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Applying for a Nonimmigrant Worker Visa

There are many different types of nonimmigrant US visa and every individual case can further differ. The following article therefore does not claim to be fully comprehensive. It does, however, give you a first overview as well as some pointers on where you can find more information and help.
You will have to be prepared to tackle a lot of paperwork when applying for a US visa.

Depending on what visa category you fall into, your future employer might first need to get permission to hire a foreign worker in the form of a labor certificate from the Department of Labor. This is necessary in order to ensure that the position cannot be filled with an able and qualified US worker instead, and that employing a foreigner will not negatively influence the working conditions and wages of local workers in similar positions.

Then, your employer needs to file a visa petition for you (Form I-129 – Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker). Only after this has been approved can you apply for a nonimmigrant worker visa.

Exemptions to this rule are the Tourist (B-2) and Temporary Business Visitors Visa (B-1) for which you can apply straight away. Or, you might not need a future employer and instead be able to self-petition, e.g. if you are an individual with extraordinary abilities or achievements (O-1) who can try to find work after moving to the US. So make sure to inform yourself in-depth about the necessary pre-requirements of your specific visa category.

Online Application Form DS-160

Once any and all necessary certifications and petitions have been approved, it is finally time to apply for your nonimmigrant worker visa. In order to do so, you will need to complete the DS-160 application form online at the Consular Electronic Application Center website.

When filling out this application form, you have to provide various details and information, so keep the following documents / pieces of information close at hand:

  • Your passport
  • Any travel plans you have already made (e.g. flight dates)
  • Information on previous visits to the USA, particularly their dates
  • Information on other international travel
  • CV, in case information on education and/or work history is needed
  • A copy of your approved I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, if required for your visa category
  • Information on your employer (e.g. address)

During this online application process, you also have to upload a digital photo that is in accordance to the official photograph requirements. Should this upload fail, you will need to bring a copy to your interview appointment. Some embassies/consulates require an additional hardcopy of your photo even if the upload has been successful, so make sure to check whether this is the case for you.

Once your online application has been completed, make sure to print out the confirmation barcode page. You will need to bring this to your interview.

Make an Interview Appointment

Once your online application is complete, you need to find out whether an interview at your nearest US embassy/ consulate is a required part of your visa application. This is generally the case for persons aged 14 to 79. Younger or older applicants are only required to attend an interview at the discretion of the consular officer(s) in charge of their application.

When scheduling an interview appointment, you need the receipt number of your approved petition (if necessary for your visa) or the Notice of Action Form I-797 you might have received. You can check the typical waiting time for appointments at your embassy/consulate online.

Make sure to pay any required visa application fees, gather all necessary documents and review the instructions on the website of your local embassy/consulate for further information and requirements.

Required Documents for the Interview

You typically have to bring the following documents with you to your interview:

  • Valid password
  • Confirmation page of your application (DS-160 form)
  • Receipt for application fee payment (if required)
  • Photo, if online upload failed or if requested by your embassy/consulate
  • Receipt number of approved petition or notice of action form, if applicable

Please note that this list is not comprehensive and requirements may vary depending on your specific visa category and other factors, such as e.g. your current country of residence.

Your Visa Interview

In the interview, your qualification for a nonimmigrant visa will be determined, so make sure to present your case to the best of your abilities. Also be prepared to get digital fingerprint scans taken. Once the interview is concluded, you will be informed about any further administrative steps that might be necessary to process your visa.

If your visa application is approved, you may be charged a visa issuance fee. You will then be informed of the method of delivery for your passport including the visa. This is typically done by a courier or you can personally pick it up from the embassy/consulate. As with the waiting time for appointments, you can once again check the visa processing time online.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.