Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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FAQ -Opportunity for Guatemalan Immigrant Visa Applicants to Interview in San Salvador

 

  1. Why would I want to process my case in El Salvador?
  2. Where do I register for document delivery , El Salvador or Guatemala?
  3. Can I transfer my case back to Guatemala?
  4. Do I need a negative COVID-19 test or quarantine to enter El Salvador?
  5. How will I receive my passport?
  6. Where will I complete my medical exam?
  7. What if I need to return to Guatemala without my passport?
  8. Do I need a police certificate from El Salvador if I schedule my interview there?
  9. How long will it take for me to receive my passport after the interview in San Salvador?
  10. What happens if I miss my appointment?
  11. What happens if my case cannot be completed immediately after the interview?
  12. Will I have trouble when entering the U.S. if I am Guatemalan and my visa was issued in San Salvador?
  13. Will I be able to fly from San Salvador to the United States, or do I have to fly from Guatemala?

Q.1: Why would I want to process my case in El Salvador?

A: U.S. Embassy San Salvador currently has greater interview capacity and is able to offer a limited number of appointments to Guatemalan applicants who would not otherwise be able to immediately obtain an interview appointment in Guatemala City. 

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Q.2: Where do I register for document delivery , El Salvador or Guatemala?

A:Please register in El Salvador.  However, if you are already registered in Guatemala there is no need to change the country of registration.

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Q.3: Can I transfer my case back to Guatemala?

A: Yes, but El Salvador is processing Guatemalan applications due to an appointment capacity shortage at our embassy in Guatemala.  If you choose to transfer your case back to Guatemala, we cannot predict how soon an appointment will be available.

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Q.4: Do I need a negative COVID-19 test or quarantine to enter El Salvador?

A:El Salvador does not currently have any quarantine period for foreign travelers.  Travelers entering El Salvador with proof of a completed COVID-19 vaccination course do not require a negative COVID-19 test to enter the country.  Anyone without a completed vaccination course must present a negative COVID-19 test completed no later than 72 hours from the time of their arrival. 

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Q.5: How will I receive my passport?

A: Completed passports can either be picked up from the embassy in San Salvador or returned to Guatemala via Cargo Expreso for an additional $35.00 fee, payable when collecting the passport from the courier.

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Q.6: Where will I complete my medical exam?

A: We recommend completing the medical exams in Guatemala, with the embassy-approved panel physicians.

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Q.7: What if I need to return to Guatemala without my passport?

A:  All beneficiaries must submit a valid passport at the time of their appointment.  Adult Guatemalans may travel across the El Salvador border with only their national ID card (e.g. DPI) and minor children may travel with their original birth certificate.  Currently Guatemalan authorities also require proof of a complete COVID-19 vaccination course finalized at least two weeks prior to travel, a medical certificate explaining recovery form COVID-19 during the previous three months, or a negative COVID-19 PCR or antigen test completed within the last 72 hours in order to enter by air or land.

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Q.8: Do I need a police certificate from El Salvador if I schedule my interview there?

A: No.  If your only stay in El Salvador is for a few days before and after your interview, you do not need a police certificate from El Salvador.  There are two situations in which a Salvadoran police certificate is needed:

1) If you have held Salvadoran nationality and have lived in El Salvador for six months after the age of 16.

2) If you are Guatemalan or another nationality and lived in El Salvador for at least 12 months after the age of 16.  Please note that Guatemalan nationals still need to present a Guatemalan police certificate “Antecedentes de Ministerio Público” at their interview in San Salvador. 

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Q.9: How long will it take for me to receive my passport after the interview in San Salvador?

A:Cases which can be immediately approved are typically printed and ready within 5 business days of the interview.  If you are in El Salvador, you may return to the embassy and collect your passport in person.  Alternatively, your visaed passport can be sent to Guatemala City via Cargo Expresso for an additional $35.00 fee.  Delivery to other locations in Guatemala may incur additional costs.

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Q.10: What happens if I miss my appointment?

A:If you miss your appointment, and are present in El Salvador, you may reschedule a new appointment via Global Support Services (GSS), (503) 2113-3122 within 7 days.  If you miss your appointment and are still in the United States or Guatemala, your case will be transferred back to Embassy Guatemala City, and you will need to wait until an appointment is available for your case.

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Q.11: What happens if my case cannot be completed immediately after the interview?

A:If a case cannot be issued due to a short-term issue (e.g. missing document), you may mail missing documents via Cargo Expresso in El Salvador, or from Guatemala for an additional $35, and complete processing in El Salvador.  If a case cannot be issued due to a long-term issue (e.g. extended medical evaluation, administrative processing, and cases awaiting a waiver for a visa ineligibility) the case MAY be transferred back to Embassy Guatemala City to complete processing.

