What to Expect When Applying for a Visa to the U.S.

Most visitors will enter the United States on a temporary non-immigrant visa, or will be from a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program.

Temporary Non-Immigrant Visa

You are advised to apply for your visa as soon as you know you will be traveling to the United States and not later than three to four months in advance of the convention (i.e., by April of the year of convention). If your country is on the State Sponsors of Terrorism List, you should start the application process at least six months in advance of the meeting (i.e., in February).

Visa Application Guidelines

Keep these guidelines in mind as you apply for a non-immigrant temporary visa to travel to the United States: 

  • As part of new security procedures, visa applications are being sent to the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C., to be thoroughly reviewed and this process can take several months before the consulate in your home country will schedule your interview. Check with your local U.S. consulate or embassy to find out how early you should apply and how long the typical wait time is for a visa application within your home country. 

  • All applicants must be able to qualify for a visa on their own merits under the requirements of the Immigration and Nationality Act

  • APA cannot intervene with the U.S. State Department or an American embassy in another country on behalf of any meeting participant.

Visa Waiver Program

Investigate whether your country participates in the Visa Waiver Program. Citizens who qualify for the Visa Waiver Program are required to have Machine-Readable Passports (MRP) in order to travel to the United Staes. In addition, effective January 20, 2010, inbound travelers to the United States from Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries may be denied boarding by the airlines if they haven't complied with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Electronic System for Travel Authorization program.

ESTA, introduced in January 2009, requires all international travelers from VWP countries to register in an online database. Previously, international travelers had to fill out an I-94W form before each trip, but ESTA seeks to streamline and update the process. Now, international travelers to the United States must go to the ESTA website and fill out an application before entering the country by air or sea. If approved, the authorization is good for two years and can be renewed. Travelers no longer have to fill out an I-94W form before each trip. U.S. officials say ESTA will speed up the process for travelers, enable customs officials to screen passengers in advance, and improve security. Consult the Department of State's website on the Visa Waiver Program.

Visa Delays or Denials

The International Visitors Office of the National Academies has excellent resources on all visa-related issues for the National Academies, Academy members and the scientific community.

If your visa application to attend an APA Annual Convention is delayed or denied, we want to know. If your application is still pending after forty-five days and you are at risk to miss the meeting, please inform the National Academies. Complete their questionnaire, and answer Question 14: Purpose of Visit by typing "APA Annual Convention" to help the National Academies identify you as an APA meeting participant.