When applying for a B-1 or B-2 visitor visa with which to travel to the United States, you will need to fill out a few U.S. government forms as well as collect various documents. These are not terribly complicated, but they must present a convincing picture that you meet the legal requirements.
The most critical form, called the DS-160, can be completed only online, and you will need to attach a digital photo. Go to a professional photographer, who will know how to follow all the State Department's photo specifications to satisfy U.S. rules. (And if the digital upload doesn't work, you can bring a printed photo to your interview.)
You will bring the remaining documents and forms with you to your visa interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate.
(If you need information about the eligibility requirements for a B visa, see How to Get a B-1 or B-2 Visitor Visa.)
The B-1 or B-2 visa application you present to the U.S. consulate should consist of the items listed below.
Form DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Application. After filling it out online at the DS-160 page of the State Department website, you'll have to print out a page with a bar code, and bring that to your consular interview.
One photo of you, printed. This is necessary only if your digital photo upload didn't work.
MRV fee receipt. This will show that you have paid the relevant machine-readable visa (MRV) application fee at a nearby financial institution ($185; 2023 figure). The financial institution at which you must pay depends on the country; check the website of the U.S. consulate where you plan to apply for your visa in order to learn where to pay your fee in advance. Most consulates will not allow you to pay the visa fee at the time of the interview.
Visa reciprocity fee. You might have to pay an additional fee if you're from a country that charges similar fees for visas to U.S. citizens. The consulate will tell you; or you can check out the State Department's list.
Your passport. This must remain valid (not expire) for at least six months after the end of your intended stay in the United States.
Documents showing the purpose of your trip to the United States. For example, you might include a written itinerary and proof of hotel arrangements, car rentals, event tickets, and so on. Within these documents should be evidence of your intent to depart the United States at the end of your stay, such as a plane ticket home.
Employer letter if applying for B-1 visa. If you are coming to the U.S. on business, bring a letter from your foreign employer describing your job and explaining what you will be doing for it during your U.S. trip. The letter should state that you will be paid only from sources outside the U.S., along with a date when you will be expected to return from your trip. If you'll be attending a trade show or similar business event, bring promotional materials, flyers, and proof that you are registered for it.
Reasons that you'll return to your home country. Include proof of any ownership of real estate (such as a title deed), relationships with close family members staying behind (such as birth or marriage certificates), and that a job will be waiting for you on your return (such as a letter from your employer). The idea is to show that your ties to home are so strong that you would never overstay your U.S. visa and have a genuine intent to leave the U.S. on time.
Proof of ability to cover your expenses while in the United States. You must convince the U.S. consular officer that once you arrive in the U.S., you are not going to seek employment or go on public assistance or welfare. Depending on your situation, this might include:
One of the items on the list above requires more explanation: USCIS Form I-134, the "Affidavit of Support." It can be submitted to show that someone in the United States is willing to take financial responsibility for you.
There is a different Affidavit of Support also available from USCIS, Form I-864, which contains much stricter legal requirements. The I-864 is not meant for nonimmigrant visas, so don't use it. If possible, the person you will be visiting in the U.S. should sign Form I‑134 on your behalf. That person must be a U.S. citizen or green card holder, or have some other long-term legal immigration status in the U.S., such as refugee or asylee.
If you can prove that you are financially independent or are employed in your home country, you don't need a Form I-134. When you request someone in the U.S. to sign an I-134 Affidavit of Support, they will doubtless wish to know the legal extent of the financial obligation. In signing the I-134, the person does not promise to support you. Instead, the signer promises to repay the U.S. government for the total of any government support payments you might receive. The Affidavit of Support supposedly binds your relative to this obligation for three years, though most lawyers believe the form is flawed and no court would actually enforce it.