Frequently asked questions
Ask the Consul
- What is a Non-immigrant visa?
- At which Consulate should I apply for my nonimmigrant visa?
- Am I required to submit my application in person at the Consulate?
- How do consular officials determine whether I am eligible to receive a U.S visa?
- How do I read and understand my visa?
- May I use a Temporary South African Passport to apply for a Non-immigrant visa?
- After I have my visa, I will be able to enter the U.S., correct?
- I have a passport from a country other than South Africa. Do I still require a visa to visit the United States?
- I am traveling to a country other than the United States, but I am required to transit through a U.S. airport. Do I need a visa?
- Is my previously issued U.S. visa still valid?
- My old passport has already expired. My visa to travel to the United States is still valid but in my expired passport. Do I need to apply for a new visa with my new passport?
- I have a nonimmigrant visa that will expire soon and I would like to renew it. Do I need go through the whole visa application process again?
- My visa will expire while I am in the United States. Is there a problem with that?
- Does my child require a visa in order to travel to the U.S ?
- Does my child, who is under 14 years old, have to appear at the Consulate?
- I’m over 80 years old. Do I have to appear at the Consulate in person?
- I hold a passport from a country other than South Africa, am I eligible to travel on the Visa Waiver Program?
- I have a change in surname, is my previously issued U.S visa in my old surname still valid for travel to the U.S?
- I am not a South African citizen or permanent resident, may I apply for a visa here in South Africa?
- My passport expires less than six months after I have returned from the US, am I still able to travel to the US on my current passport?
- How do I obtain a U.S. visa for my same-sex spouse? (U.S. Visas for Same-Sex Spouses)
1. What is a non-immigrant visa?
Non-immigrant visas facilitate a TEMPORARY stay in the U.S., for holidays, business, study, temporary work, participation in a conference or exchange program. Should you wish to emigrate to the U.S., a non-immigrant visa is not appropriate. Please contact an immigrant visa official for information regarding what is required.
A visitor’s visa is a type f nonimmigrant visa for persons desiring to enter the U.S temporarily for business(B-1 Visa) or for pleasure, tourism or medical treatment(B-2 Visa). Please click on the “how to apply link” on this website for a step-by-step guide on visa procedures.
The first step in the process of obtaining a student visa should be to select the educational institution you would like to attend. There is a wide and extremely diverse range of academic and vocational institutions offering educational training in the United States, and many of these have separate offices catering to foreign student affairs. School officials working in these offices are typically trained to assist you throughout the process, and should be called upon for guidance at each step along the way. At Consulates General Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, we also employ student advisors whose jobs are to help you in answering any questions you may have about studying in the United States. Please feel free to schedule a meeting with any of these individuals at your convenience, as they can provide valuable guidance to assist you throughout this daunting process.
Once you have received acceptance into an educational program, the institution will issue you a valid Form I-20. When you arrive at the Consulate to apply for your visa, please bring all four pages of this form; its purpose is to tell the consular officer that you have met all of the requirements to receive admittance into the institution. In addition to the Form I-20, please complete nonimmigrant visa application forms DS-156, DS-157 (if applicable) and DS-158. At the time of your interview with the consular officer, you will be required to submit each of these forms, along with evidence that you have paid the non-refundable application fee, a photograph conforming to our required dimensions, transcripts and diplomas from any previous institutions attended, and financial evidence showing that you have sufficient funds to cover your first year's expenses in the United States. Also, in addition to the application fee that must be deposited into our FNB account, there is an $85.00 reciprocity fee that must be paid in cash at the Consulate before your visa can be issued. For more information on obtaining a student visa, please refer to the Department of State's student visa handout.
Temporary Work Visa:
Note that the following information does not apply to J-1 (work-study, camp counselor, exchange visitor, au pair, etc.) visa applicants. See the next section for information pertaining to the J-1 program. All permits to work in the United States are issued by a separate organization known as the "Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services" (formerly called the "INS"). The process of obtaining a work permit can be a complex and time-consuming one, so start early. Be wary of any organizations that advertise quick and easy employment opportunities-phony schemes intended to defraud South Africans abound, including supposed "Alaska fishing" opportunities, offers from an organization called "VIP Emigration", and others. However, you should also be aware that there are numerous employment organizations operating within South Africa that offer legitimate job opportunities in the United States. If you have questions about the legitimacy of an employment organization, or other questions about the process in general, please feel free to contact us.
