Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Question List

  1. How long does my passport have to be valid in order to apply for a U. S. visa?
  2. Do I qualify for the Visa Waiver Program?
  3. What is the fee for ESTA and who has to pay it?
  4. If I travel to the United States without ESTA, what happens?
  5. If I am a third-country national living in Ghana, can I apply for a nonimmigrant visa in Ghana?
  6. Do all nonimmigrant visa applicants have to come to the Embassy for an interview?
  7. I have a nonimmigrant visa that will expire soon and I would like to renew it. Do I need to go through the whole visa application process again?
  8. My passport has expired, but the U.S. visa in it is still valid. Do I need to apply for a new visa?
  9. I have dual citizenship. Which passport should I use to travel to the United States?
  10. How can I extend my visa?
  11. Must I submit my visa application form electronically?
  12. What is "administrative processing?"
  13. How do I read and understand my visa?
  14. My visa will expire while I am in the United States. Is there a problem with that?
  15. What will happen when I enter the U.S.?
  16. I did not turn in my I-94 when I left the United States. What should I do?
  17. I have questions on submitting my DS-160 and printing the confirmation page. Where can I go for more information?
  18. What information do I need to provide about social media, while filling the DS-160 form?
  19. How early should I apply for my student visa?

F, M, and Academic J Visa Processing and Expansion of Interview Waiver During COVID-19

  1. Which student applicants qualify for an interview waiver?
  2. Who decides who is qualified?
  3. Where can I apply?
  4. Do I still need to make an appointment?
  5. What is the Visa Waiver Program?
  6. What is an “academic” J visa?
  7. Does this mean I will be guaranteed a visa?
  8. Will my spouse and minor children be eligible for interview waiver for their derivative F, M and J visas?
  9. Where can I find more information?
  10. Do I need to get my fingerprints taken?
  11. How long will this policy last?
  12. What if my prior U.S. visa is expired?
  13. What if I had a visa refused, but my subsequent visa application was approved?
  14. I’ve previously been issued a U.S. visa in different category than F, M or academic J. Can I still qualify for the interview waiver program?
  15. What is a National Interest Exception (NIE)?
  16. How do I apply for a National Interest Exception?

FAQ - COVID19 Testing

  1. Is the Department of State going to start requiring proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or test for visa applicants?
  2. There are reports of foreign nationals traveling to Florida to receive vaccines. Is that permitted under the law?
  3. What will happen to U.S. citizens or foreign nationals who present forged or otherwise illegitimate negative COVID test results in order to try to enter the United States?
  4. Will travelers be able to request CDC waivers (exemptions) from the testing requirement for emergency or humanitarian reasons at Embassies and Consulates?
  5. If I'm vaccinated, do I have to present a negative COVID test to fly to the United States? Why?

FAQ - Visa Refusal

  1. What is Section 214(b)?
  2. How can an applicant prove "strong ties?"
  3. Is a denial under Section 214(B) permanent?
  4. Who can influence the consular officer to reverse a decision?

FAQ - Application Profile

  1. How do I reset my password?
  2. What should I do if I move to another country after I have registered my profile on www.ustraveldocs.com and did not apply yet for my visa, or if I want to submit a new visa application in another country than my previous application?

Questions and Answers

Q.1 How long does my passport have to be valid in order to apply for a U. S. visa?

You must possess a passport valid for travel to the United States with a validity date at least six months beyond your intended period of stay in the United States (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions).


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Q.2 Do I qualify for the Visa Waiver Program?

You qualify for the Visa Waiver Program if you are a citizen of a Visa Waiver Program country, possess a machine-readable passport, are traveling for temporary business or a visit of less than 90 days, meet other program requirements, and have obtained an authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).

You must be a citizen of a Visa Waiver Program-eligible country in order to use this program. Permanent residents of VWP-eligible countries do not qualify for the Visa Waiver Program unless they are also citizens of VWP-eligible countries. We recommend you visit the Visa Waiver Program website before any travel to the U.S. to determine if you are eligible for the VWP.


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Q.3 What is the fee for ESTA and who has to pay it?

