Frequently Asked Questions About U.S. Visas
Frequently Asked Questions About U.S. Visas
What is a U.S. visa?
Applicants should note that a U.S. visa is only permission to apply for entry at a port of entry in the United States; it is not permission to enter. It is the U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials at ports of entry who determine if a person can enter the U.S. and, if so, how long they may remain.
What do the dates on my visa signify?
For example: "My visa is valid until October 10. If I enter the U.S. on October 9, how long can I stay there?" The visa validity period (from the ISSUE DATE to the EXPIRATION DATE) determines the time period in which visa holders may apply for entry to the United States. It does not mean the visa is valid for a three, six or twenty-four month stay. The time of stay in the United States is determined by U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials at the port of entry, who normally allow a maximum stay of 6 months on a B1/B2 visa. In the above case, with a visa that is valid until October 10, this visa holder still can travel on October 10 and, if admitted for six months, stay legally in the United States until April 10.
How much time does it take to get a visa?
Normally, it takes about a week to get an appointment from the day you send us an e-mail with a request. Successful applicants can receive their visas on the day after your appointment from 4:00 p.m. to 4:20 p.m. However, we suggest applicants plan to apply at least one month before any proposed trip.
How long does the interview last?
An interview will last approximately 5 minutes.
Do I need a notarized letter of invitation in order to apply?
What additional documents do I need to qualify for a visa?
Under U.S. immigration law, every person who applies for a nonimmigrant visa is presumed to be an immigrant who intends to remain in the United States. The applicant has the burden of overcoming this presumption. To do so, you should be prepared to present evidence of strong family, economic and social ties that indicate you will return to Belarus. Simply presenting a massive amount of documents does not mean an applicant will be qualified for a visa. The consular officer looks at the overall situation before making a decision.
Why are visas to Belarusians issued only for one year?
American visa legislation is based on reciprocity, meaning the American Government is prepared to issue visas to a certain country’s nationals for the period and the number of entries that the respective country's government is prepared to issue visas to American citizens. Thus, the period of time for which a U.S. visa can be valid and the number of times it can be used (number of entries) depend on the reciprocity agreement between the U.S. and the country of citizenship of an applicant, and the class of the visa for which he is applying. A Belarusian national may be issued a B1/B2 visa for one year with multiple entries; Country Reciprocity Schedules are subject to change depending on changes in the U.S. visa policy and bilateral agreements between the U.S. and a respective state.
How much do I have to pay?
It costs $160 (or $190 for petition based visas) to apply for a visa, and this is not refundable, regardless of whether your visa application is approved.
Which tourist agencies work with the Embassy?
Can someone not from Belarus apply for a visa in Minsk?
Someone who is not from Belarus may apply for a visa in Minsk only if they meets the criteria outlined here. Additionally, they must have long-term residency in Belarus that is documented in their passport. As is required of every applicant, citizens of other countries must also demonstrate significant ties to Belarus that would bring them back to the country following a visit to the United States.
Does the U.S. Embassy in Minsk issue immigrant visas?
No. Applications for immigration must be filed with the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw.
Can I work in the U.S.?
See "Work Visas".
How much money can I bring into the United States?
How many bottles of vodka can I bring into the United States?
Can I take some sausage and 'salo' as a treat for my relatives in the United States?
Can I bring fruits and vegetables from my own garden to treat my relatives in the U.S.?
How can I bring my cat/dog into the United States?
You may bring into or take out of the country, including by mail,
as much money as you wish. But if it's more than $10,000, you will need to
report it to Customs. Ask the Customs officer for the Currency Reporting Form
(CF 4790) (PDF). The penalties for not complying can be severe.
If you have any questions about U.S. Customs regulation visit U.S. Customs Web Page http://www.cbp.gov.
You may bring into the U.S. (without duty/tax charges) one liter (33.8 fl. oz.) of alcoholic beverages if you are 21 years old, if it is for your own use or as a gift, and if it does not violate the laws of the state in which you arrive. Federal regulations allow you to bring more than one liter of alcoholic beverage for personal use, but you will have to pay duty and Internal Revenue Service tax.
You MAY NOT bring fresh, dried or canned meats or meat products from most foreign countries. Also, you may not bring in food products that have been prepared with meat. It is best not to bring fresh fruits or vegetables into the United States. See http://www.aphis.usda.gov/travel/ orwww.aphis.usda.gov/ppq/permits for information.
Cats and dogs must be free of evidence of diseases communicable to humans when they are examined at the port of entry. If the cat does not seem to be in good health, the owner may have to pay for an additional examination by a licensed veterinarian. Dogs may require rabies vaccination. If you are bringing your pet to the U.S. on an airplane, you should check with the airline about their requirements for transporting animals. Many airlines require a certificate of health from a veterinarian. Please visit the U.S. Customs question and answer page for more information.
I have just come from the U.S. where I was on an exchange program sponsored by U.S. Government. My J-1 visa says "Subject to a two-year residency requirement." Does that mean I cannot travel to the US for 2 years?
No. What it means is that you are not eligible to apply for and enter the U.S. on a work visa (H or L – see "Work Visas") or immigrate to the United States until you have resided or been physically present in your country of residence for at least two years after coming back from the U.S. You may travel abroad, including to the U.S., as much as you would like, but you must accumulate a total of 2 years (730 days) of physical presence before you may return on a work visa or acquire permanent resident status.
Can my American friends, relatives or business partners help me to get a visa?
Visa applicants must qualify for the visa according to their own circumstances, not on the basis of an American sponsor's assurance.
Does the U.S. Embassy assist people in finding their relatives in the U.S. or solving legal issues like tracing inheritance, etc.?
The U.S. Embassy in Minsk has neither the authority nor the means to perform such services. You may contact the Minsk city Bar Association (+375 17 285 2105, +375 17 285 2718, +375 17 233 9802), the Minsk Region Bar association (+375 17 200 6183, +375 17 200 7453) and/or the Belarusian Red Cross Office +375 17 327 1417, http://redcross.by)
Does the U.S. Embassy provide apostilles?
The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Minsk cannot provide apostilles. Please see our page on apostilles for more information.