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Q.12: Will I have trouble when entering the U.S. if I am Guatemalan and my visa was issued in San Salvador?

A: No. Immigrant Visa applicants can be interviewed at any U.S. embassy, regardless of nationality

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Q.13: Will I be able to fly from San Salvador to the United States, or do I have to fly from Guatemala?

A: Your immigrant visa permits you to travel to any U.S. port-of-entry from any country.

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FAQ -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

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.  https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/tourism-visit/visa-waiver-program.html .

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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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/study/exchange.html 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 the website for 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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FAQ - COVID-19

 

  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?

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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 FAQ - General Visa Information

    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 nonresident living in El Salvador, can I apply for a nonimmigrant visa at one of the Embassys
    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 United States?
    16. I did not turn in my I-94 when I left the United States. What should I do?
    17. I changed my name. Is my U.S. visa with my old name still valid?
    18. What information do I need to provide about social media, while filling the DS 160 form?

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

The U.S. Embassy recommends 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 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.

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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 nonresident living in El Salvador, can I apply for a nonimmigrant visa at one of the Embassys?

Applicants are generally advised to apply in their country of nationality or residence. Any person who is legally present in El Salvador may apply for a visa at the Embassy. 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)

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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.

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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 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 refused visa applications may require further administrative processing. When administrative processing is required, the consular officer will inform the applicant at the end of the interview. The duration of the administrative processing will vary based on the individual circumstances of each case. Except in cases of emergency travel (i.e. serious illnesses, injuries, or deaths in your immediate family), before making inquiries about status of administrative processing, applicants should wait at least 180 days from the date of interview or submission of supplemental documents, whichever is later. 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. You can find more information here.

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Q.15 What will happen when I enter the United States?

Your airline should give you a blank Customs Declaration form 6059B. 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 determine the length of stay permitted. Previously, travelers received a paper I-94 (record of admission) with this information. This process is now automated, with some exceptions. The traveler will be provided with a CBP admission stamp on their travel document that shows the date of admission, class of admission, and admitted-until date. Learn more on the CBP Website. If a traveler needs a copy of their I-94 for verification of alien registration, immigration status or employment authorization, it can be obtained from www.cbp.gov/I94. You can review information about admission on the CBP Website.

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

Previously, foreign travelers granted entry by CBP officials received a paper Form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record). This process is now automated, with some exceptions. If you received a paper Form I-94 or I-94W and failed to turn in your paper Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record to the commercial airline or CBP when you departed the U.S., see the CBP Website for instructions. Do not send your paper Form I-94 or I-94W to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate General.

If you received an admissions stamp in your passport instead of a paper Form I-94 when granted entry, the I-94 record was created electronically, and a paper copy was not provided to you. CBP will record your departure from the U.S. electronically. Learn more on the CBP Website.

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Q.17 I changed my name. Is my U.S. visa with my old name still valid?

If your name has legally changed through marriage, divorce, or a court ordered name change, you will need to obtain a new passport. Once you have a new passport, the Department of State recommends that you apply for a new U.S. visa to make it easier for you to travel to and from the United States.

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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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FAQ - Visa Refusals

      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?

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 - Business/Tourist Visa

      1. How long can I stay in the U.S. on a tourist or business visa?
      2. My visitor visa (B-1/B-2) expires after my intended date of arrival in the U.S. Do I need to get a new visa before departure?
      3. My U.S. visa will expire in the next 6 months. Do I need to apply for a new visa after my current visa expires or can I apply in advance?
      4. I currently hold a valid B-1/B-2 visa, which is in my maiden name, in my old passport. I wish to transfer this visa to my new passport, which is in my married name. What is the procedure?
      5. My current U.S. visa was issued to me when I was working in my previous job. Now I have changed to a new job at a new company and my new employer wants me to attend a conference in the United States, scheduled for next month. Can I use the same visa or do I have to apply for a new visa?
      6. My child is studying in the United States. Can I go live with him?

Q.1 How long can I stay in the U.S. 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; only the Customs and Border Protection officer can decide this upon your arrival in the United States.

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Q.2 My visitor visa (B-1/B-2) expires after my intended date of arrival in the U.S. Do I need to get a new visa before departure?

You can arrive in the U.S. right up to the last date of validity indicated on the visa. The Customs and Border Protection officer on arrival determines the duration of your stay in the U.S. Your visa can expire while you are still in the U.S. – just be sure that you do not overstay the period of time the officer grants.

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Q.3 My U.S. visa will expire in the next 6 months. Do I need to apply for a new visa after my current visa expires or can I apply in advance?

