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How Long Does It Take To Get a Visa in 2013?

There Is No Simple Answer to That Often-Asked Question, but...

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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.

Security concerns can always be a complicating factor. In 2012, U.S. consular officials started aggressively checking the tattoos of visa applicants for links to Latin American gangs. Some applicants with questionable tattoos were rejected. So think twice about that ink work if you're planning to come to the U.S.

The U.S. Department of State offers some 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 U.S. embassies and consulates around the world.

The site will help give you the typical wait time for your visa to be processed and available for pickup or delivery by courier after a counselor officer 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 U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your country if you have an emergency. Instructions and procedures can vary locally from country to country.

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. Sorry, there is no magic bullet.

Keep in mind that during 2011, U.S. officials handed out 7.5 million nonimmigrant visas to foreign nationals from all over the world. So, the system does work and the United States is ready, willing and able to open itself to visitors.

Work with the officials at your local U.S. 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.

But don’t give up. It’s well worth the effort. America is waiting for you.

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

Yes. The U.S. government allows nationals from 36 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 U.S. 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, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

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