I love visiting the United States. I think it’s a gorgeous country with wonderful people and such a variety of activities, landscape and opportunities for the traveler. Every visit I’ve had there has been exciting and different, unique from all the rest. I’ve met such giving and sweet people there, and they really made the visit so much better.
The only problem I have with visiting the States is the stress of getting a tourist visa. The people at the embassy and consulates are tough! I always feel like I’m doing something wrong… like I’m trying to fool them into believing I’m only a tourist when my true intention is to illegally move there. (I’m not – I promise!)
I’ve had enough experience with embassies that I know the drill… so for those of you trying to get a tourist visa to the US, here are a few tips:
1) First of all, CHECK if you need a tourist visa
Visa laws are changing all the time. I was really excited to read on the news that the US was considering adding Israel to the US Visa Waiver problem… they get me thrilled every few months and then it usually doesn’t pass government voting. So sad. Chilean citizens are lucky because Chile will soon join the Visa Waiver program, being the first Latin American country to be considered. It gives me hopes that maybe Bolivia will be potentially considered in the future as well, although I do doubt it… but hey, maybe Israel.
2) Research the application process
Each country has its own process for the tourist visa application. Last time I requested a US tourist visa in Israel, I had to apply for it online but pay for it at the post office. I was then provided a calendar with available dates and times for an interview. I was required to arrive to the consulate early for the interview and the approval was issued a few days later. On the other hand, in Bolivia, the process was less computer-based. Everything had to be done in person and it was more bureaucratic. Each country has the process that works best for the citizens and embassy so you should look yours up before starting anything.
3) Go prepared with documentation
American embassies and consulates want to ensure that you’re not planning to stay in the US illegally. In order to convince them against it, you need to prove attachment to your country. Doing so is relatively easy. For example, take documentation if you are currently a university student, show that you have a stable job with a salary, or take bank statements with you. If you have airplane tickets already, show that you have a return ticket purchased. As long as you demonstrate commitment to stay in your own country, you should be okay.
4) Try to keep your nerves in control
The American embassy is nerve wracking… there’s a lot of security procedures, guards, and the officers are tough and serious. They will ask you a lot of questions, so be ready to respond confidently. Don’t tremble, ramble on nor avoid eye contact. If you seem far too nervous, they may be suspicious of your intentions.
5) Dress the part
Wear nice clothes, as if you were going to an informal business meeting. Not only do Americans appreciate more ‘formal’ attire, it makes you look serious and gives the best possible first impression. I have always dressed presentably and never had an issue with an interviewer.