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How do I qualify for a tourist, business or student visa?

To qualify for a visitor or student visa, applicants must show that they have a permanent residence and other ties to a country other than the United 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.

“Ties” are aspects of an applicant's life that bind him or her to his or her country of residence: possessions, employment, social and family relationships are good examples of this. A combination of family, social and economic ties is usually required in order to convince a consular officer that an applicant would be compelled to leave the United States of his or her visit. Applicants for student visas must also prove that they are qualified for a full course of study in the United States and that they seek to enter the United States for the purpose of pursuing a full course of study at a recognized learning institution. 

Why are visa applications denied?

U.S. immigration law requires consular officers to view every visa applicant for a nonimmigrant visa as an intending immigrant until the applicant proves otherwise. In order to qualify, applicants must demonstrate that they have very strong ties to a country other than the United States, and would be compelled by those ties to leave the United States after a short stay. 

Some applications are also denied under other sections of the law dealing with ineligibilities such as prior criminal convictions, prior fraud or misrepresentation in a visa application or public charge concerns.

Do I need an American sponsor?

 No. Relatives and friends, even American citizens, can do little to help demonstrate a visa applicant’s sufficiently strong economic, social and family ties to Sri Lanka. Recommendations, sponsorship letters and other forms of assurance from friends and relatives in the U.S. can help a consular officer to understand the reason an applicant is traveling, and to address the issue of an applicant’s support while in America. But having a good reason to go to the United States and having a place to stay while in the United States does not establish an applicant’s ties to his or her home country. Each applicant must qualify on the basis of his or her own circumstances. There is no provision in the law for American sponsors to guarantee an applicant's return to his or her home country.

Why didn’t the officer look at my documents?

Applying for a Non-Immigrant visa is primarily an interview–based process.  Documents which demonstrate that applicants are well established in their own country can, in some circumstances, help individuals demonstrate their intent to return to their home country after a short visit to the United States.  Depending on the specifics of a case, an officer may or may not need to examine documents to determine eligibility. 

Who can help me reverse a decision?

There is no appeal process for an applicant that has been refused a visa.  No one has the legal authority to overturn a consular officer’s decision.   

All applicants are welcome to reapply but we generally do not recommend reapplication unless the applicant’s circumstances have changed or if they have new information to present. 

Phone calls and/or visits by a sponsor, American citizen, lawyer or relative will NOT change the outcome of a visa interview.  US confidentiality regulations prohibit consular officers from discussing the specifics of a case with anyone other than the applicant.  Consular officers can, however, provide information on US immigration law.  The most convenient way to obtain this information is by reviewing our website, or by writing to

Unfortunately, some applicants will not qualify for a nonimmigrant visa, regardless of how many times they reapply, until their personal, professional, and financial circumstances have changed considerably. 

Repeat applicants should bear in mind that they will be charged a non-refundable application fee each time they apply for a visa, regardless of whether a visa is issued.


Who requires an Immigrant Visa?

Anyone wishing to live and/or work in the U. S. permanently requires an immigrant visa before travelling to the United States.

What is the status of my case?

Immediate relative visa interviews are scheduled as soon as possible after the Embassy receives the approved petition from the National Visa Center  and form DS-2001 “Instructions for Immigrant Visa Applicants” from the Packet 3.  The wait for an interview appointment may be four to six weeks after the Embassy receives the relevant documents.  For more specific information about wait times, you may contact us at  Please be sure to include the beneficiary’s surname, date of birth and case number in your inquiry. Other immigrant visa categories are scheduled based on when their priority date becomes current. You may visit the visa bulletin page at to check whether your priority date is current.

What are the documents I should bring for my Immigrant visa interview?

  1. Completed Application Form (DS-230 Part II).
  2. Original Birth Certificate (a true copy issued by the Registrar’s office is not an original) & Photocopy.

  3. English Translation of Birth Certificate & Photocopy.
  4. Original Marriage Certificate (a true copy issued by the Registrar’s office is not an original) & Photocopy.
  5. English Translation of Marriage Certificate & Photocopy.
  6. Original Divorce Certificate-Decree Absolute if applicable & Photocopy.
  7. English Translation of Divorce Certificate-Decree Absolute & Photocopy.
  8. Original Death Certificate of Spouse & Photocopy if applicable.
  9. English Translation of Death Certificate of Spouse and Photocopy.