ESTA registration is required for all travelers to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. There is a US $14.00 fee for ESTA registration. The fee can be paid online using a debit card or any of the following credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover. Third parties (travel agents, family members, etc.) can pay your ESTA fee for you if you do not have the correct type of credit card. If the ESTA registration is denied, the fee is only US $4.00.


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Q.4 If I travel to the United States without ESTA, what happens?

Visa Waiver Program travelers who have not obtained approval through ESTA should expect to be denied boarding on any air carrier bound for the United States. If you are allowed to board, you can expect to encounter significant delays and possible denial of admission at the U.S. port of entry (i.e., arrival airport). ESTA registration usually only takes a few minutes to complete, authorization often arrives in seconds, and it is valid for two years.


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Q.5 If I am a third-country national living in Ghana, can I apply for a nonimmigrant visa in Ghana?

Applicants are generally advised to apply in their country of nationality or residence. Any person who is legally present in Ghana may apply for a visa in Ghana. However, applicants should decide where to apply based on more than just convenience or delay in getting an appointment in their home district. One thing to consider, for example, is in which consular district the applicant can demonstrate the strongest ties.

There is no guarantee that a visa will be issued, nor is there a guarantee of processing time. If refused, there is no refund of the application fee.


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Q.6 Do all nonimmigrant visa applicants have to come to the Embassy for an interview?

Yes, for most applicants. There are only a few exceptions to the interview requirement. The following applicants generally do not have to appear in person:

  • 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

Some applicants who are applying to renew visas that are still valid or that expired recently do not have to undergo another interview. More information on renewing a visa is available here.


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Q.7 I have a nonimmigrant visa that will expire soon and I would like to renew it. Do I need to go through the whole visa application process again?

Each nonimmigrant visa application is a separate process. You must apply in the normal manner, even if you had a visa before and even if your current nonimmigrant visa is still valid.

Some applicants who are applying to renew visas that are still valid or that expired recently do not have to undergo another interview. More information on renewing a visa is available here.


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Q.8 My passport has expired, but the U.S. visa in it is still valid. Do I need to apply for a new visa?

No. If your visa is still valid you can travel to the United States with your two passports (old and new), as long as the visa is valid, not damaged, and is the appropriate type of visa required for your principal purpose of travel. (Example: tourist visa, when your principal purpose of travel is tourism). Also, the name and other personal data should be the same in both passports, (unless the name change was due to marriage). Your nationality, as indicated in the new passport, must be the same as that shown in the passport bearing the visa.

If your name changed due to marriage, you can travel to the United States with both passports as well as your marriage certificate.


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Q.9 I have dual citizenship. Which passport should I use to travel to the United States?

If one of your nationalities is not U.S., you can apply using whichever nationality you prefer, but you must disclose all nationalities to the Embassy on your application form. U.S. citizens, even dual citizens/nationals, must enter and depart the United States using a U.S. passport.


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Q.10 How can I extend my visa?

The validity of a visa cannot be extended regardless of its type. You will need to apply for a new visa.


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Q.11 Must I submit my visa application form electronically?

Yes, you must complete the DS-160 and bring a printed copy of the the DS-160 confirmation page with you when you go for your interview at the U.S. Embassy.


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Q.12 What is "administrative processing?"

Some visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after your interview with a consular officer. You are advised of this possibility when they apply. This web page on the Consular Affairs website has more information about administrative processing.


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Q.13 How do I read and understand my visa?

As soon as you receive your visa, check to make sure all your personal information printed on the visa is correct. If any of the information on your visa does not match the information in your passport or is otherwise incorrect, please contact the issuing authority (i.e. the U.S. Embassy) immediately.

The expiration date of your visa is the last day you may use the visa to enter the U.S. It does not indicate how long you may stay in the U.S. Your stay is determined by the Department of Homeland Security at your port of entry. As long as you comply with the Department of Homeland Security decision on the conditions of your stay, you should have no problem.

Further information about interpreting your visa can be found at the Department of State's Consular Affairs website.


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Q.14 My visa will expire while I am in the United States. Is there a problem with that?

No. You may stay in the U.S. for the period of time and conditions authorized by the Department of Homeland Security officer when you arrived in the U.S., which will be noted on the I-94, even if your visa expires during your stay.


