Frequently Asked Questions
Qualifying for a Visa
Q. What do Consular Officers base their decisions on?
According to U.S. immigration law, every applicant is considered to be an intending immigrant until he or she can prove otherwise during an interview with a Consular Officer. Each applicant must demonstrate that he or she has a residence outside of the United States and has strong ties that will require him or her to return to this residence after the conclusion of a temporary visit to the United States. These ties may include socio-economic, professional, and/or family ties. Because each applicant’s situation is different, each case is examined individually by a Consular Officer and accorded every consideration under the law.
Q. How do children qualify for a visa?
The presumption of immigrant intent discussed above applies to children as well as to adults. Young children must qualify for visas through their parent(s) or legal guardian(s). In the case of teenagers or young adults, Consular Officers may look at the applicant’s intentions, family situation, and long-range plans and prospects within his or her country of residence.
Q. I’m a U.S. citizen or Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) and want to sponsor a family member or friend to visit me in the United States. If I pay for their trip and guarantee that my friend or relative will return to Peru, can I get them a U.S. visa?
All applicants must qualify for a U.S. visa on the basis of their own residence in and ties to Peru, not on the assurances of U.S. family and friends.
Q. I will only change planes in the United States. Do I still need a visa?
Yes, individuals transiting through the United States must have either a tourist (B1/B2) or transit visa.
Q. What are the requirements for traveling without a visa?
Passport holders from certain countries under the Visa Waiver Program or Visa Free Travel may travel without visas, so long as their passport meets certain requirements. For up to date information on these requirements and other limited categories of travelers who may travel without a visa, please refer to the State Department’s website at http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/without/without_1990.html.
Scheduling an Appointment
Q. How long does it take to get a visa appointment at the U.S. Embassy in Lima, Peru?
The current wait time for an appointment for a non-immigrant visa can be found at travel.state.gov. Please remember that this time does not include administrative processing, which may require additional time after the visa interview for some applicants.
Q. Is there a special process for emergency travel such as to go to a funeral or to visit a family member in the United States who is ill?
All visa applicants must complete the electronic application form and have an interview with a consular officer who will evaluate their qualifications for a visa. Applicants who have urgent travel plans due to emergency circumstances, however, may qualify for an expedited appointment in certain circumstances. For information regarding requesting an expedited appointment, please visit the How to Schedule an Appointment section of our website.
The Interview Process
Q. Who may accompany me to the visa interview?
Visa interviews are between the applicant and the interviewing Consular Officer. Third parties, including family members, friends, business associates, and attorneys, will not be allowed access to the Consular Section. Some exceptions do apply.
Q. How long will I wait in line for my visa interview?
On a typical day, the Embassy schedules 400-600 visa interviews. Applicants may access the Embassy 30 minutes before their scheduled appointment. Our goal at U.S. Embassy Lima is to interview all applicants within one hour of their scheduled appointment time. For example, if you have an appointment at 8:00am, you may enter the Embassy grounds at 7:30 (30 minutes before the scheduled time), and we hope to complete your interview by 9:00. During this time, prior to the actual interview, your application will be reviewed for completeness and accuracy. Please note that errors in the application may require that you resubmit your application and schedule a new appointment. The Embassy provides chairs and restrooms for those waiting.
Q. How long is the average interview?
The average non-immigrant visa interview lasts 3 to 5 minutes. The interviewing Consular Officer will review the applicant’s electronic application and ask any clarifying questions required to assess an applicant’s qualifications for a visa. All interviewing officers are American citizens and Commissioned Officers of the Foreign Service of the United States.
Renewing a Business or Tourism Visa
Q. I have a valid visa but my passport expired. Do I need to have a new visa put in my new passport?
Unless canceled or revoked, a visa is valid until its expiration date. Therefore, if the traveler has a valid U.S. visa in an expired passport, they do not need to reapply for a visa in their new passport. However the traveler must present their valid visa, along with their current, valid passport at the port of entry. Those travelers that would like to have a visa in their current passport must apply for a new visa but in many cases may qualify for the visa renewal program.
Q. If I already had a U.S. visa and want to "renew" it, is there a special process for that?
In order to expedite the renewal process of those applicants that currently have a valid B1/B2 visa, or a visa that has expired within the last year, the U.S. Embassy in Lima has a visa renewal program for qualified business and tourism visa applicants. Please see the visa renewal section of our website for more information. All other applicants must use the normal application process. Please be sure to bring any previous passports that contain any recent U.S. visas to the interview.
Q. I qualify for the visa renewal program, but also need to renew my child’s visa. Can they apply with me through the visa renewal program?
Applicants must be 18 and have a 10 year B1/B2 visa that has expired within the last year to qualify for the visa renewal program. When parents are renewing a child’s visa at the same time as renewing their own B1/B2 visas, they can either make a separate appointment for the child or they may all apply together through the regular interview process.
Q. I traveled to the U.S. on a student visa, but then I transferred to a new school in the United States. Do I need to get a new visa?
As long as you maintain full time student status and have a valid up to date I-20, you do not need to return to Peru to obtain a new visa. You may use your initial visa for subsequent entries to the United States as long as you have a valid I-20 and have continuously maintained student status since your initial entry to the U.S. as a student.
