A step-by-step outline of US Visa application procedures
Estimated Wait Times for a Visa Interview in your home country
We advise scientists traveling to the US to apply for a visa as early as possible; at least six months before the visa is needed. Please check with your local US consulate or embassy to find out the earliest that you may apply for a visa.
All visitors traveling to the US (including from Visa Waiver Program countries) must register their details online at least three days in advance of travel. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is a free, automated system used to determine the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States. It collects the same information as the paper I-94W form you usually complete when traveling to the United States. ESTA applications may be submitted at any time prior to travel, provided it is three days in advance of travel. An ESTA authorization generally will be valid for up to two years. DHS recommends that travelers submit an ESTA application as soon as they begin travel plans.
When applying for a visa (not required for countries included in the Visa Waiver Program) you will need to:
- Apply for a visa at least six months in advance. For countries on the State Sponsors of Terrorism List, the State Department suggests applying for a visa six to eight months in advance.
- Provide your entire trip itinerary, including travel to any countries other than the United States, at the time of visa application.
- If your travel plans depends on early approval of the visa application, you must specify this at the time of the application.
- Provide proof of scientific status. For example, proof that you submitted an abstract for the meeting. Do not wait until you receive notification that your abstract has been accepted before applying for a visa. It is very rare that an abstract is denied.
- Provide a link to the meeting website and a copy of your letter of invitation.
- Provide evidence that you are intending to return to your country of residence. This includes such things as:
- family ties in current country of residence;
- property ownership;
- bank account;
- an employment contract or statement from employer showing that position will continue after the dates of the meeting.
- Remember that visa requirements vary by passport-issuing country and citizenship (not merely residency).
Further information on business visas can be found at the US Department of State Business Visa Center and the IVO websites.
If you are experiencing significant visa delays, you are encouraged to fill out the visa survey. This will allow the National Academies of Sciences to bring your case to the attention of the US Department of State.
Visa questions should be directed to email@example.com.