U.S. visa processing times vary widely depending on your specific visa. Some visas are processed in minutes. Other visas are processed in months.
Generally, a temporary, non-immigrant visa will be processed much more quickly than a permanent, immigrant visa. If you’re visiting the United States for business or pleasure temporarily, then your visa should be processed within a few days. Immigrant visas, meanwhile, can take a few weeks.
Keep reading to discover more information about how long it takes to get a U.S. visa.
How Long Does It Take to Get a United States Visa?
The average United States visa application will be processed within 3 to 5 weeks.
Within 3 to 5 weeks of completing your application and embassy interview, you should hear back on whether your application has been approved or denied. At this point, your passport will be mailed to your address, which can take 2 to 3 additional workdays.
If your application is refused, then your application may enter a period of limbo. It can take about 60 days from the date of the embassy interview for your visa application to be processed. In some cases, your visa might be rejected after 6 months. This is particularly common if your application is refused under Section 221(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
If your visa application required you to apply for a waiver of ineligibility, then your visa application will likely take longer. You may have to wait for 6 to 8 months from the date of your embassy interview to get a reply.
How Long Does It Take to Get an ESTA?
If you are a citizen of one of 38 countries on the Visa Waiver Program list, then you should be eligible to apply to enter the U.S. through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).
ESTA applications can be completed online in minutes. Typically, you’ll receive a response to your ESTA application within an hour (sometimes, even within a few minutes).
The vast majority of ESTA applications are processed within 24 hours.
Processing Times for Different U.S. Visa Types
Processing times vary for different visas. Generally, more complicated visas – like visas for establishing permanent residence in the U.S. – will take longer to process than short-term visitor visas.
The B-1 visa for temporary business-related visits to the United States is one of the most popular non-immigrant visas. There’s no specific timeline for a B-1 visa application. It can take anywhere from 2 weeks to several months to process your visa. It depends largely on the workload of your local U.S. embassy.
The B-2 visa for temporary tourist travel in the United States can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to process. Processing times vary from country to country. Like other visas, it depends largely on the workload of the U.S. embassy.
The E-1 visa typically takes between 2 to 4 weeks to process. Once the processing time is complete, you will be told whether the visa has been processed or your application has been denied.
E-2 visas typically take 4 to 6 weeks to process (for companies) and approximately 2 weeks (for employees). Processing times vary depending on the workload of your local U.S. embassy. If you haven’t heard about your application outside of this period of time, then it doesn’t necessarily mean your visa was denied.
E-3 visas take around 6 to 8 weeks to process.
The F-1 visa is one of the fastest visas to process. In fact, the F-1 visa is often processed immediately before your embassy interview. The interview is the last step of the application process. By the end of the interview, the consular officer should tell you whether or not your application was approved. The officer will congratulate you or hand you a letter explaining why you were denied. Some F-1 visa applications will take several days to process, in which case your approval will come several days after the interview.
The F-2 visa, like the F-1 visa, is one of the faster visas. Some applicants get a response immediately after their consular interview. However, typical F-2 visa applications are processed within a few days to a few weeks. F-2 visa applications rely on the status of the F-1 visa holder (including their financial status and security concerns), which is why they typically take longer to process.
The J-1 visa for education and cultural exchange opportunities in the United States can take 1 to 4 months to process. The U.S. Department of State has a special division called the Waiver Review Division that will check your application before making a recommendation. That recommendation is sent to the USCIS, at which point the final decision is made on your application.
A Q-1 visa takes anywhere from 2 weeks to 3 months to process, depending on your country of origin, background, security concerns, and other circumstances. At the conclusion of the application process, you will be contacted to determine whether or not you’re eligible.
The M-1 visa is one of the fastest visas available to gain entry to the United States. Like certain other visas on this list, the M-1 visa embassy interview tends to be the last part of the application process. By the time you reach the interview for your M-1 student visa, your application may have already been processed. By the conclusion of the interview, you will have heard whether your visa has been approved or rejected. However, even if you are approved at the end of your embassy interview, it may take up to 4 weeks to process your application.
H-1 and H-1B Visa
The H-1 and H-1B visa can take a long time to process. The wait time depends entirely on your local embassy or consulate. Some H-1B visas take 4 to 7 months to process. However, the U.S. government allows employers to pay a “premium processing” fee, in which case visa application times can be reduced to just 15 calendar days.
The H-1B1 visa, unlike the H-1 and H-1B visa, is not available for premium processing. Generally, this visa takes more time to process than the H-1B visa. Expect to wait about 4 to 6 months for the visa to be completely processed.
The H-2A visa is designed for seasonal workers, which is why it’s processed differently than the other H visas above. Generally, it’s recommended that U.S. employers file the USCIS petition at least 60 days before they need the foreign worker. Priority is given to H-2A visa applications because the U.S. government recognizes that agricultural work is seasonal.
An H-3 visa application should take about 4 to 6 weeks, although most experts recommend starting the application at least 6 months before your training program begins. We’ve heard reports of some H-3 visa applications taking as long as three months, particularly in countries with overloaded U.S. embassies and high volumes of applications.
