Frequently Asked Questions About Consular Processing for Nonimmigrant Visas (Temporary Visas)

By Scott M. Borene*

1. What types of documents and evidence are required as part of the nonimmigrant visa application?

The specific documents required will vary depending on the type of visa application and the procedures at a given U.S. consulate abroad. Some of the commonly required documents are Form DS-156 (the standard nonimmigrant visa application form), a valid passport, a photograph of the applicant to be used in making the visa, an application fee, a machine-readable visa fee, and any supporting documentation that establishes the applicant’s eligibility for the nonimmigrant visa classification sought. In some circumstances evidence of prior approval by the USCIS of a related petition or application will also be required.

2. Where should someone submit a nonimmigrant visa application?

Generally, an individual can apply for a nonimmigrant visa at any visa-issuing U.S. consulate abroad – it need not be located in that person’s home country. However, if an individual was previously issued a nonimmigrant visa and remained in the U.S. beyond the authorized period of stay, he or she must apply for all subsequent nonimmigrant visas at the U.S. consulate in his or her home country.

3. How long does it take to get a nonimmigrant visa after submission of the application?

The processing times vary among consulates. Recently, processing times have ranged from one day to more than three months depending upon multiple case factors. Because of additional consular security measures in effect since September 11, 2001, it is becoming increasingly rare to receive the nonimmigrant visa the same day. Most individuals are required to schedule an appointment so that the consular officer may ask questions about the application. It is best to check with the individual consulate to determine the current processing times for nonimmigrant visa applications at that location. At some consulates, interview appointments are not available until several months in the future. Consular websites often have useful information about local visa procedures.

4. Does a person need to get a new visa every time he or she leaves the U.S. and wants to reenter?

It depends on whether the nonimmigrant visa was issued for one entry or multiple entries and the validity period of the nonimmigrant visa. The validity period of nonimmigrant visas varies depending on the visa classification and the applicant’s nationality. It is important to note that the validity period of a nonimmigrant visa in a passport often differs from the validity period of authorized stay in the U.S. granted by the Department of Homeland Security on Form I-94. The validity period of the visa only relates to the time during which an individual may use that visa to apply for re-admission to the U.S. (e.g. to board an airplane bound for the U.S.).

5. If a person changes employers after admission to the U.S., is the nonimmigrant visa on which the person entered still valid?

If the individual was in an H, L, O or P nonimmigrant category, the visa remains valid as long as the individual remains in that same nonimmigrant status and has a currently valid H, L, O or P petition from their current employer.

6. How does one renew a nonimmigrant visa?

An individual must usually apply to renew a nonimmigrant visa in person at a U.S. consulate in his or her home country or country of last residence. In some cases, a person in the U.S. may be permitted to apply for a visa at a U.S. consulate in Canada or Mexico or a third country instead of their home country.

7. Can a person reapply for a nonimmigrant visa after the original application was denied?

Yes, however, if the initial application was denied because the applicant failed to prove nonimmigrant intent, some consulates may require that person to wait for some period of time (up to 6 months in some cases) before he or she can apply for a nonimmigrant visa again. If a nonimmigrant visa application is going to be denied on substantive grounds, the consular officer should give the applicant an opportunity to provide additional evidence before the final decision is made. Visa denials can sometimes be overcome upon further review. A person who has been refused a U.S. visa for any reason is wise to seek advice from an experienced immigration lawyer before reapplying for a visa.


*Scott M. Borene is the Founder and Managing Attorney of Borene Law Firm, P. A. The immigration lawyers now with Borene Law Firm have more than 70 years of combined professional experience helping clients with U.S. and global visa and immigration projects. Scott Borene was selected by other lawyers as 2018 Lawyer of the Year in Immigration Law as noted by The Best Lawyers in America and Minnesota Monthly magazine. He has been repeatedly recognized as one of the Top 20 Lawyers in the World “most highly regarded by other lawyers” in corporate immigration law. He is listed in the Best Lawyers in America and acknowledged as an Immigration Law Super Lawyer. He is often called upon to act as an “expert’s expert” to advise other experienced immigration lawyers on complex immigration matters. Scott Borene is a past Director and a past Member of the Board of Governors of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), the world’s largest professional organization of immigration lawyers. In 2002, he was the founder and Conference Chair of AILA’s Global Immigration Summit in New York City, the world’s largest conference of global immigration lawyers. He has written many articles on immigration law and is a frequently invited expert speaker on immigration topics at AILA National Conferences and other major national and international legal conferences. He is the Editor-in-Chief of many leading professional reference books for immigration lawyers including The Global Immigration Guide: A Country-by-Country Survey and The Global Immigration Guide: Crossing Borders for Business, AILA’s most comprehensive books on Global Immigration. He served as Editor-in-Chief of Immigration Options for Academics and Researchers (2005), AILA’s leading Expert Occupational Handbook on immigration issues in higher education. He is the author of Dr. Yes – Some Practical Strategies for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Immigrant Visa Cases of Health Care Professionals. Scott Borene attended Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts as a National Merit Scholar. After graduation from Harvard, he attended William Mitchell Law School in Minnesota. Scott Borene has more than 30 years of experience helping employers obtain work visas for key international talent. Scott Borene can be reached at

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