Did I already tell you that New York is for me the most fascinating city in the world? Whether you agree or not, there is a fatal attraction between me and the big apple that I cannot and do not want to resist. But what does the tourist visa have to do with it? It has something to do with it because, while until 1 year ago I could enter the United States by simply filling out the ESTA (see below), after having been in Iran this is no longer allowed (if you entered Iran after January 2019, you will not have problems, because you will no longer have the visa attached to your passport). I then gathered the necessary information and discovered that, from now on, I will always have to apply for a B2 tourist visa.
In this article So I'll explain who must apply for this type of visa and why, how to get it, how much it costs, how long it lasts and how long before it must be done. The procedure requires several steps but there is nothing transcendental so please do not be influenced by this in deciding whether or not to make a trip to Iran. A trip to Iran is worth a lot more than the time it will take later to enter the United States (if you want to). But let's go in order
Visa for the United States: who should apply for it?
Every European citizen wishing to enter the United States must obtain a visa (Trump wants to know everything about everyone!). Visas are divided into two main categories: those intended for a temporary stay in the United States (i visas called "non-immigrants") and those requested instead by those who intend move permanently in the United States ("immigrant" visas). Within these main categories, there are many types of visas, depending on the purpose of the trip (see below). However, for Spanish citizens there are many cases where it is possible to travel to the United States without a visa. This happens when you can take advantage of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP); in this case you will only be asked to register online at Electronic Travel Authorization System (ESTA) on the official ESTA website (be very careful because there are many fake sites !!).
The difference between ESTA and non-immigrant visa
Who can take the ESTA? To take advantage of this facility the following 6 requirements must be met
1. Nationality. You must be a citizen of one of these countries: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, South Korea, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Greece, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Norway, New Zealand, Netherlands, Portugal, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Hungary.
2. Reason for the trip. Only if you travel to the USA for tourism, business, or in transit to another destination.
3. Duration of the trip. It must be less than 90 days
4. Type of passport. Only those who own a electronic passport (the one who has the chip containing the biometric data of the holder - check if you have the chip symbol on the cover of your passport).
5.Countries visited and dual citizenship. The ESTA cannot be done if you have dual citizenship of a country of the Visa Waiver Program and of Iran, Iraq, Siria o Sudan. The same value for those who went - from 1 March 2011 onwards - to one of the following countries (those belonging to the famous Muslim Ban): Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen (and this was my case).
6. Criminal Court. The answer is obvious: only those with a clean criminal record can register for ESTA.
If you meet all these requirements you can then register for ESTA and it will be valid for two years, during which you can freely travel around the country, taking care only to update the travel data on the site.
If, on the other hand, you do not meet at least one of the 6 requirements, you will need to apply for a visa. To understand what type of visa you need, consult this page of the American Embassy.
NOTE: - Regarding requirement 5, many suggest redoing the passport which includes the Iranian visa (or one of the other 4 countries) and doing the ESTA as if nothing had happened. Personally I believe that doing so will certainly save some money, but I am not at all sure that at the border of the USA (or Israel) you will not have problems, quite the contrary! The exchange (lawful or illicit) of information between countries is now impressive and it is very likely that you (including me) are already on the "black" lists of the American Security Services. I wouldn't risk it! Being expelled from the country is not an experience I would like to live to save 50 euros!
All types of non-immigrant US visas
Leaving aside immigrant visas (i.e. for those who want to move to the United States), non-immigrant visits are divided into the following categories (which depend on the reason for the trip to the USA)
- Business, tourism and medical care. Category B visas (B1, B2, and B1 / B2) are intended for those who intend to travel to the US for business, tourism or to undergo medical treatment, but do not meet the ESTA requirements. If you intend to travel to the US on business or to attend meetings or conferences, you need a category B1 visa. If you intend to travel to the USA as a tourist or to undergo medical treatment, you need a category B2 visa.
- Transit. If you intend to transit through the US before reaching another country as a final destination, you need to category C1 visa.
- Crew members. If you intend to travel to the US as a member of an air or naval crew, you need category C1 / D visa.
- Trade or investment. If you intend to go to the USA to undertake a commercial activity (import-export), trade in services, or for investment activities, you need a category E visa.
- Students. If you intend to travel to the USA for study purposes, to attend an academic study course at a school or university or a non-academic / professional course, you need a category visa F, M.