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Q.15 What will happen when I enter the U.S.?

Your airline should give you a blank I-94 (or I-94W for Visa Waiver Program travelers) and a Customs Declaration form 6059B. Each traveler must complete the I-94; only one Customs Declaration is required for a family traveling together.

A visa does not guarantee entry into the United States, but allows a foreign citizen coming from abroad to travel to a U.S. port of entry and request permission to enter the United States. The Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have authority to permit or deny admission to the United States, and determine how long a traveler may stay. At the port of entry, upon granting entry to the United States, the Customs and Border Protection officer will put a small card, Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record in your passport. Visa Waiver Program travelers receive Form 1-94W. On this form, the officer records either a date or "D/S" (duration of status). If your I-94 contains a specific date, then that is the date by which you must leave the United States. Your Form I-94 or I-94W is a very important document to keep in your passport, since it shows your permission to be in the United States. You can review information about admission on the CBP Website. The Department of State's Consular Affairs website has more information about duration of stay.


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Q.16 I did not turn in my I-94 when I left the United States. What should I do?

If you returned home with your Form I-94 (white) or Form I-94W (green) Departure Record in your passport, it is possible that your departure was not recorded properly. Do not give your I-94 or I-94W to the U.S. Embassy or any other office.

If you departed by a commercial air or sea carrier (airlines or cruise ships), your departure from the U.S. can be independently verified, and it is not necessary to take any further action, although holding on to your outbound (from the U.S.) boarding pass can help facilitate your reentry next time you come back to the United States.

If you departed by land, private vessel or private plane, visit the Customs and Border Protection web site for further instructions.


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Q.17 I have questions on submitting my DS-160 and printing the confirmation page. Where can I go for more information?

Our call center is unable to provide assistance on the application form. Any inquiries on completing the DS-160 can be addressed on the following website, https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/forms/ds-160-online-nonimmigrant-visa-application/ds-160-faqs.html.

Q.18 What information do I need to provide about social media, while filling the DS-160 form?

On May 31, 2019, the Department of State updated its immigrant and non-immigrant visa application forms to request additional information, including social media identifiers, from most U.S. visa applicants worldwide. For more details please click here.


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Q.19 How early should I apply for my student visa?

You are encouraged to apply for your nonimmigrant student visa as soon as you have your I-20. To ensure you get an early and timely date you may apply at any time. Student (F and M) visas for new students can be issued up to 120 days in advance of the start date for a course of study.


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F, M, and Academic J Visa Processing and Expansion of Interview Waiver During COVID-19

Q.1: Which student applicants qualify for an interview waiver?

A: Applicants seeking F, M or academic J visas may be eligible for an interview waiver. The applicant must have previously been issued any type of U.S. visa. In addition, an applicant’s most recent visa application cannot have been refused for any reason and there cannot be any indication of a visa ineligibility.

First-time F, M and academic J visa applicants who are citizens or nationals of Visa Waiver Program countries and who have no indication of potential visa ineligibility may also be eligible. An applicant who has been denied for the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is not eligible for interview waiver.

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Q.2: Who decides who is qualified?

A: The decision to allow interview waiver will be made by embassies and consulates on a case-by-case basis.

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Q.3: Where can I apply?

A: An applicant must be a national of the country where he/she is applying.

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Q.4: Do I still need to make an appointment?

A: Please check your local embassy or consulate’s website for more information. In some locations, applicants may need to make an interview waiver appointment to submit their passport, fingerprints, and accompanying documents.

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Q.5: What is the Visa Waiver Program?

A: The Visa Waiver Program enables most citizens or nationals of participating countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. Travelers must have a valid Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) approval prior to travel and meet all requirements explained below. Visit travel.state.gov for more information.

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Q.6: What is an “academic” J visa?

A: Academic J visa applicants include students, professors, research scholars, short-term scholars, or specialists who are participating in an approved exchange program. Please see for more information on approved exchanged programs.

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Q.7: Does this mean I will be guaranteed a visa?

A: No. The new policy waives the in-person interview requirement for some F, M and academic J visa applicants. A consular officer will review your visa application and may determine an interview is necessary. All visa applications are adjudicated on a case-by-case basis. The consular officer may deny a visa application if an applicant is found ineligible under the Immigration and Nationality Act or other provisions of U.S. law.