Q. I lost my I-20, do I really need this to apply for a visa?
The I-20 is a required document for student visa applicants, as well as proof of payment of the SEVIS fee. We will not be able to process your application without these documents. We urge applicants to apply for a student visa well in advance of any intended studies.
Q. I was accepted at a school in the U.S. and had the I-20 form and SEVIS form, but my student visa was denied. Why?
All student visa applicants are subject to section 214(b) of U.S. immigration law, which presumes them to be intending immigrants unless they can prove otherwise. Student visa applicants must demonstrate that they are bona fide students whose purpose in applying for the student visa is for a well thought-out program of studies in the United States and that they have ties which will compel them to return to their country of residence at the conclusion of their studies.
Visa and Passport Return
Q. How do I get my passport back?
Approved visas will be returned to the DHL courier service location that the applicant designated when they scheduled their interview appointment via the U.S. Visa Service. All information regarding the return of visas can be found on the Passport Delivery Information section of the U.S. Visa Service website. There is no additional cost for this service.
Questions regarding the status of your application and tracking of your passport should be directed to the U.S. Visa Service by logging in to the U.S. Visa Service website with the account information used to schedule your interview appointment.
Q. Can I pick my passport and visa up sooner?
DHL is used for all passport returns except in cases of medical emergency or to attend a funeral. For this reason, we recommend that all applicants apply well before the date of intended travel and do not make final travel arrangements or purchase any non-refundable tickets until they have received their passport with a U.S. visa via DHL.
Q. But the officer did not look at my documents, how can they determine my ties to my country of residence?
Each applicant is given the opportunity to submit the DS-160 Non-Immigrant Visa application form which details their personal information. At the time of the interview, the Consular Officer will review this application form and ask any clarifying questions. Because of the large number of visa appointments scheduled each day, consular officers only have a short amount of time to interview each applicant and prefer to use this time to speak with applicants about their travel plans and ties rather than reviewing documentation, including letters of support. Letters of support from U.S. family and friends cannot guarantee visa issuance; rather, consular officers consider the travel plans and ties of each applicant to determine if the applicant overcomes the presumption of immigrant intent.
Q. Someone I work with and who makes the same salary that I do has a visa, but I was turned down. Why?
An applicant’s economic circumstances are only one of the factors considered by Consular Officers during the course of an interview. Each applicant’s situation is individual and Consular Officers look at an applicant’s professional, familiar, and socio-economic ties to their country of residence.
Q. When can I apply again?
Applicants can apply at any time and a different Consular Officer will evaluate their qualifications for a visa. When deciding whether or not to reapply, applicants should consider if there has been a change in their circumstances since the time of their last application, or if there is new information that may be included on their electronic application. Unfortunately, some applicants will not qualify for a non-immigrant visa, regardless of how many times they reapply, until their personal, professional, and financial circumstances change considerably.
Q. Can I appeal the Consular Officer’s decision?
Visa interviews are conducted by commissioned Foreign Service Officers of the United States government, and they have broad discretion in visa matters. Their decisions in visa cases, while subject to review by supervisory consular personnel, are final. Under U.S. law, there is no appeal or reconsideration process for visa denials. Refused applicants who believe they qualify for visa issuance may reapply and all reapplications are accorded every consideration possible under the law.
Q. Why didn’t they tell me when I contacted the Embassy that I would not get a visa?
Consular officers do not know until the time of application, upon reviewing the applicant’s electronic application form and asking any clarifying questions, whether an applicant will qualify for a visa. Information available on U.S. Embassy Lima’s website and travel.state.gov is designed to give applicants and their family and friends general information regarding the visa application process and requirements for eligibility for a U.S. visa. However, guarantees cannot be made in advance regarding visas.
Q. Why can’t I have my money back?
As stated in the application process, the application fee is non-refundable regardless of whether you are issued a visa or not. If your application was refused and you choose to reapply for a visa, you will be required to pay the application fee again.
Understanding your Visa
Q. How long can I stay in the United States on my tourist visa?
A valid visa only allows a traveler to apply for entry to the United States at the port or entry and is not a guarantee of entry. Admission to the United States and the amount of time that each visitor is allowed to stay are determined by Customs and Border Protection of the Department of Homeland Security. Although in most cases the permitted length of stay is six months, this time period may vary from visitor to visitor. Please take careful note of the amount of time that you have been given to stay in the United States. More information can be found on the website of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency.
Q. My visa was printed with incorrect information. How do I get it fixed?
Occasionally a visa is printed with incorrect information. Please email us at LimaNIV@state.gov for more information.
Additional Frequently Asked Questions
Q. I lost my passport with my U.S. visa in it, what do I do?
Please email us at LimaNIV@state.gov for information regarding how to report a lost or stolen passport.
Q. I have had repeated difficulties at the airport entering the United States. Whom should I contact?
If you have had repeated difficulties entering the United States and possessed a proper visa at the time of your entry, you may contact the Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (TRIP) of the Department of Homeland Security.
Updated: September 22, 2011