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How to Get A Visa From A U.S. Consulate.

Many of my clients believe that the primary criteria for getting a tourist visa from a consulate there is whether the consul deciding their application had a good breakfast that day. Despite the all-too-frequent appearance that the process is arbitrary and capricious, there are a few steps that applicants can take to increase their chances of walking out of the consulate with a visa instead of a denial.

Applications should be supported by documentation that supports the purpose for the visa. If you are coming for a wedding, document this with an invitation. If it's medical care, obtain a doctor's letter. If you intend to travel throughout the U.S. and visit certain tourist spots, come prepared with itineraries, reservations, hotel bookings in hand.

The applicant must show the consulate proof of their own money or other financial resources to support themselves or a relative who agrees to support them while here. This should be documented by bank statements or receipts or proof of salary. If it's a relative in the U.S. who is offering support, bring his tax returns or bank statements, or both. It's helpful to have him fill out and sign before a notary the Affidavit of Support form (I-134 form). [See Immigration Forms section of this website to download the form.]

It is also important to show "ties to the home country", in other words, property, employment or immediate family left behind that would cause you to return. Bring proof of your house or flat ownership. Bring a letter from your employment.

If you have traveled to the U.S. or other Western countries before, it's wise to point that out; it shows a propensity to return home after a visit abroad. Of course, this is only helpful if one returned in accordance with the time limits in their visa.

Finally, I find it helpful for the applicant to write a cover letter -- laying out exactly why he or she wants the visa, citing the financial and other ties to the home country, setting forth the basis for his financial support in the U.S. and referencing the documents attached. This gives the consul a summary of the whole package that he or she can read quickly. We live in a time when U.S. consuls give even less time to visa applicants than U.S. doctors governed by managed care give their patients. You need to make it simple for consular officials to understand the basis for your visa request and easier for them to grant it.