Virtually all temporary work visas require the application process to be initiated by the American employer, who files a petition with the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services for permission to hire a foreign worker. If this petition is approved, the applicant receives a form I-797 "Notice of Approval", the original of which he or she submits to the Consulate along with his or her completed visa application. Each applicant for a temporary worker visa (with the exception of those applying for visas within the H-1, L, R, and O categories) must demonstrate, at the time of his or her application, that they have a permanent residence abroad which they have no intention of abandoning. To assist in meeting this requirement, please submit, at the time of your application, evidence of permanent employment within South Africa (make sure your employer notes that the position will still be open for you after your return), any previous passports containing U.S. visas (even if expired), and evidence of property ownership, if applicable. Also, in addition to the application fee that must be deposited into our FNB account, there is an $85.00 reciprocity fee that must be paid in cash at the Consulate before your visa can be issued. For more information on obtaining a temporary worker visa, please refer to the Department of State's guide to working temporarily in the United States.
Exchange Visitors Visa:
The "J" visa category encompasses an extremely diverse number of programs intended to foster mutual understanding between the United States and other countries through international educational and training programs.
Some of the most popular of these in South Africa are the Work-Study, Camp Counselor, and Au Pair programs, which will be discussed in greater detail below. However, it is important to note that the Department of State administers many other programs allowing foreign nationals the opportunity to visit the United States as exchange visitors. For more information on these, please refer to the Department of State's website for exchange visitors. Work/Travel: The Summer Work/Travel program provides foreign post-secondary students the opportunity to work and travel in the United States during their summer vacations, typically October through February for South Africans. Eligible program participants are bona fide post-secondary school students actively pursuing a degree or a full-time course of study at an accredited educational institution. Students must also be enrolled in an accredited educational institution and registered for a full-time course load for the semester following their participation in a summer work/travel program. Approximately half of all applicants in this program are allowed to travel to the United States without first having job offers, allowing them to find employment while there. However, half of all program participants must have job offers in the United States at the time of their visa applications.
There are several South African organizations that sponsor students wishing to participate in this type of program, arranging both their employment and issuance of their forms DS-2019 (of which all applicants must be in possession prior to their visa applications). All program participants are required to apply through a sponsor organization. For more information, please refer to the Department of State's guide to the program.
Camp Counselor: Camp Counselors interact directly with groups of American youth by overseeing their activities in a camp setting during the US summer season, between May and September. Although non-counseling chores may be an occasional part of camp life, program participants do not serve as "staff" — including (but not limited to) administrative personnel, cooks, or menial laborers such as dishwashers or janitors. Foreign university students, youth workers, and other specially qualified individuals at least 18 years of age may work as counselors in US summer camps for up to four months. Extensions are not permitted.
All program participants must be placed prior to their arrival in the United States at camping facilities which are either accredited; a member in good standing of the American Camping Association; or affiliated with a nationally recognized nonprofit organization; or inspected, evaluated, and approved by the sponsor.
Participants receive pay and benefits commensurate with those offered to their U.S. counterparts. Sponsors must provide information on the duties, responsibilities and contractual obligations relative to accepting a camp counselor position to their participants prior to departure from the home country. Please refer to the regulations for details.
As is the case with work-study visas, there are several South African organizations that sponsor individuals wishing to participate in this type of program, arranging both their employment and issuance of their forms DS-2019 (of which all applicants must be in possession prior to their visa applications). All program participants are required to apply through a sponsor organization. For more information, please refer to the Department of State's guide to the program.
Au Pair: Through the Au Pair program foreign nationals between 18 and 26 years of age participate directly in the home life of a host family by providing limited childcare services for up to 12 months. Childcare is limited to no more than 10 hours per day, and to a maximum of 45 hours per week.
