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Frequently Asked Questions on U.S. Visa
Where can I find answers to my questions about my specific case / the U.S. visa process?
The best start is to read our website’s frequently asked questions page: http://www.ustraveldocs.com/ru/ru-gen-faq.asp then to contact our call center: http://www.ustraveldocs.com/ru/ru-main-contactus.asp. It’s free, and they will find out the answer to your question if they don’t already know it.
How do I apply for a visa to visit the United States?
Details are available on our website: http://www.ustraveldocs.com/ru/ru-niv-visaapply.asp. Read the instructions carefully and be sure to plan ahead!
Do all nonimmigrant visa applicants have to come to the Embassy for an interview?
Yes, for most first-time applicants. There are only a few exceptions to the interview requirement. The following applicants generally do not have to appear in person:
- Children under the age of 14 (learn more about visas for underage children here http://www.ustraveldocs.com/ru/ru-svc-visachild.asp). Applicants for A1, A2 (official travelers on central government business), C2, C3 (central government officials in transit on central government business) or G1, G2, G3, G4 (central government officials traveling in connection with an international organization, or employees of an international organization)
- Most applicants who were issued visas that are still valid or that expired recently are eligible to renew their visas without another interview. More information on renewing a visa is available here http://www.ustraveldocs.com/ru/ru-niv-visarenew.asp.
What should I bring for my visa interview?
Review the website on Visa Types for specific information on documentary requirements for the type of visa you are applying for. For most applicants, the only documents you are required to bring to your interview are a printed copy of your appointment letter, your DS-160 confirmation page, one 5x5cm photograph on a white background taken within the last 6 months, your current passport and all previous passports (if available). You may choose to bring whatever other evidence you believe will help to establish your strong ties to Russia. However, more important than any number of documents is a clear and honest narrative of your planned trip to the United States and your ties abroad.
If you have education or work experience in a specialized scientific field (including applied sciences like engineering or computer science), it may also be helpful to bring a current resume and a list of your scientific publications.
Finally, we advise you to familiarize yourself with the list of items you should NOT bring to your visa interview. This list includes large bags or luggage, food, and weapons of any kind.
I have urgent business/plane tickets to the United States. Can you get me an earlier appointment?
You can apply for an expedited appointment yourself, but be aware that there are only a limited number of situations that will qualify you for an emergency interview. Instructions are on this website: http://www.ustraveldocs.com/ru/ru-niv-expeditedappointment.asp
How can an applicant prove “strong ties?”
Strong ties differ from country to country, city to city, and individual to individual. Some examples of ties can be a job, a house, a family, a bank account. "Ties" are the various aspects of your life that bind you to your country of residence: your possessions, employment, social and family relationships.
Imagine your own ties in the country where you live. Would a consular office of another country consider that you have a residence there that you do not intend to abandon? It is likely that the answer would be "yes" if you have a job, a family, if you own or rent a house or apartment, or if you have other commitments that would require you to return to your country at the conclusion of a visit abroad. Each person's situation is different.
U.S. consular officers are aware of this diversity. During the visa interview they look at each application individually and consider professional, social, cultural and other factors. In cases of younger applicants who may not have had an opportunity to form many ties, consular officers may look at the applicants specific intentions, family situations, and long-range plans and prospects within his or her country of residence. Each case is examined individually and is accorded every consideration under the law.
How long can I stay in the United States on a tourist or business visa?
A U.S. nonimmigrant visa grants you permission to travel to a Port of Entry (airport/seaport) in the United States. When you arrive at your destination Port of Entry, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer who processes your entry will determine the length of time that you may remain in the country. You may travel to the Port of Entry during the validity of your nonimmigrant visa up to and including the last day the visa is valid. The visa duration does not determine the length of time that you may legally remain in the United States - it is important to understand that a one or two year visa does not give you the right to spend that length of time in the U.S. You are legally permitted to stay in the United States until the date indicated by the Customs and Border Protection stamp in your passport. However, staying in the United States significantly longer than you indicated at the time of your application can harm your ability to receive a U.S visa in the future.
What is a petition (work visa)?
Before applying for a temporary worker visa at the U.S. Embassy, you must have an approved Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, from USCIS. This petition must be submitted by your prospective employer no earlier than 6 months prior to your proposed employment start date. Your employer should file the petition as soon as possible within the 6-month period to allow adequate time for processing. Once approved, your employer will be sent Form I-797, Notice of Action. For more information, visit the USCIS Temporary Workers webpage.
Note: The Form I-797 is no longer required for your interview. However, to verify your petition's approval the Embassy will need your I-129 petition receipt number. Please bring this to your interview.
What is an I-20 and how do I get it?
The Form I-20 is an official U.S. Government form, issued by a certified school, which a prospective nonimmigrant student must have in order to get an F-1 or M-1 visa. Form I-20 acts as proof-of-acceptance and contains the information necessary to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee, apply for a visa or change visa status, and be admitted into the United States. The Form I-20 has the student's SEVIS identification number, which starts with the letter N and is followed by nine digits, on the upper right-hand side directly above the barcode.
I want to go live and work in the United States. How do I get a visa to do that?
Immigrant or work visas are generally based on a petition from an immediate family member or an employer in the United States. If you do not have family or a job lined up, your best option is probably to participate in the annual green card lottery. 50,000 entrants are selected each year to receive immigrant visas to the United States, together with their immediate family members. Instructions are here: http://travel.state.gov/visa/immigrants/types/types_1318.html (or in Russian: http://travel.state.gov/pdf/DV_2013_instructions_RU_cor.pdf)
U.S. Visas for Russian Citizens: Facts to Highlight
Historic issuance levels: The U.S. Mission to Russia issued nearly 200,000 visas (197,791) in FY2011, a 15% increase over FY2010. That figure set an all time record for Mission Russia. With several weeks remaining in this fiscal year, we have already broken that record.
Expanded Interview Waiver: In the last 6 months, more than one in five Russian U.S. visa applicants have received visas without an interview. Most applicants who hold a business/tourism visa that is still active or expired in the last four years are eligible to renew their visa without an interview.
Three-Year Visas: As of September 9, a new visa agreement entered into effect, capping over a year of bilateral negotiations. Under the agreement, Russian citizens are now eligible for three-year, multiple-entry visas for business or tourism (types B1/B2).
Lower fees: On September 9, the United States lowered the issuance fee for business and tourism visas from $100 to $20. The total cost of these visas is now $180, including the worldwide $160 visa application fee.
Faster Processing: As part of the visa agreement, the United States and Russia committed to process regular visa applications within 15 days under ordinary circumstances.
Improved service: In the past year, Mission Russia has eliminated fees for passport delivery and call center support. It has added 24-hour online appointment scheduling and fee payment and expanded the number of physical locations in Russia for fee payment to over 15,000. А new building for consular affairs in Moscow has been approved for construction, which will allow for even faster and more comfortable service for visa applicants.
Visa-Free to (Some) U.S. Territories: Russian citizens may visit Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands for business or tourism for up to 45 days without a visa.