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Q.8: Will my spouse and minor children be eligible for interview waiver for their derivative F, M and J visas?

A: Yes, derivative visa applicants may also qualify for interview waiver if the principal applicant qualifies.

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Q.9: Where can I find more information?

A: Travel.state.gov and your local U.S. embassy or consulate will have more information about whether you qualify and how to book an appointment.

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Q.10: Do I need to get my fingerprints taken?

A: If you have previously been issued a U.S. visa, you likely will not be required to provide your biometrics again. In some circumstances, such as if the original visa was issued before the applicant was 14 years old, biometrics may be required. For applicants from VWP countries, fingerprints will not be required prior to the F, M or academic J visa application.

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Q.11: How long will this policy last?

A: This policy is set to expire at 11:59 PM on December 31, 2021.

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Q.12: What if my prior U.S. visa is expired?

A: The new policy applies to those who previously were issued a U.S. visa regardless of whether the prior visa is expired. Those whose most recent visa application was refused do not qualify.

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Q.13: What if I had a visa refused, but my subsequent visa application was approved?

A: If a subsequent visa was approved, and the applicant has no apparent visa ineligibilities, you may still quality for the interview waiver program.

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Q.14: I’ve previously been issued a U.S. visa in different category than F, M or academic J. Can I still qualify for the interview waiver program?

A: F, M and academic J applicants who have been issued any type of U.S. visa in the past may qualify for the interview waiver program, as long as they are not otherwise ineligible.

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Q.15: What is a National Interest Exception (NIE)?

A: A NIE allows a person who has been present in one of the 33 countries subject to COVID-19 travel restrictions to travel to the United States.

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Q.16: How do I apply for a National Interest Exception?

A: F and M applicants will automatically be considered for a NIE upon submission of their visa application. Academic J applicants should contact their local embassy or consulate for information on how to apply for a NIE.

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COVID19 Testing

Q.1: Is the Department of State going to start requiring proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or test for visa applicants?

A: We have no changes to visa requirements to announce at this time. Information regarding required vaccinations for immigrant visa applicants may be found on this website.

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Q.2: There are reports of foreign nationals traveling to Florida to receive vaccines. Is that permitted under the law?

A: Seeking medical treatment in the United States is a permissible purpose of travel for individuals holding a valid visitor visa; you may find more information here. For questions regarding entering the United States under the Visa Waiver Program, we refer you to the Department of Homeland Security.

For questions regarding individuals' eligibility to receive the vaccine in the United States as part of a priority group, we refer you to local health authorities.

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Q.3: What will happen to U.S. citizens or foreign nationals who present forged or otherwise illegitimate negative COVID test results in order to try to enter the United States?

A: Per the CDC’s order, travelers must present a verifiable, documented test result to their airline in order to travel. Individuals found to have provided forged or otherwise illegitimate test results may be denied boarding and/or entry into the United States. We refer you to CDC, DHS, and DOT for information on implementation.

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Q.4: Will travelers be able to request CDC waivers (exemptions) from the testing requirement for emergency or humanitarian reasons at Embassies and Consulates?

A: Waivers to the testing requirement may be granted by the CDC on an extremely limited case-by-case basis when extraordinary emergency travel, such as emergency medical evacuation, must occur to preserve someone’s health or safety, and testing cannot be completed before travel. Individuals who believe they meet the criteria will find information on how to request an emergency waiver on the website of the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. There are no waivers available through this process for individuals who test positive for COVID-19.

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Q.5: If I'm vaccinated, do I have to present a negative COVID test to fly to the United States? Why?

A: All passengers age two and older are subject to the order, even those who have received a COVID-19 vaccine. For questions regarding the testing requirements, we refer you to the CDC, which has information on Requirement for Proof of Negative COVID-19 Test or Recovery from COVID-19 for All Air Passengers Arriving in the United States and Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 Vaccination. Additionally, please review the following frequently asked questions at the US State Department website.