You do not have to wait until your current visa expires. You can apply for a new visa even if your current visa is valid.

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Q.4 I currently hold a valid B-1/B-2 visa, which is in my maiden name, in my old passport. I wish to transfer this visa to my new passport, which is in my married name. What is the procedure?

U.S. visas cannot be transferred from one passport to another. You can travel to the United States with both passports as well as your marriage certificate, or you can apply for a new visa.

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Q.5 My current U.S. visa was issued to me when I was working in my previous job. Now I have changed to a new job at a new company and my new employer wants me to attend a conference in the United States, scheduled for next month. Can I use the same visa or do I have to apply for a new visa?

You can travel to the United States on the same visa as long as your visa is valid for business or pleasure.

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Q.6 My child is studying in the United States. Can I go live with him?

While you can use your own B-1/B-2 visa (or travel under the Visa Waiver Program, if eligible) to visit your child, you may not live with your child unless you have your own immigrant, work, or student visa.

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FAQ - Work Visa

      1. What is a petition?
      2. Can I get a visa to do casual work?
      3. Is there an age limit for applying for a temporary work visa?
      4. Can my U.S.-based relative sponsor me for a work visa?
      5. When can I enter the United States?
      6. Who pays the Fraud Prevention and Detection fee and when do they pay it?

Q.1 What is a petition?

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.

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Q.2 Can I get a visa to do casual work?

No. There is no visa that covers casual work. All applicants who plan to work in the United States must have an approved petition prior to their visa appointment.

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Q.3 Is there an age limit for applying for a temporary work visa?

No.

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Q.4 Can my U.S.-based relative sponsor me for a work visa?

No. Only your employer can sponsor you.

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Q.5 When can I enter the United States?

You may not enter the United States until 10 days prior to your employment start date, as noted on your Form I-797 or on your offer of employment letter.

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Q.6 Who pays the Fraud Prevention and Detection fee and when do they pay it?

An applicant for an L-1 visa traveling on a blanket petition must pay the Fraud Prevention and Detection fee. On individual L, H-1B and H-2B petitions, the U.S. petitioner pays the Fraud Prevention and Detection fee to USCIS when the petition is filed.

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FAQ - Student Visa

      1. What is an I-20 and how do I get it?
      2. How early should I apply for my student visa?
      3. I received my visa, when should I travel?
      4. Can a person on a visitor visa change his/her status to student while in the United States if he or she gains admission to a school and gets a Form I-20?
      5. What if I receive an I-20 to a different school?
      6. I was working as an H-1B and have now been admitted to a university as an F-1. Do I need to return to my country to apply for a student visa?
      7. Can an F-1 student work in the United States?
      8. What is the SEVIS system and how does it affect me?

Q.1 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 side directly above the barcode.

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Q.2 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 anytime. 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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Q.3 I received my visa, when should I travel?

You may only enter the United States within 30 days of the beginning of the course of study stated on your I-20, regardless of when your visa was issued.

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Q.4 Can a person on a visitor visa change his/her status to student while in the United States if he or she gains admission to a school and gets a Form I-20?

Yes. In general, you may apply to change your nonimmigrant visa status if you were lawfully admitted to the United States with a nonimmigrant visa, if your nonimmigrant status remains valid, if you have not violated the conditions of your status, and you have not committed any actions that would make you ineligible. For more details, please visit the USCIS website.

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Q.5 What if I receive an I-20 to a different school?

If you received an I-20 after scheduling your appointment, then you can inform the U.S. consular officer of the new I-20 at the time of the interview.

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Q.6 I was working as an H-1B and have now been admitted to a university as an F-1. Do I need to return to my country to apply for a student visa?

No. Once you are in the United States, you do not need to apply for a new visa because the visa is only for entry into the United States. Check with USCIS to determine if you need to adjust status. If you leave the country, however, you'll need to apply for the student visa in order to re-enter the United States.

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Q.7 Can an F-1 student work in the United States?

Full-time students on F visas may seek on-campus employment not to exceed 20 hours per week. After the first year in student status, an applicant may apply for employment off campus with authorization from USCIS. Please contact your student advisor for further information.

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Q.8 What is the SEVIS system and how does it affect me?

The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) program requires schools and exchange programs to verify the enrollment status of all new and continuing foreign students and exchange visitors. Student visa applicants are required to pay a SEVIS fee before a visa can be issued. The SEVIS website has more details.

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FAQ - Exchange Visitor Visa

      1. I received my visa, when should I travel?
      2. What is the SEVIS system and how does it affect me?
      3. What is the "two-year rule?"
      4. Can the two-year rule be waived?

