations are optional.)
  • Evidence of financial support. (Form I-134, Affidavit of Support, may be requested.)
  • Two (2) 2×2 photographs. Read the Photo Requirements before submitting.  
  • Evidence of relationship with your U.S. citizen sponsor.
  • Application fee payment receipt. You can find a list of applicable visa fees here.

Schedule an interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. (If under the age of 13 or over the age of 80, a scheduled interview may not be required.)

If you’re interested in learning a bit more about the U.S. visa interview, watch this video below for an overview:

Start preparing your visa application today

If you’re preparing to apply or re-submit your visa application, now is the time to be extra diligent about all paperwork and documentation.

Applying for and receiving a U.S. visa is often a lengthy process, and it may require years of perseverance, but in the end, it is worth it when you’re successfully able to obtain your visa. The key thing to remember is to be prepared and do your research!

Whether you’re working on your own visa application, or you have family members or friends who are working toward theirs, you can use Remitly to send monetary assistance.