If you need to obtain an American visa from the U.S. Embassy in Ghana, you’ll first have to figure out which type of visa you need: an immigrant visa or a nonimmigrant visa. Nonimmigrant visas are for visitors who want to enter the United States for a temporary period, while immigrant visas cover those seeking indefinite or permanent residence in the U.S. The U.S. Embassy in Accra is responsible for processing both types.
Applying for a Nonimmigrant Visa
All nonimmigrant visas require applicants to fill out the DS-160 form, or the nonimmigrant visa electronic application. You can find this application online at the U.S. Travel Docs website, where you will also complete and submit the application. Make sure to answer all the questions in English, using English-language characters.
After submitting the DS-160, make an appointment for an interview at the embassy. Bring a passport valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay in the United States, a 2 by 2-inch photograph of yourself, and a receipt showing that you’ve paid the nonrefundable nonimmigrant visa application fee of $160.
Types of Nonimmigrant Visas
There are five major types of nonimmigrant visas, each of which has its own requirements:
- Business/tourist visa: This one’s known as a B-1/B-2 visitor visa, and is for people traveling to the United States temporarily for business, pleasure or medical treatment. To qualify for this visa, you must prove that: your visit is temporary; you plan to remain in the United States for a specific, limited time period; you have the funds to support your trip; and you have a permanent residence in Ghana, as well as social and economic ties.
- Exchange visitor visa: If you’re traveling to the United States as part of an exchange program, this visa is for you. To apply for this type of visa, you must first be accepted an approved by an authorized program sponsor, at which point you’ll receive the necessary application documentation.
- Transit/ship crew visa: This visa is for people who regularly travel in transit through the United States while on their way to a foreign destination. The transit visa is for those seeking layover privileges, and requires that you provide evidence of transportation arrangements, sufficient funds for your transit journey and permission to enter your next destination country. The crew visa is for crew members of sea vessels or aircrafts that transit through the United States, and requires you to prove that: you don’t intend to be paid by a U.S. source; you plan to stay for only a specific, limited time period; and you have the funds to cover your trip expenses.
- Student visa: If you’re a student in Ghana and plan on studying in the United States, you’ll apply for a U.S. student visa through your Ghana-based school or educational program. There are a few types of student visas, but the most common is the F-1 visa, required for those studying more than 18 hours per week.
- Work visa: Work visas are reserved for those who want to work in the United States temporarily as nonimmigrants. The specific visas vary depending on the type of work you’re doing; you’ll usually have to ask your prospective U.S. employer to file a petition for you to apply for a work visa. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has to approve the petition before you can start the application process.
Applying for an Immigrant Visa
Most people looking to apply for an immigrant visa in the United States must fist seek sponsorship from a current U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident. Your sponsor can be an immediate relative or a prospective employer, and she must file a petition for you to apply for immigrant status. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will have to approve the petition before you can get started on the official visa application process.
After your petition is approved, your game plan going forward will depend on the type of immigrant visa you’re hoping to obtain.
Types of Immigrant Visas
There are five main categories of U.S. immigrant visas, each of which requires its applicants to meet a unique set of qualifications:
- Family-based immigration: You’ll first have to determine whether you’re applying for a family-based visa under immediate relatives or family preference. The federal U.S. Visas website can help you determine which is right for you, and provide you with the relevant steps for application.
- Fiance visa: It’s exactly what it sounds like
– a visa for the non-U.S. citizen fiance of a U.S. citizen. This allows you to travel to the United States and marry your fiance within 90 days of your arrival.
3. Employment-based immigration: The United States makes approximately 140,000 employment-based immigration visas available each fiscal year, divided into five preference categories. Check out the U.S. Visas website to learn more about which category best suits you and whether it might include your immediate family members, as well.
4. Diversity visa: Each year, the United States makes 55,000 immigrant visas available in a lottery, aiming to diversify the U.S. immigrant population. Head to the U.S. Visas website to follow instructions for entering the lottery.
5. Returning resident visa: If you were at one point a lawful permanent resident of the United States but have returned to Ghana (or any non-U.S. country) for at least a year, you’ll need a new immigrant visa, called the returning resident visa, in order to move back to the United States.