Which U.S. Consulate Should I Apply From For a U.S. Visa

Almost every applicant can get a U.S visa from a U.S. Consulate or U.S. Embassy but not without a few hurdles throughout the application process.

As a general rule, foreign nationals are allowed to apply for a nonimmigrant visa such as a tourist visa, student or other temporary visas at any visa-issuing U.S. Consulate or embassy. It does not have to be at the applicant’s home country. Although it might be a little more challenging to qualify for a nonimmigrant visa when you are outside of your home country and want to travel to the United States. Nevertheless, in some instances you would not want to go beyond the U.S. Consulate in your home country to file your visa application. In addition, past visa violators might not be permitted to submit their nonimmigrant visa application outside of their home country.

When is the Best Time to Apply for a U.S. Visa With a Local U.S. Consulate

Regardless of the rules and regulations, how an application will be treated depends on which country the application is from and the visa category being applied for.

It is advised to apply for a nonimmigrant visa in the country the applicant has strong social and economic ties. For example if you are originally from Thailand and are applying for a B2-Tourist visa and you are also a permanent resident of the Philippines and you have been living and working in the Philippines for ten years, it would be best to apply in the Philippines. But, if you are a citizen of Thailand and you are in the Philippines on an nonimmigrant visa and need to apply for a U.S. tourist visa, the consul will evaluate your social and economic ties to Thailand. There might be a U.S. consulate agent who has previously worked in Thailand and could help with examining your situation but it is not guaranteed. But if you do not have a strong economic tie or past immigration travel history to the U.S., the officer might deny your visa and advise that you apply in your home country.

Given a similar situation as above, if you were applying for an F-1 U.S. student visa to attend graduate school or a work visa for employment in the U.S, showing strong social ties to your home country of the Philippines will not be a top priority as you will be studying in the U.S. for quite some time. Therefore, the probability of getting a visa approval in either U.S. consulates would be higher.

Ultimately, one of the biggest concerns that U.S. consular officers look at is that if they see you show up from another country, they might suspect that you are consular shopping unless you have established strong social ties to the country where you are applying from or show some solid reason for applying from there. This means that the easy approval you could have obtained in your home country might become a denial in another country. Furthermore, applicants from countries with high rates of visa refusals and overstays can expect their application to receive an in depth inspection, regardless of where they file their visa applications.

There are select countries where the U.S. has no consular services such as:

  • Iran
  • North Korea
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Dominica, Grenada
  • St. Kitts and Nevis
  • St. Lucia
  • Guinea-Bissau.
  • St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

If you reside in any of these countries, the U.S. government has designated a U.S. consulate within reach to process most applicants from your country.

Consular Shopping Could Limit Your Choices of Where to Apply for a Visa

Under § 222(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (I.N.A.), a person who was issued a nonimmigrant visa in the past, entered the United States on the basis of that visa, and then stayed in the U.S. beyond the period of time authorized, cannot apply for further nonimmigrant visas except in their country of nationality, unless extraordinary circumstances exist. This is referred to as the "consular shopping bar." This bar does not apply to individuals who entered the U.S under the visa waiver program.

When is a Good Time to Talk to a U.S. Immigration Expert

If you are concerned that your visa application might be denied or that you are subject to the consular shopping bar speak with a U.S. immigration attorney. An immigration lawyer that is familiar with U.S. immigration practices and one who represents many people from your home country will be able to help you weigh out your options for a U.S. visa. Call Gambacorta Law Office today at 847 908 4913.