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Visa Refusals

The United States is an open society. Unlike many other countries, the United States does not impose internal controls on most visitors, such as registration with local authorities. Our immigration law requires consular officers to view every visa applicant as an intending immigrant until the applicant proves otherwise. In order to enjoy the privilege of unencumbered travel in the United States, you have a responsibility to prove you are going to return abroad before a visitor or student visa is issued.


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Q.1 What Is Section 214(b)?

Section 214(b) is part of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). It states:

Every alien shall be presumed to be an immigrant until he establishes to the satisfaction of the consular officer, at the time of application for admission, that he is entitled to a nonimmigrant status...

Our consular officers have a difficult job. They must decide in a very short time if someone is qualified to receive a temporary visa. Most cases are decided after a brief interview and review of whatever evidence of ties an applicant presents. To qualify for a visitor or student visa, an applicant must meet the requirements of sections 101(a)(15)(B) or (F) of the INA respectively. Failure to do so will result in a refusal of a visa under INA 214(b). The most frequent basis for such a refusal concerns the requirement that the prospective visitor or student possess a residence abroad he/she has no intention of abandoning. Applicants prove the existence of such residence by demonstrating that they have ties abroad that would compel them to leave the U.S. at the end of the temporary stay. The law places this burden of proof on the applicant.


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Q.2 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.


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Q.3 Is a denial under Section 214(B) permanent?

No. The consular officer will reconsider a case if an applicant can show further convincing evidence of ties outside the United States. Unfortunately, some applicants will not qualify for a nonimmigrant visa, regardless of how many times they reapply, until their personal, professional, and financial circumstances change considerably.

An applicant refused under Section 214(b) should review carefully their situation and realistically evaluate their ties. They may write down on paper what qualifying ties they think they have which may not have been evaluated at the time of their interview with the consular officer. Also, if they have been refused, they should review what documents were submitted for the consul to consider. Applicants refused visas under section 214(b) may reapply for a visa. When they do, they will have to show further evidence of their ties or how their circumstances have changed since the time of the original application. It may help to answer the following questions before reapplying: (1) Did I explain my situation accurately? (2) Did the consular officer overlook something? (3) Is there any additional information I can present to establish my residence and strong ties abroad?

Applicants should also bear in mind that they will be charged a nonrefundable application fee each time they apply for a visa, regardless of whether a visa is issued.


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Q.4 Who can influence the consular officer to reverse a decision?

Immigration law delegates the responsibility for issuance or refusal of visas to consular officers overseas. They have the final say on all visa cases. By regulation, the U.S. Department of State has authority to review consular decisions, but this authority is limited to the interpretation of law, as contrasted to determinations of facts. The question at issue in such denials, whether an applicant possesses the required residence abroad, is a factual one. Therefore, it falls exclusively within the authority of consular officers at our Foreign Service posts to resolve. An applicant can influence the post to change a prior visa denial only through the presentation of new convincing evidence of strong ties.

For information about visa ineligibilities other than 214(b), please visit the Department of State's Consular Affairs website.


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FAQ - Application Profile

  1. How do I reset my password?
  2. What should I do if I move to another country after I have registered my profile on www.ustraveldocs.com and did not apply yet for my visa, or if I want to submit a new visa application in another country than my previous application?

 

Q.1 How do I reset my password?

Click the Forgot Your Password? link at the bottom of this web page. Enter your email address in the Username field and click Submit. The email address you type must match the email address you used when you began your visa application. A new password will be sent to your email address.

Note: The email with your new password will come from no-reply@ustraveldocs.com. Some email applications have rules which filter unknown senders into a spam or junk mail folder. If you have not received your email notification, please look for the message in your junk and spam email folders.

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Q.2 What should I do if I move to another country after I have registered my profile on www.ustraveldocs.com  and did not apply yet for my visa, or if I want to submit a new visa application in another country than my previous application?

You do not need to create another profile if it is also serviced by CGI. You can simply contact us through the Contact Us section on this website http://www.ustraveldocs.com/gh/gh-main-contactus.asp and share your passport number, UID or email address so we can retrieve and update your profile with the new country where you plan to apply for your US Visa.  If you are applying in a country that is not covered by CGI, you will be invited to create a new profile. As a reminder, MRV fee receipts paid in one country are non-transferable to the other country.

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