What Is a U.S. Visa Appointment?

A U.S. visa appointment is an in-person interview at a Visa Application Center which is the final step in receiving approval to get a U.S. visa.

Why Is a U.S. Visa Appointment Important?

A U.S. visa appointment is required before a U.S. visa can be granted to the applicant. For some people, a U.S. visa is the only way to visit or gain entry to the United States.

Types of U.S. Visas

There are two types of visas: immigrant and nonimmigrant visas.

  • Immigrant visa: This visa is for people interested in permanent residence in the United States.
  • Nonimmigrant visa: This visa is for people interested in visiting the United States for a temporary period of time.

Some citizens may visit the U.S. without a visa. This is due to the Visa Waiver Program which gives some citizens of some countries access to visit other countries without the requirement of a visa.

Who Needs a U.S. Visa Appointment?

Anyone who is interested in obtaining a U.S. visa must have a U.S. visa appointment. These include:

  • A citizen of a country that is not included in the Visa Waiver Program.
  • A person who is traveling to the U.S. to study, work, or participate in an exchange program.

A U.S. visa allows a person to enter the U.S. for a specific purpose.

Application Process Timeline

U.S. visa applications are processed as quickly and efficiently as possible. U.S. embassies and consulates try to keep the wait times for U.S. visa appointments as short as possible. The sooner applicants can book their appointments, the better.

The average processing time for a visa is three working days. This time may vary due to circumstances and any individual requirements. Applicants for nonimmigrant visas are encouraged to apply at least three months in advance of their date of travel.

Prepare for U.S. Visa Appointment

The United States Department of State distributes visas at U.S. embassies and consulates.

Steps to prepare for your U.S. Visa Appointment:

  1. Pay your visa fee.
  2. Obtain acceptable photographs.
  3. Complete the online DS-160 visa application form.
  4. Schedule a time for your U.S. visa appointment and interview.

Remember, the U.S. visa appointment should be scheduled as soon as possible to make sure to receive the visa in time for travel.

The U.S. visa appointment and interview is the applicant’s time to prove to the consular officer what he will be doing in the United States. That might be study, work, or an exchange program. Be prepared to share documentation and show proof of your intentions.

When registering for a U.S. visa appointment time, check the wait time for the consulate that is nearest the applicant. Sometimes a consulate or embassy that's further away will have a shorter line, which is worth the trip.

Documents Necessary for a U.S. Visa Appointment

An applicant for a U.S. visa will be required to show certain documentation during a visa appointment and interview.

These documents are required during the appointment:

  • Form I-20.
  • Form DS-160 confirmation.
  • Valid passport good for at least six months past the departure date from the United States. There are some country exemptions to this rule.
  • 2x2-inch square photograph.
  • Receipt for payment of the $160 visa fee.
  • E-mail address.
  • Any other documents pertaining to the visa application process, especially for certain types of visa applications.

Getting a U.S. Visa Appointment

Since 2012, the system used to schedule a U.S. visa appointment is completely online through USTravelDocs.com. This website allows applicants to sign up for a U.S. visa appointment time and pay the application fee online. The official government website is Travel.State.Gov.

Emergency U.S. Visa Appointments

Emergency appointments can be scheduled for very few reasons. Emergency appointments are granted only for medical or humanitarian emergencies.

Changing a U.S. Visa Appointment

It’s possible for an applicant to reschedule their U.S. visa appointment once. If rescheduling is needed more than once, a new application and fee will need to be submitted. U.S. visa appointment times can be changed online.

If the U.S. visa appointment needs to be changed a second time, cancel the first appointment and reschedule a new appointment. Applicants can also request help over the phone.

Cancel a U.S. Visa Appointment

A U.S. visa appointment can be canceled at any time. There is no fee for canceling the appointment.

The visa application fee isn’t refunded for a canceled U.S. visa appointment. An appointment can also be rescheduled, only once, for a later date.

Potential Problems with a U.S. Visa Appointment

There are many potential problems that visa applicants face when setting up a U.S. visa appointment.

Typographical Errors

If there are any typos or printing errors on your documents, it could invalidate the entire visa application. Be sure to check and double check all documents through the visa application process. Specifically, check the spelling of the applicant’s name and birthdate. If there is an error or the documents don’t match, the visa application may be denied. This includes checking the information on the documents that are provided to the applicant from other agencies.

Visa Proofreading

Once the visa has been approved and the visa is provided to the applicant, it should be check for proofreading errors. Incorrect information on the U.S. visa can make the visa invalid. It’s important to ask officials to fix any errors that are found on the U.S. visa prior to leaving the office.

International Students and a U.S. Visa Appointment

To study abroad in the U.S. it’s required that a student has a U.S. nonimmigrant visa. This is known as a J-1 visa for international students. Anyone who wants to come to the U.S. between the ages of 14 and 79 must complete a J-1 interview.

The scheduling, application, and documents necessary for a J-1 hearing are all the same as what’s needed for the regular U.S. visa appointment and interview.

Documents necessary for a J-1 interview:

  • Passport (must be valid for a minimum of six months after the departure date from the U.S).
  • Form DS-160.
  • Receipt of visa application fee.
  • Photo.
  • Form DS-2019.
  • Form DS-7002.
  • Original and a copy of appointment letter.
  • Evidence of employment or family ties. This is proof for the consular officer that the applicant has ties in their home country and will return at the completion of the program.
  • Bachelor degree and high school transcripts.
  • Proof of financial ability to pay.
  • Documentation of financial support from student’s network.

Be sure to check the consulate website, since each has some unique information that they want.


  • How should an applicant dress for a U.S. Visa Appointment and Interview?

There is no official dress code that is required. Smart casual dress will make applicants stand out.

  • What questions will I be asked at my visa interview?

Visa applicants might be asked about:

  • Reasons for visiting the U.S.
  • When applicant will return to home country.
  • What the motivation is for the applicant to return to their home country.
  • What the applicant would do if offered a full-time job in the U.S.
  • What the applicant would do if they wanted to marry an American citizen.

These questions are used to determine the likelihood of illegal stay in the U.S. Applicants should establish strong ties with their home country.

  • What is a nonimmigrant visa?

A nonimmigrant visa is a visa granted to someone who is planning to visit the U.S. This isn’t a visa to live and work in the U.S.

  • What is an immigrant visa?

An immigrant visa allows the applicant to live in the United States. An immigrant visa covers permanent residence in the U.S.

  • Is a U.S. visa appointment and interview required?

Yes, to receive approval for a U.S. visa, these are required.

  • How easy is it to get a visa interview for an H-1B visa?

The hardest visa appointments to acquire are for the H-1B, F-1, and L-1 visas. These visa appointments are scarcer than others and so may take longer to obtain.

Many consulates don’t offer daily interviews for the H-1B, F-1, and L-1 visas, which limits the number of interviews available. This is often not posted online, so people show up at the consulate only to find out that there aren't any interviews available.

  • How early should I arrive at the U.S. consulate before my visa interview?

Do not be late to your visa appointment. If you are late, your appointment will be canceled and you won’t be seen by the consular officer. Ideally, you should show up at least 30 minutes before your interview appointment.

To receive help or advice on how to get a U.S. immigrant or nonimmigrant visa, don't hesitate to post your legal need for one of UpCounsel's highly trained immigration lawyers.