Au pairs receive compensation for their work according to the Fair Labor Standards Act. Participants in the Au Pair program must be proficient in spoken English, and are required to complete at least six hours of academic credit or its equivalent at an accredited US post-secondary educational institution. Host families are required to pay up to $500 toward the cost of the au pair's required academic course work. As with the two types of J-1 visas mentioned above, there are several South African organizations that sponsor individuals wishing to participate in this program, arranging both their placements with a host family and issuance of their forms DS-2019 (of which all applicants must be in possession prior to their visa applications). All program participants are required to apply through a sponsor organization. For more information, please refer to the Department of State's guide to the program.
Applicants residing in the Free State, Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, and the North-West Provinces should submit their applications at Consulate General Johannesburg.
Applicants residing in the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, and Northern Cape Provinces should submit their applications at Consulate General Cape Town. Applicants residing in Kwazulu-Natal Province should submit their applications at Consulate General Durban. The Embassy in Pretoria does not issue non-immigrant visas to the general public.
Recent changes to U.S. immigration law now require all visa applicants from age 14 to 79 to appear in person at the Consulate to submit their visa applications, interview with a consular officer and be fingerprinted. South African Government officials and third national officials on personal travel (B1/B2, F, J, C1 etc.) must be interviewed and fingerprinted, even if traveling on diplomatic or official passports. That means they must schedule an appointment to be interviewed and fingerprinted at one of the three South African U.S. Consulates. Only those going on official travel (including transits) are exempted from fingerprinting. Domestic employees accompanying diplomats and other official travelers are not exempted from fingerprinting and interview requirements. If you believe that a personal interview is not required, please contact the U.S. Consulate in your area for instructions on processing your application.
All of the South African U.S. Consulates are on an appointment system. All applicants must schedule an appointment for their interview through our Visa Information Service call center. We regret any inconveniences this may cause, but please note that we are unable to make exceptions to this rule.
There are numerous grounds of ineligibility that can prevent or significantly delay issuance of an individual's visa. For a list of each of these, please refer to the Department of State's list of ineligibilities.
The most common ground of ineligibility, however, is that an applicant failed to demonstrate that his/her visit to the United States would be only temporary in nature. Section 214(b) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act requires consular officers to view every visa applicant as an intending immigrant until the applicant proves otherwise. To qualify for a visitor or student (nonimmigrant) visa under Section 214(b), applicants have to show that they have a permanent residence and other ties abroad that would compel them to leave the United States at the end of a temporary stay. The law places this burden of proof on the applicant.
Permanent residence and strong ties differ from country to country, city to city and individual to individual. Some examples of ties can be a job, a house, a family, and a bank account. "Ties" are the various aspects of your life that bind you to your country of residence: your possessions, employment, social and family relationships.
During the visa interview, consular officers look at each applicant individually and consider professional, social, cultural and other factors. In cases of younger applicants who may not have had an opportunity to form many ties, consular officers may look at the applicant's specific intentions, family situations, and long range plans and prospects within his or her country of residence. Each case is examined individually and is accorded everyconsideration under the law.
For more information on visa denials under 214(b), including suggestions on ways to overcome them, please refer to the Department of State's fact sheet on visa denials.
Please use the illustrated guide to learn how to read your new nonimmigrant visa (for travel to the U.S. as a temporary visitor). In addition, as soon as you receive it, check to make sure information printed on the visa is correct (see below). If any of the information on your visa does not match the information in your passport or is incorrect, please contact the nonimmigrant visa section at the embassy or consulate that issued your visa.
Applicants may use temporary passports in order to apply for a U.S. visa. As these passports are usually valid for one year from date of issuance they are accepted in place of a permanent passport.
A visa does not guarantee entry into the U.S. A visa allows a foreign citizen to travel to the U.S. port-of-entry, and the Department of Homeland Security U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) immigration inspector authorizes or denies admission to the United States. See Admissions on the CBP website. http://www.cbp.gov
Nationals of some countries are eligible to participate in the United States visa waiver program, which enables them to visit the United States without a visa under certain conditions. Please refer to www.travel.state.gov for more information regarding travel to the US on the Visa Waiver Program.