Q.1 I received my visa, when should I travel?

Exchange visitors may only enter the United States within 30 days of the beginning of the program, as stated on your Form DS-2019, regardless of when your visa was issued.

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Q.2 What is the SEVIS system and how does it affect me?

The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) program requires schools and exchange programs to verify the enrollment status of all new and continuing foreign students and exchange visitors. Exchange visitor visa applicants are required to pay a SEVIS feebefore a visa can be issued. The SEVIS website has more details.

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Q.3 What is the "two-year rule?"

The "two-year rule" is the common term used for a section of U.S. immigration law which requires many exchange visitors to return to their home countries and be physically present there for at least two years after the conclusion of their exchange visit before they can return to the U.S. under certain types of visas, specifically H-1, L-1, K-1 and immigrant visas. It is important to note that only a preliminary finding of whether the two-year rule applies to you is made on your DS-2019 when your J-1 visa is issued. The final decision will be made only if you later choose to apply for an H-1, L-1, K-1, or immigrant visa.

J-1 visa holders subject to the two-year rule are not permitted to remain in the United States and apply for an adjustment/change of status to a prohibited nonimmigrant status (for example, from a J-1 visa to an H-1 visa) or to apply for legal permanent resident status (Green Card) without first returning home for two years or obtaining an approved waiver. Whether you are subject to the two-year rule is determined by a number of factors, including your source of funding and your country's "Skills List." It is not determined by the amount of time you spend in the United States.

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Q.4 Can the two-year rule be waived?

Possibly. Only the Department of State's Visa Office can grant waivers of the two-year rule. The Visa Office is also the final authority on whether you are subject to the rule, regardless of what is annotated in your passport. If you are subject to the two-year rule, you may be able to obtain a waiver. Even if you are subject to the two-year rule, you may still qualify for a tourist visa or any other nonimmigrant visa except those noted above.

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FAQ - Transit/Ship Crew Visa

      1. I plan to stop in the United States for a day and take a flight to another country on the next day. Do I need to apply for C-1 visa or a B-1/B-2 visa?

Q.1 I plan to stop in the United States for a day and take a flight to another country on the next day. Do I need to apply for C-1 visa or a B-1/B-2 visa?

If you seek layover privileges for purposes other than transiting through the United States, such as to visit friends or for sightseeing, then you must qualify for and obtain the type of visa required for that purpose, such as a B-2 visa.

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FAQ - Religious Worker Visa

      1. I am applying for a religious worker visa, but do not have an approved petition. I have been to the United States previously with an R-1 visa and was not required to have the petition. Can I apply for an R-1 visa without the petition since I had an R-1 visa in the past?

Q.1 I am applying for a religious worker visa, but do not have an approved petition. I have been to the United States previously with an R-1 visa and was not required to have the petition. Can I apply for an R-1 visa without the petition since I had an R-1 visa in the past?

The requirement for an approved petition went into effect November 28, 2008. All applicants applying for an R-1 nonimmigrant visa are required to have an approved petition from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). For more information, please visit the USCIS website.

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FAQ - Visa Document Packets and the Modernized Immigrant Visa (MIV)

  1. I recently had my immigrant visa interview at the embassy/consulate and received my passport and visa. However, I did not receive a packet of documents in a sealed envelope to take with me on the plane to the United States. My lawyer/petitioner/friends are saying that I can’t fly without one. What should I do?
  2. I don’t remember if I submitted my civil and financial documents electronically or by mail. Is there another way to determine if my visa was issued under the paperless process?
  3. I know other people that have received immigrant visas and they had to hand-carry and sealed envelope to the U.S. Port of Entry. Why is the process different for them?

Q.1 I recently had my immigrant visa interview at the embassy/consulate and received my passport and visa. However, I did not receive a packet of documents in a sealed envelope to take with me on the plane to the United States. My lawyer/petitioner/friends are saying that I can’t fly without one. What should I do?

The Department of State has begun electronic processing of some immigrant visa applications. If either the National Visa Center or the embassy/consulate which conducted your visa interview required that you electronically submit your civil and financial supporting documents via the CEAC portal, then your visa was issued under the new electronic process. Unless specifically informed by the embassy/consulate which interviewed you and issued the visa, you are NOT required to hand-carry a packet of documents in a sealed envelope to present at the U.S. Port of Entry. Be assured that your documents were transmitted electronically from the Department of State to the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection (DHS/CBP), the agency that inspects all immigrants entering into the country. When you arrive at Immigration Control at the U.S. Port of Entry, the CBP officers will have access to all of the information required to process your entry into the United States. This new electronic process will streamline the processing of your immigrant visa application and entry to the United States.

