Frequently Asked Questions
This guide answers some of the most frequently asked questions about U.S. visas. If you have other questions not answered here, contact the Consular Section at ManamaConsular@state.gov.
Immigrant visas are issued to those who intend to reside permanently in the United States. Under U.S. law, immigrant visas are issued to persons who are the immediate relatives either of U. S. citizens or of persons with permanent resident status in the United States, or for people hired to work in the U.S. at jobs in which it has been determined that there are not enough skilled Americans or U.S. permanent residents to perform.
Nonimmigrant visas are issued to those who intend to enter the United States for a temporary stay and who intend to depart the United States at the end of their stay. U.S. law establishes separate classifications of nonimmigrant visas for tourism, business, temporary employment, study, transit, investment, training, and other purposes.
Questions and Answers
Q: What do I do if my passport expires, but my U.S. visa is still valid? How do I transfer my visa?
You may travel to the United States on a valid visa in an expired passport as long as all the biographic information on your visa (name, date of birth, nationality, etc.) matches the same information on your new passport. Ensure that the visa has not been hole-punched or damaged in any other way. A visa cannot be transferred.
Q: I was told my visa is undergoing Administrative Processing? How long will that take?
For more information about Administrative Processing, please visit the State Department website.
Q: Where may I apply for a nonimmigrant visa to the United States? How much does it cost?
The U.S. Embassy address is Building 979, Road 3119, Block 331, Zinj, Manama, behind AlAhli stadium. All nonimmigrant visa applicants must pay an application fee of USD160 (BD60.5). This fee is nonrefundable even if a visa is not granted. Citizens of certain countries must pay an additional visa issuance fee once their applications are approved. Refer to the visa reciprocity table to determine the exact cost by nationality.
Q: How long before I plan to travel should I apply for a visa?
The Consular Section strongly suggests that you apply well in advance of your intended travel date. While many visas are issued the day after the interview, certain applications require additional administrative processing, which can take from one week to several months.
Q: How do you decide whether to issue a visa?
The interviewing Consular Officer must apply the provisions of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) in determining whether an applicant is eligible for a U.S. visa. One of the most important stipulations in the INA is the application of Section 214(b), which states: "Every alien shall be presumed to be an intending immigrant until he establishes to the satisfaction of the Consular Officer, at the time of the application for a visa ... that he is entitled to nonimmigrant status...."
This means that our Officers are required, by law, to consider each visa applicant to be an intending immigrant until the applicant proves otherwise. Your proof may come in many forms, but it must be enough for the interviewing Officer to conclude that you will be compelled to leave the United States at the end of a temporary stay and return to your permanent residence abroad. No single document or certificate can be regarded as sufficient for this purpose. Because of the volume of applications received, Officers must decide after a brief interview whether someone is qualified to receive a visa. Applicants should therefore be prepared to present their case clearly and concisely.
Q: Is a denial under Section 214(b) permanent?
No, but such a denial should be disclosed on future applications.
Q: Do applicants refused under 214(b) have to wait a certain period of time before reapplying?
No. However, we suggest that they do not reapply unless their circumstances have changed to show stronger ties.
Q: I presented all the documents I was told to bring, but my application was refused anyway. What else should I bring?
The documents were not the problem. Rather, your current overall situation (as supported by those documents) was not adequate to overcome the presumption that you are an intending immigrant. Remember, U.S. law presumes that you are an intending immigrant until you establish to the satisfaction of a Consular Officer that you have a residence in a foreign country to which you are compelled to return.
Q: Why are the visa interviews so short? I was refused after only a couple of questions, and the Officer barely looked at my documents.
The Consular Officers review thousands of applications every year. Based on this experience, they are able to scan the application forms and supporting documents quickly in order to narrow the range of questions to be asked. Keep in mind, most of the information they need is already supplied on the application form itself so there is usually no need for the Officer to ask more than a few additional questions. They often need only to verify your identity or clear up a few points. Also, if the interview were longer, you would end up waiting in line for a considerably longer time. In order to be fair to all applicants and to provide everyone an equal opportunity to establish eligibility, we must work quickly and efficiently.
Q: I have heard that it is better to say that I am going for business than for tourism or to see relatives. Is this true?
No. Tell the truth. If your ties to Bahrain are adequate to overcome the presumption of immigrant intent (Section 214(b)), you may qualify for a visa. Problems arise if you mislead the Officer as to your reason to visit the United States. Once a misrepresentation is made, the Officer may find it difficult to believe other information you have supplied.
Q: When I applied for a visa, I told the Officer I would return to my country of residence after a short stay in the U.S. Why didn't the Officer believe me?