Recent changes to U.S. immigration law require all individuals (with the exception of those from visa waiver countries) who plan to transit through the United States, regardless of how long they intend to stay in the airport, to obtain a transit or other valid visa. For more information, please refer to the Department of State's fact sheet on suspension of the TWOV program. http://www.travel.state.gov
Persons holding visas valid for multiple entries may make repeated trips to the U.S., for travel for the same purpose, as long as the visa has not expired, and the traveler has done nothing to become ineligible to enter the U.S., at port of entry. A visa must be valid at the time a traveler seeks admission to the U.S., but the expiration date of the visa (validity period/length of time the visa can be used) has no relation to the length of time a temporary visitor may be authorized by the Department of Homeland Security to remain in the United States.
No. If your visa is still valid you can travel to the United States with your two passports, as long as the visa is valid, not damaged, and is the appropriate type of visa required for your principal purpose of travel. (Example: tourist visa, when your principal purpose of travel is tourism). Both passports (the valid and the expired one with the visa) should be from the same country and type (Example: both Uruguayan regular passports, both official passports, etc.). When you arrive at the United States port of entry (POE) the Customs and Border Protection Immigration Officer will check your visa in the old passport and if s/he decides to admit you into the United States they will stamp your new passport with an admission stamp along with the annotation "VIOPP" (visa in other passport). Do not try to remove the visa from your old passport and stick it into the new valid passport. If you do so, your visa will no longer be valid.
Yes, you will have to go through the whole visa application process each time you want to apply for a visa, even if your visa is still valid. Please send an e-mail to the consulate at which you will apply for a visa for additional information. firstname.lastname@example.org , Consulardurban@state.gov or email@example.com
No. If the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection Immigration Officer at the port of entry (generally an airport) admitted you into the United States for a specific period of time, s/he will note your authorized period of stay on your I-94 card, called an Arrival Departure Record. You will be able to remain in the United States during your authorized period of stay, even if your visa expires during the time you are in the United States. Since Form I-94 documents your authorized stay and is the official record of your permission to be in the U.S., it is very important to keep inside your passport.
Yes, children of all ages are required to apply for non-immigrant visas in order to travel to the U.S. In addition to the standard visa application documents, please take note of the extra requirements below:
• Children Under 18:
The parent(s) of a minor child(ren) traveling alone should provide some evidence of consent from the non-traveling parent(s). Parents of minor children traveling and appearing without both or either parents may provide some form of evidence of consent from the non-appearing parent (e.g. letter of consent, parents’ identity documents etc.).
• All Applicants: An itinerary if you have made specific travel plans. This must not include purchased plane tickets, as we strongly urge that you not purchase tickets or make irrevocable travel plans before obtaining a visa.
No. A parent may submit an application for a child under the age of 14. If one of the parents has previously had a US visa, the application may be submitted to the Consulate by DHL courier system, and neither the parent nor the child will have to come into the Consulate. The parent’s visa does not have to still be valid, but a copy must be included with the application. The application must be complete, include all the appropriate forms, the ABSA bank receipt for $160 and the photo. If the application is not complete the entire package will be returned using the prepaid envelope and you will need to resubmit the package with a completed application form. The package should include a pre-paid return envelope, so that the passport may be returned after visa issuance. Packages that do not have a prepaid envelope will not be processed and will be returned using regular South African post. This program is only available for children who have not yet turned 14 years old. Finally, please note that in some instances you may be contacted and asked to have a personal interview in which case you must appear in person or the visa will be refused. The consulate reserves the right at all times to require any applicant to appear for an interview.
No. You may submit an application via DHL if you include a pre-paid DHL return envelope. The application must be complete, include all the appropriate forms, the ABSA bank receipt for $160 and the photo. If the application is not complete the entire package will be returned using the prepaid envelope and you will need to resubmit the package with a completed application form. The package must include a pre-paid return envelope, so that the passport may be returned after visa issuance. Packages that do not have a prepaid envelope will not be processed and will be returned using regular South African post. You may still be required to come in for an interview in some cases. The consulate reserves the right at all times to require any applicant to appear for an interview.
