Generally speaking, family members that live in other countries are allowed apply for “tourist” visas in order to attend weddings in the United States.
In fact, roughly one million people visit the United States as tourists each year to engage in social events such as weddings.
However, as with every visa, the applicant of a visitor visa must qualify and meet certain requirements in order to ensure they don’t plan to do harm while in the U.S, or plan to stay longer than permitted.
What is a Visitor Visa?
Visitor visas are a form of nonimmigrant visa that allow the citizens of other countries to enter the United States temporarily for business (B-1 visa), pleasure (B-2 visa), or both (B1/B2 visa).
For visitors attending weddings, the best option is the B-2 visa, which is generally for people that want to come to the U.S. for:
- A visit with friends and family
- Medical treatment
- Social events
The B-2 visa has several advantages over other forms of visas.
These include the relative ease of the application process and the extended length of time you can stay in the U.S. (usually between 30 and 180 days).
Do My Family Members Qualify for the B-2 Visa?
While the benefits of the B-2 are great, each member of your family must qualify individually.
First and foremost, you must convince the United States government that your family member is not taking advantage of the visa process.
First, they must demonstrate, to their U.S. Embassy or Consulate, their intent to return home when the visa expires.
This is usually done by having a permanent address in the home country.
Second, they must demonstrate that they do not intend to cause harm while in the United States. For this step, they must pass a series of security checks.
Visa Waiver Program (VWP)
If your family member meets certain requirements, they can come to your wedding without applying for a visa.
This is done under the “Visa Waiver Program” (VWP).
To qualify, your family member must be a citizen of one of the following participating countries:
You must also be:
- Authorized for entry through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).
- Traveling on an approved air or sea carrier with a round-trip ticket.
- Eligible for a United States visa under normal circumstances.
- The holder of a valid, machine-readable, passport.
If your family member does not meet all of the requirements of the VWP, they should instead apply for the B-2 visa.
How can my Family Member Apply for a B-2 Visa?
In order to apply for the B-2 visa, each of your family members will need to follow four general steps:
- Submit an electronic application by filling out Form DS-160
- Schedule an interview (if between the ages of 14 and 79) at their U.S. Embassy or Consulate
- Pay the required fee
- Attend the interview
Completing the Application
The Form DS-160 is an electronic application that can be assessed on the State Department’s Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) website.
The DS-160 is a lengthy application that will ask your family member a variety of questions, including information about their passport, information about any travel plans, information about previous trips to the United States, as well as a few other personal questions.
Your family member should fill it out and submit it as soon as possible because the processing times for application may vary, and they shouldn’t risk missing your special day.
Scheduling an Interview
After your family member has completed the DS-160 application, they must then schedule an interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
Generally, your family member will not have to interview if they are younger than 14 or older than 79.
However, the U.S. Embassy has the final say in the matter.
Walk-ins are typically not allowed. Your family member should schedule their interview at the U.S. Embassy closest to their home (in order to avoid raising suspicion) in accordance with Embassy policies, which can be found on your Embassy website.
Paying the Required Fee
Typically, your family member should pay the application fee for the B-2 visa before their interview.
Currently, the fee is $160, but visa and immigration fees change regularly.
Check with your local embassy for updated pricing information.
Attending the Interview
The last step for your family member will be to attend the scheduled interview at the U.S. Embassy.
During the interview, the consular office will examine your family member’s DS-160 application and ask them questions about their visit.
Basically, they want to know why they are coming to the U.S. and how long they plan to stay.
The consular officer will also take your family member’s fingerprint in order to ensure they pass a security check.
What Happens after the Interview?
It is possible that your family member will receive a decision right after his interview.
However, sometimes this process can take weeks or even months.
If their application for the B-2 visa is approved, they will be able to pick it up immediately.
The U.S. Embassy may also mail it to them.
Either way, once your family member has it, they can travel to the U.S. and join your wedding party at their earliest convenience.
If your family member faces any problems in this process, you should consult an experienced immigration attorney immediately.
An attorney can help you with the process and ensure your family is complete on your special day.