- Journalists and media workers. If you intend to travel to the US to carry out journalistic or media support activities, you need a category I visa
- Cultural exchanges. If you intend to travel to the USA to participate in a cultural exchange program or for research purposes, you need a category J visa.
- Temporary workers. If you intend to go to the USA to work for a limited period of time, there are different categories of reference visas depending on the type of work you intend to do: visit the page of category H, L, O, P, Q, R visas.
- Diplomats, officials or the military. If you intend to travel to the US to take up diplomatic-official positions of a governmental or military nature, you need a visa of category A, G, NATO.
How to apply for a US tourist visa (B2- non-immigrant)
Having to enter the United States for tourism, I was on a B2 non-immigrant visa. To request it, you need to follow the following steps:
- filling out the DS-160 form accessible at the link https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/ and, at the end, printing the confirmation page with the barcode. This module consists of many pages and must be filled in very carefully. Here is the information that is required of you and that you will need to have at hand: passport details, an address / reference of where you will stay in the United States (if you do not know yet when and where you will go, indicate the address of a hotel at random), the reference of a contact in the United States (preferably a friend, otherwise the hotel), the approximate dates of your previous trips to the United States (if you have made any), the list of countries you have visited in the last 5 years (in my case of course I have indicated only 7/8), the data relating to your parents (name, place and date of birth), your educational qualification, your current profession (with relative data: address, tel .. the salary can not be indicated), ending with 2/3 screens of obvious security questions ... those like ... have you ever smuggled organs from American citizens ?, etc.
NB do not worry if the system does not accept your passport photo. You can fill in and save the entire form without uploading the photo, the important thing is to bring it to the consulate at the time of the interview.
- Register on the site: https://usvisa-info.com;
- Pay the non-refundable consular fee (MRV) online. You can pay via credit card (but only if Debit - most of the cards in spain are Credit and not Debit) or through Bank transfer (I opted for this choice).
- Book an appointment for the chosen date at consulate of Rome, Milan, Florence or Naples. If you have made the payment by bank transfer, the option on the reservation will become active only when the consulate has actually received the money, then 2/3 days later (they will notify you by email).
- Show up for the interview with the necessary documentation
- Confirmation page of the DS-160 form;
- Valid passport;
- 1 passport photo (5 cm x 5 cm, one size larger than classic passport photos, be careful!)
- documentation showing the purpose and duration of the trip (they didn't ask me for anything!)
When you are at the consulate for the interview they will take your fingerprints and ask you some questions about why you want to go to the United States and why and how you were in Iran (in my case), but nothing special. At least in my experience, it took me longer to go through the security procedures to enter the consulate than to do the fingerprints and the interview!
- In case of approval (and they tell you this immediately, directly at the interview), the visa is generally issued within 2/3 working days and the passport is forwarded to DHL. After a further three working days, the passport will be available for collection at the DHL office selected when requesting the appointment (therefore normally five working days after the interview). In case of home delivery, the times can be extended by a few days.
- You will be informed directly by DHL about the delivery times, via an e-mail with the instructions for collection.
How much does the B2 visa cost
The cost of the B2 tourist visa is dollars 160 (equal to 136 euros)
How long does it last
Once obtained, the B2 visa lasts for 10 years (except in rare cases where it is only approved for 1 year and a single entry) and allows you to stay in the United States for 6 months each time you enter. If during these 10 years you change your passport because it expires or because you have run out of pages, all you have to do is take your old passport with you with the B2 visa attached (even if the passport has been canceled).
How long in advance to request it
Here the rule always applies ...the sooner the better. Personally, it took me 18 days, but I know that there are time differences between the 4 consulates regarding the interview (Rome, Milan, Florence, Naples). In Milan the appointment is usually given within 1 week of the request, while in Rome it takes more.
Else, it is not necessary to have a flight and a hotel in the United States in hand to apply for a visa! For example, I requested it in advance because I know that I want to go back to New York soon but I still don't know exactly when. Will I be very ready as soon as I have decided on the dates?
What to do if your visa is refused (or if you have problems in general)
If your visa is refused or in the case of more complex situations that you cannot solve on your own, my advice is to rely on a specialized legal office such as Bardazzi Law. It is a law office based in New York and specializes, among other things, on immigration procedures and on obtaining different types of visas (not only B2, but also B-1, E-1, E visas -2, L-1, J-1, H1-B, O-1, O-2 etc.).