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Q.2 I don’t remember if I submitted my civil and financial documents electronically or by mail. Is there another way to determine if my visa was issued under the paperless process?

Yes. Look at your visa. If you do not need a packet of papers, your visa will have an annotation by the bottom right corner of your picture that says “IV DOCS in CCD”.

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Q.3 I know other people that have received immigrant visas and they had to hand-carry and sealed envelope to the U.S. Port of Entry. Why is the process different for them?

The electronic processing of some immigrant visa applications began in 2018. To convert all the different types of immigrant visas to electronic processing will take several years. Until the process is complete, some immigrant visa holders will still need to hand-carry a packet of documents in a sealed envelope to the U.S. Port of Entry. These individuals will not have the annotation “IV DOCS in CCD” printed in the lower right hand corner of their visa.

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FAQ - Track My Passport

      1. Why only one passport per envelope? Why no family discounts?
      2. How will I get my passport back after the interview?
      3. What do I need to show to pick up the passport at the courier location?
      4. Does my passport have to be delivered to my house?
      5. What do I need to show to the courier when they deliver my passport?
      6. What types of ID are acceptable as proof-of-identity?
      7. Can someone other than myself pick up my passport?
      8. Do I have to pay any fees for courier services?
      9. When will I receive my passport after the visa is processed?
      10. How and Where can I get my passport status?
      11. What if I need to travel immediately and cannot wait for my passport to be deliver to me?
      12. What do I need todo to receive my passport back for travelling to another country?

Q.1 Why only one passport per envelope? Why no family discounts?

The fee for delivery/pick up is $10.34 per passport. The courier's security and safety rules require separate tracking of every passport.

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Q.2 How will I get my passport back after the interview?

You must pick up your passport at the courier location you selected at the time you scheduled your interview. If you want to change this location you may do so until midnight two days before your appointment. If you are planning urgent travel, the courier location closest to the location of your interview may result in a faster pick-up time. 

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Q.3 What do I need to show to pick up the passport at the courier location?

In order to ensure that your passport and visa are not given to an unauthorized person, you must present a government-issued photo ID for identification when you collect your passport. You must also sign for all documents handed over to you by the courier.

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Q.5 Does my passport have to be delivered to my house?

No. Your passport can be delivered to your office or to a member of your family. If your passport is delivered to someone other than yourself, the recipient must present a government-issued photo ID for identification in order to accept delivery of your passport.

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Q.6 What do I need to show to the courier when they deliver my passport?

In order to ensure that your passport and visa are not given to an unauthorized person, you must present a government-issued photo ID for identification when you collect your passport. You must also sign for all documents handed over to you by the courier.

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Q.7 What types of ID are acceptable as proof-of-identity?

You must present an original government-issued photo ID.

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Q.8 Can someone other than myself pick up my passport?

Yes. However, your representative - even in case of family members - must present the following in order to collect your passport:

If a representative is collecting your passport from the document collection office on your behalf - even in case of family members - the representative must present:

      • Their own original government-issued photo ID for identification
      • A photocopy of your government-issued photo ID
      • A letter of authority, signed by you, authorizing your representative to collect your passport. The letter of authority must contain the following information:
        • Your representative's full name as shown on their government-issued photo ID
        • Your name

If the applicant is under the age of 16, the following documents are required:

      • An original, signed letter of authority from either of the applicant's parents
      • A clear photocopy of the government-issued photo ID belonging to the parent who signed the applicant's letter of authority
      • The representative's original government-issued photo ID
        Note: In case of a group/family, a single letter of authority with the required information for each of the applicants will be accepted.

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Q.9 Do I have to pay any fees for courier services?

Yes. The cost for the pick up service is $10.34 and the home/office delivery is $13.34.

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Q.10 How and Where can I check my passport status?

You can check the status of your application at any time online on this page. In order to track the status of your passport’s courier delivery please go to this page or send an email with your passport number in the Subject line topassportstatus@ustraveldocs.com or contact the Visa Information Service. If you chose to retrieve your passport from a pick-up location, you will receive an auto-notification by email to inform you that your passport is ready for pick-up. Please ensure that the email address indicated in your online profile is accurate.

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Q.11 What if I need to travel immediately and cannot wait for my passport to be delivered to me?

At the conclusion of the interview, please advise the consular officer if you need your passport and visa back urgently.

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Q.12 What do I need to do to receive my passport back for travelling to another country?

If you want to receive your passport back,, you will need to contact our helpline with a request for temporary return of your passport. If the temporary return of your passport is approved, you will receive an email with instructions on how to collect your passport from the consular section. 

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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 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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