  10. Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) along with supporting documents – does not apply to most of the Employment based immigrant visa categories. (i.e. last year’s tax returns, letter from employer and letter from bank). Please disregard, if your sponsor has already provided this information.

  11. Employment based immigrants - offer of Employment contract or current letter from prospective employer offering the job.

  12. A current passport valid for six months or more from date of travel to the United States.

  13. Medical Reports.

  14. 2” x 2” front view, light background and color photograph without covering any part of the face. 

Do I need a police clearance from other countries where I have lived in the past?

You will need a police clearance from any country where you have lived for more than one year after the age of 16.   You do not need a police clearance from the U.S.  Please visit the reciprocity table for more information. You will also need a police clearance from Sri Lanka if you have been resident here for six months or more.  Information on applying for a police clearance will be given to you directly by the Embassy.

What happens when I enter the US on an Immigrant Visa? 

The immigrant visa package is surrendered to an immigration inspector at the port of entry, at which time the holder will be given forms required to complete an application for a Permanent Resident Card (PRC), commonly known as a "Green Card". That card will normally be mailed to the address of the applicant's final destination in the United States and takes approximately three to six months to process. Persons admitted into the United States as Conditional or Lawful Permanent Residents require no further authorization from the USCIS in order to seek employment. Conditional and Lawful permanent residents will maintain status provided they do not remain outside the U.S. for longer than one year from the last date of departure (two years if holding a Re-entry Permit) and they maintain a bona fide domicile in the United States during the period they are outside the country.

I am an American citizen resident in Sri Lanka with no intention of moving back to the U.S. anytime soon. Should I file an I-130 for my foreign born spouse anyway? Should we apply for an immigrant visa now?

We strongly encourage Americans and legal permanent residents based abroad to file an immigrant visa petition for spouses and children if they think it is possible that they will want to reside in the U.S. in the future. The advantage is that if you are unexpectedly transferred or a family emergency requires you to return to the U.S. quickly, the petition is already on file and your spouse can stay behind and complete the immigrant visa application process without you.Your spouse should NOT make an application for an immigrant visa until you are ready to move back to the U.S. As the petitioner, you must complete an I-130 (petition for alien relative) in order for your spouse to be able to apply for an immigrant visa. If you are not domiciled in the U.S., or qualified for one of the exemptions, you will have to demonstrate that you are in the process of transferring your domicile back to the U.S

Will I owe customs duty on my household effects when I move to the U.S.?

Household effects owned by immigrants for one year or more, as well as personal effects intended for their own use and not containing any prohibited items, such as firearms and drugs, are admitted free of duty. Only very limited quantities of tobacco, spirits and wines can be taken into the United States duty free. See here for more information.

Can I work?

On entering the United States on an immigrant visa you will require no further authorization from the Department of Homeland Security to take up employment.

How do I become an American citizen?

An immigrant can become an American citizen through naturalization by living in the United States for a specified period, usually five years (three years if married to a U.S. citizen) and passing a naturalization examination. However, there is no requirement that an immigrant become a citizen and he/she is free to live in the United States as long as he/she wishes regardless of his/her citizenship, so long as he/she abides by the laws of the land, which are applicable to citizens and aliens alike.

How do I get a Social Security number?

By law, each immigrant or refugee admitted to the United States must obtain a Social Security number. Social Security numbers are required to work in the U.S., to open a bank account, to pay taxes and for many other purposes. An application for a Social Security number should be made to the local Social Security Office in the area where the immigrant will reside after his/her arrival in the United States. See their website for further information.

How much money can I bring?

There is no limit on the amount of money which may be taken in or out of the United States. However, any amount in excess of $10,000 in currency, travelers checks or negotiable instruments, must be declared to the United States Customs at the time of arrival in or departure from the United States.

The amount of money which may be taken out of the Sri Lanka is a matter under the jurisdiction of the Sri Lankan Government. Further information is available from any bank in Sri Lanka.