The Consular Officers are required to evaluate your overall situation to reach a decision. While your statement of intent to return to your country of residence is appreciated, the statement alone is not adequate, under U.S. immigration law, to prove that your ties to your country of residence are strong enough to compel your return after visiting the United States. The Officer considered your statement along with the other information you presented during your interview but concluded that, on the whole, the evidence was not compelling.
Q: I have been accepted by a U.S. educational institution that issued me an I-20. Why isn't that enough for issuance of a student visa?
The approved I-20 is just one piece of information the Consular Officer must consider when deciding whether a visa may be issued. Remember, under Section 214(b) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, you still must prove that you will leave the United States after the purpose for which you entered comes to an end. In student visa cases, you may intend to stay in the United States for many months or even years pursuing a course of study. Consequently, the Officer must consider your overall circumstances when deciding whether to approve a student visa. Student visas must be denied if it appears that the applicant's primary purpose of travel is to facilitate an indefinite stay in the United States and not to pursue education. The fact that a school has admitted a student to study and issued the student an I-20 is, therefore, only one factor we consider.
Q: Why do many of the refused applicants get the same letter of explanation as to why they were turned down? For example, shouldn't the reason be different for a student visa applicant than for a tourist visa applicant?
The legal basis for most visa refusals is the same: Section 214(b) of the INA (see question 4). In most refusal cases, the applicant fails to show strong enough or stable enough ties outside the United States to convince the Consular Officer that the applicant will depart the United States after a temporary period. Many refused applicants believe that there is a single document to present or a special way to answer the Officers" questions that will enable them to successfully reapply for a visa days or weeks later. However, as the problem for applicants refused under Section 214(b) lies in their overall situation, no single answer or document exists that would prove satisfactory in all cases. Applicants are encouraged to reapply only when their circumstances have changed to demonstrate stronger ties. For example, an unemployed recent graduate may decide to reapply following a sustained period of steady employment.
Q: What are some examples of adequate ties to Bahrain?
The Consular Officer considers factors including, but not limited to, your job, family and financial circumstances. "Ties" are the various aspects of your life that bind you to the place of permanent residence such as your possessions, employment and social and family relationships. In the case of a younger applicant who may not have had an opportunity to establish such ties, an Officer may look at his/her specific intentions, family relations, educational status, grades and long-term plans and prospects in Bahrain. As each person's situation is different, there is no one answer as to what constitutes sufficient ties. For example, one person may have a thriving business in which s/he would be unlikely to abandon, while another may have close and convincing ties to a house, family or promising career.
Q: My company and my American friend have both written letters guaranteeing that I will return to Bahrain. Why isn't that considered to be enough proof that I actually will return?
A guarantee letter, like other forms of written documentation, will be considered by the Officer. A letter alone, however, does not establish the applicant's ties outside of the United States. Similarly, pledges from other persons that you will return to Bahrain do not automatically enable applicants to overcome Section 214(b) because U.S. law does not permit Officers to delegate their authority to evaluate the applicant's actual overall circumstances.
Q: I have a letter to show you that will help you understand my situation and my strong ties to Bahrain. Can I send it to you so you can read it in advance of my interview?
The Consular Section welcomes thousands of visa applicants each year. It is difficult to keep track of documents arriving by fax, mail and courier for upcoming appointments. Please bring all relevant documents with you to the Embassy and present them at the time of your interview.
Q: Shouldn't I conceal the fact that I have close relatives living in the United States, a pending immigration application or a previous visa denial? What are the consequences if I conceal or misrepresent information or submit fraudulent documents to the Embassy?
The consequences of fraud are serious. Applicants who provide incorrect information, conceal relevant facts or misrepresent their cases may become permanently ineligible to enter the United States. All approved applications are checked against our extensive computer records to verify whether certain information on the application was truthfully presented. It is common for an applicant to have relatives in the United States or, in some cases, to have an immigration petition on file. These factors by themselves will not prevent approval of an application. Misrepresentation of these facts, however, can make the applicant permanently ineligible for travel to the United States.
Q: If my visa application is denied, would it help to have a high ranking official or an American friend contact the interviewing Officer?
No. Pledges from other persons that you will return to Bahrain do not automatically enable applicants to overcome Section 214(b) because U.S. law does not permit Officers to delegate their authority to evaluate the applicant's actual overall circumstances.
Q: What can I do if I have a complaint about the application process or my case?
All visa applicants are entitled to courteous, efficient and consistent treatment. If you feel that you were treated improperly during the visa interview process, you may write to the Consular Section at ManamaConsular@state.gov and describe the circumstances. Your concerns will be investigated and corrective action taken, if warranted.
Q: What if I have other questions about applying for a visa?