The H-4 visa is for the spouse or children of an H visa holder. The processing time for your H-4 visa will depend largely on the H visa holder. Generally, if you’re applying together, the H-4 visa will be processed in the same length of time as the other H visa. If applying separately, however, then processing times vary widely depending on the local U.S. embassy’s workload and application backlog.
The H-4 EAD visa is a special visa for certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B non-immigrants. This visa is processed on a case-by-case visa and depends largely on the original H-1B visa holder – say, your spouse or parent. Typically, the H-4 EAD takes 3 months to process. Unlike certain other H visas, there is no premium processing option available, so all H-4 EAD applications take roughly the same amount of time.
The L-1A visa for intracompany transfers typically takes about 3 to 4 months to process. Companies that are issuing a blanket petition for multiple employees tend to have their applications processed more quickly than companies making individual petitions. As with certain other employer-sponsored visas, employers have the option to pay extra fees for premium processing. If you pay the extra fee, then you should get a response within 1 to 3 weeks.
The L-1B visa has similar processing times to the L-1A visa. Expect to wait for 3 to 4 months for the USCIS and local U.S. consulate to approve or deny your application.
The L-2 visa takes anywhere from 15 to 30 days to be processed. As with other dependent visas, it depends on the status of the L-1A visa holder. If the L-1A visa application is completed quickly without issue, then the L-2 visa should be completely similarly quickly.
The R-1 visa has one of the longest visa approval times in the United States. Religious workers seeking to work in the United States may need to wait 8 to 9 months for their visa application to be completed. Employers stateside have the option to pay an extra fee for premium processing. With premium processing, your visa should also be approved or denied within 2 weeks, although the final application can take 2 to 3 months to process.
The P-1 visa is for individual athletes or entertainers seeking to work in the United States temporarily. A typical P-1 visa takes 3 to 6 months to process. Like other employment-based visas, you can pay a fee of $1,225 for premium processing, in which case your visa will be approved or denied within 15 days.
The I visa has one of the shortest visa application processing times. Typically, the visa for members of the foreign media, press, and radio will be processed within 10 days of your application.
O-1 and O-1A Visa
The O-1 and O-1A visa application typically takes 2 to 3 months. This visa is for individuals with extraordinary ability in science, education, or athletics. A premium processing fee of $1,225 can be paid to get a response within 15 days.
The O-1B visa is for those who demonstrated extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry. Like with the O-1 visa, you can pay an extra fee for premium processing. An ordinary O-1B visa takes about 2 to 3 months to be processed, although premium fees can reduce this to as little as 15 days.
The O-2 visa is for the support personnel of those with extraordinary abilities. A typical O-2 visa takes 2 to 3 months to process (similar to the O-1 visa), although premium processing fees can reduce application times to as little as 15 days.
The visa is for the dependents of those on other O visas, including unmarried children and a spouse. A typical O-3 visa application is completed within 2 to 3 months, similar to other O visas.
U.S. Transit Visa
A U.S. transit visa is processed much differently than other U.S. non-immigrant visas. Typically, transit visas are processed much more quickly. You should receive a response on your transit visa application within 5 working days.
The T visa is one of the most unique visas offered by the United States, and little information is available about processing times for U.S. T visas. The T visa is designed specifically for victims of human trafficking and their immediate family members. As with other emergency visas, the T visa should be processed in a relatively short period of time.
The U visa has a relatively long processing time. The U visa for victims of criminal activity can take 12 to 14 months to be processed and approved. This visa is unique and rare and relies on a thorough investigation of extenuating circumstances, which is why application processing times are longer than other visas.
Is Premium Processing Worth It?
Premium processing is available on many employer-sponsored visas above, including H-1B visas and R-1 visas. Premium processing requires an extra fee in exchange for substantially speeding up the application process.
In most cases, premium processing reduces the application time by 50% to 75%. If your ordinary visa application is going to take 3 months, for example, then premium processing can reduce the application time to as little as 4 weeks.
Premium processing fees generally cost between $1200 to $1300, depending on your visa. Some premium processing fees actually guarantee a response within a certain period of time: if you don’t hear a response within 15 days after paying the premium processing fee, for example, then the fee will be reimbursed.
When Do I Get My Passport Back?
Your passport will remain at the U.S. embassy or consulate after your interview. Once your application has been approved or denied, your passport will be returned to you.
All U.S. embassies and consulates use a courier service to deliver your passport. You will receive an email with the package tracking number. You can track your passport from the time it leaves the U.S. embassy to the time it arrives at your doorstep.
You cannot collect your passport in person from the U.S. embassy or consulate. You must wait for it to arrive by courier.
Faster Processing Times Are Available in Certain Emergency Situations
The U.S. embassy or consulate may speed up your application process in certain emergency situations. You may be able to schedule an interview more quickly than usual if you’re in an emergency situation.
Contact the U.S. embassy or consulate in your country if you have an emergency.
Ultimately, U.S. visa application processing times vary widely between visas. Some visas will be processed in under a week. Other visas take several months to a year. Give yourself plenty of room before your visit to the U.S. to account for visa application processing times and unexpected delays.