Nationals of some countries are eligible to participate in the United States visa waiver program, which enables them to visit the United States without a visa under certain conditions. Please access the following website to determine if your passport meets the requirements of the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP) - http://www.usembassy.org.uk/cons_new/visa/niv/vwp3.html. If your passport does qualify, you must then go to the Department of Homeland Security’s ESTA program at http://cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/id_visa/esta/ to apply for ESTA travel clearance online. If you find that you are not eligible to travel on the VWP, please access the link “how to apply” on this website for information regarding the visa application process.
In the instance of a name change, you may travel with your existing valid visa in your old passport, your new passport in your new surname and your marriage certificate or divorce decree in the instance of a change in surname due to divorce.
We suggest that potential applicants apply for their nonimmigrant visas in their home countries as they will need to prove strong ties to a residence outside the United States to which they will return. If you still wish to apply here, please see the “FAQ” section on this website for more information regarding different visa categories and their requirements for work and study purposes in the US.
A reciprocal agreement between South Africa and the U.S.A. automatically extends the validity of your South African passport by six months, so the passport will be valid for your travel to the U.S.A. even though it may expire less than six months after you return.
Q: How does the Supreme Court's Windsor v. United States decision impact immigration law?
A: The Supreme Court has found section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. Effective immediately, U.S. embassies and consulates will adjudicate visa applications that are based on a same-sex marriage in the same way that we adjudicate applications for opposite gender spouses. This means that the same sex spouse of a visa applicant coming to the U.S. for any purpose – including work, study, international exchange or as a legal immigrant – will be eligible for a derivative visa. Likewise, stepchildren acquired through same sex marriages can also qualify as beneficiaries or for derivative status.
Q: Do we have to live or intend to live in a state in which same sex marriage is legal in order to qualify for an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa?
A: No. If your marriage is valid in the jurisdiction (U.S. state or foreign country) where it took place, it is valid for immigration purposes. For more information, please review the following page on the United States
Q: I am in a civil union or domestic partnership; will this be treated the same as a marriage?
A: At this time, only a relationship legally considered to be a marriage in the jurisdiction where it took place establishes eligibility as a spouse for immigration purposes.
Q: I am a U.S. citizen who is engaged to be married to a foreign national of the same sex. We cannot marry in my fiancé's country. What are our options? Can we apply for a fiancé K visa?
A: You may file a Form I-129F and apply for a fiancé(e) (K) visa. As long as all other immigration requirements are met, a same-sex engagement may allow your fiancé to enter the United States for the purpose of marriage. For information on adjusting status, please review the following page on USCIS's website
Nonimmigrant Visas (NIVs)
Q: Can same sex couples now apply for visas in the same classification?
A: Yes. Starting immediately, same-sex spouses and their children are equally eligible for NIV derivative visas. Same-sex spouses and their children (stepchildren of the primary applicant when the marriage takes place before the child turns 18) can qualify as derivatives where the law permits issuance of the visa to a spouse or stepchild. In cases where additional documentation has always been required of a spouse applying with a principal applicant, such documentation will also be required in the case of a same-sex spouse (see below).
Q: Are there nonimmigrant visa classifications which will require approval of certain documentation before an interview can take place?
A: Yes. Same-sex spouses and stepchildren (F-2 and M-2) of student (F-1 and M-1) visa applicants will need to obtain an I-20A prior to application. Spouses (J-2s) of exchange visitors (J-1) visa holders will need an approved DS-2019. Finally, same-sex spouses of victims of criminal activity (U-2s) and human trafficking victims (T-2s) will require completed Supplement A to Form I-918 or I-914, respectively, before an officer approves any derivative cases. This additional documentation is also required for opposite gender spouses.
Q: My foreign national spouse has children. Can they also be included with my spouse's case?
A: Yes, the children of foreign national spouses can be considered "step-children" of the U.S. citizens and can therefore benefit from a petition filed on their behalf in the IR2 category. In other categories, stepchildren acquired through same sex marriage can qualify as beneficiaries (F2A) or for derivative status (F3, F4, E1-E4, or DV). You and your spouse must have married before the child turned 18