How to Increase Your Chances of Getting a U.S. Visitor Visa

Find out how consulate officers make their decisions and what you can do to increase the chances that your visitor visa application is approved.

By , Attorney University of Arizona College of Law
Updated 3/19/2024

If you are a foreign-born person seeking to increase your chances of getting a B1/B2 visitor visa to the United States, the single most important factor is whether or not the U.S. consular officer is convinced that you will use the visa for its intended purpose, most likely tourism (B-2), business (B-1), or medical treatment (B-2). This means you'll need to convincingly show that you will return to your home country after your proposed trip, that you will not accept work or employment in the U.S., and that you are actually going to do what you say you will be doing.

This article will discuss how U.S. consular officers make decisions on B-1/B-2 visa applications and how to best present yourself to maximize your chances of visa approval.

Evaluating Your Situation Before Applying for a B-1 or B-2 Visa to the United States

Unless you have an urgent reason for travel to the U.S., you should, particularly if simply planning a vacation, wait to apply for a visitor visa until a time when your life circumstances are stable. If, for example, you recently lost your job, this might not be the best time to apply for a U.S. visitor visa (unless you have enough savings to support yourself for a long time!).

You should also be able to show not only that you can afford your trip to the U.S. but that you can afford the time off from your current job (if any). If you had a U.S. visa application refused recently , or ran into any issues with U.S. immigration authorities or the police (either in the U.S. or abroad), you might consider letting some time pass before applying again.

Common Questions U.S. Consular Officers Ask Before Approving a B-1 or B-2 Visitor Visa

Almost every applicant for a visa to the United States is going to be asked details about their planned trip, such as:

  • What is the purpose of the trip?
  • Who will go with you?
  • How will you pay for the trip?
  • How long will you stay?

You might also be asked about past travel to the United States (with or without a visa), who your family members are and where they live, your level of education, and your current job.

Know that U.S. consular officers have access to lots of information and some countries share vast amounts of data with the U.S. government. Thus it is always best to be honest in your interview, as this will give you the best chance for approval.

For example, if you had a problem with U.S. immigration authorities 12 years ago, it would probably not have too much effect on the outcome of your visa, if your current situation is otherwise strong. However, if you deny ever having been in the United States when you were, your visa will almost certainly be denied, as the officer will not trust you to be honest in other parts of the interview.

Recognizing Weaknesses in Your B-1 or B-2 Visa Application and Anticipating Questions

The perfect first-time U.S. visa applicant would have lots of prior tourist travel to other countries, many years in the same high-paying job, own property in their home country, have substantial savings, and present no red flags or reasons to leave it all behind.

In reality, this person rarely presents at the visa window. So, don't panic if this is not you! Still, you should think about what aspects of your situation might require further explanation.

For example, if you just started a new job and are applying for a visa to go on vacation, the officer might ask why you are planning a trip when you just started a new job. Most people aren't even allowed vacation time when new on a job. If the U.S. consular officer hears honest and reasonable answers to these types of non-standard questions, this will improve your credibility and your chances of receiving the U.S. visitor visa.

Bring Supporting Evidence for Your B-1/B-2 Application, But Don't Rely Solely on It

The average U.S. visitor visa interview lasts for only about three minutes. This means the consular officer does not have much time to look through documents, and will rely heavily on the interview to determine the applicant's credibility and qualifications.

Let's imagine your company is sending you on a training course in the United States, for example. The consular officer will want to see a letter from your employer that supports your trip plan, but primarily will want to hear from you about the details of your trip. You should be ready to describe as many of the details as possible, rather than relying on the officer to read about them in a letter.

Also, the U.S. consulate will have some staff members who are dedicated to fraud detection and prevention, and who will examine and verify supporting documents. At some consulates, a 100% audit might be performed of certain categories of documents, such as bank documents, employment letters, or business invitation letters. If you submit altered or fake supporting documents, it could result in a permanent visa ineligibility. Therefore, if you don't have a particular document, it is better to submit nothing and just explain in the interview why you don't have it than to try to create an artificial substitute.

Being Honest Will Help You Remain Calm

It's natural to be nervous during a visa interview, and U.S. consular officers know this. Still, it is easier to be calm and collected when you are being honest and are prepared to answer the officer's questions with succinct, yet thoughtful answers. You definitely don't want your answers to sound memorized or rehearsed; just give some advance thought to the questions that are likely to be asked about your particular circumstances and how you'll answer.

Regardless of your situation, establishing and maintaining credibility during the interview will give you the best chance of your U.S. B-1 or B-2 visa being approved.

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