Cultural Musings

Getting a travel visa to the USA – Is it so bad?

Before someone starts telling me how Poles shouldn’t have to get visas to the States – I know and I’m fully aware of the idiocy of this process. Why isn’t Poland in the visa waiver program like all the other European countries? The official reason is that too many people overstay their visas or never return. Is that true? Hell if I know but anyway that’s their reason. Trust me, I get it. I’ve gone through two travel visa obtainments with two separate people and it not great but overall I have to say that it’s really not that bad (but then again I’ve dealt with more bureaucracy than most). People are frightened of the process for many reasons. You hear sometimes that someone was rejected. You hear that one person was given the USA travel visa for 3 months, one for 1 year and one for 5 years so you think it’s a lottery. Perhaps it is?

However, both people I’ve completed the process with received their visas for 10 years and they were young, single males so it makes me think it’s not actually that strict nowadays. The process looks something like this. You have to first fill out an travel visa application, make an appointment, and pay. Luckily you can do all of those through the website, making it a very smooth process. That’s the great thing about this process is you only have to go there to have the actual interview, not to do all the paperwork. You used to have to call and make an appointment, which was totally annoying. The current cost of the visa is $160, so it’s not cheap with the dollar so high. If you’re rejected, you don’t get the money back either, which is certainly unfair.

So now the worst part: the interview. When my husband went for his he was very nervous but then he ended up speaking with them for about 30 seconds. They asked him where he was going and why. We decided that when they ask what he was going there to do that he’d say “traveling” and nothing more. He was going to Orlando, Florida so he could always say Disney World was his destination. It seemed like a better idea than saying he was traveling to his girlfriend’s parents’ house. It seems better to say that you’re traveling than to say you’re visiting people you know. If they think you’re visiting someone, they might think you’re going there to stay and never come back. So it’s hard to give advice about what you should say exactly but in most people’s cases, probably honesty is the best policy.

After you’re granted your visa, you need to wait about a week or so and they’ll send you your passport with the travel visa inside. In general the process is quite quick, which is great if you’d like to take a last-minute trip to the States.

All in all, this is just one of those irritating bureaucratic things you have to go through in order to visit the States. Is it unfair? Yes. It is unfair that I can come to Poland for a trip without a visa but you can’t go to mine without one? Absolutely. Do we all just need to stop hoping they’ll make Poland visa waiver process and get over it? Unfortunately, yes. Hopefully it won’t deter you from visiting America one day as it’s an incredibly vast and beautiful country.

Has anyone ever had a good or bad experience with the USA travel visa process? If so, let us know in the comments so we all know what to prepare for in the future!

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  • Reply Mrs.W 27 January 2017 at 14:11

    Hey. I’ve gone through that process about a year ago. To my surprise I had a good experience. I am young, was fresly married and veeeeery nervous before the interview. I was in the States before as an au pair, so the interview wasn’t all new for me but still. I was very prepared for all the possible questions, also for the “why”. My tactic was pretty much same as yours. “Traveling” and that’s it. Although I did write in the online form the name and address of the person I will be staying at so they knew I know people there (which was a bit concerning). My interview lasted for about 30 seconds. They only asked me for how long I am going, where I work and for how long. I’ve got my visa for 10 years. I’ve heard that they reject lots of people but I actually never met one. Two of my friends (a non married couple) had gotten their travel visas last summer also for 10yrs, with no problems at all. Seems like it’s not that hard nowadays 🙂

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 28 January 2017 at 08:27

      So it sounds like we had very similar experiences! I’m glad it wasn’t such a hassle for you.

  • Reply Luiza 27 January 2017 at 14:17

    I went through this process and it wasn’t THAD BAD, but it wasn’t pleasent either. Me and my fiance had to fill milions of papers, pay for it (more than 600 PLN..) and make and appointment and all this stuff was spread among 3 or 4 pages. It was complicated, stressfull and it was expensive. On the other hand the meeting in the ambassy was OK, people were generaly nice and we got our visas for 10 years.
    It is how it is… our dignity was hurt a little bit but the feeling that you can finaly visit the country that you were dreaming about.. I think it’s worth it:)

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 28 January 2017 at 08:29

      Well yeah I understand you. It makes you feel a little bit like a second rate human. That’s how I feel in Poland all the time so I get it. It’s not nice to have to make subordinate yourself to the civil servants who you’re paying to treat you like garbage!

  • Reply Kasia 27 January 2017 at 18:16

    I went through the process twice, once for the regular travel B1 visa and once for a spousal H4 visa. Both times were absolutely fine and went smoothly, however I think you have to be aware that the whole reason they summon you there is to check if you have any plans to stay in the US illegally. That’s why having a legitimate reason that shows that you will need to get back to Poland helps a lot: a stable job, studies in progress etc..

    I do agree with Luiza though, that your pride and dignity does get a little hurt in the process. After all, we are all potential illegal immigrants, so that does not feel great.. Especially that for most of other countries that require a visa you don’t have to show up in person for an interview. Come on America, you’re not THAT special, it’s not the USSR times anymore…;)

    Bottom line, there is nothing to be afraid of. The process does look a little scary with the super thorough application and interview and all, but at the end of the day if you have good intentions and solid background you’re really fine. I helped my family members and friends with their applications and most of them got their visas for 10 years. The only exception were my nieces, who are under 18, but that’s understandable:)

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 28 January 2017 at 08:30

      Hi Kasia – what’s the spousal H4 visa for? You mean if you’re married to an American that’s the kind of visa you need?

      • Reply Kasia 30 January 2017 at 14:03

        Hey Leah! H4 is a spousal visa to H1B visa for skilled workers. My husband back then was working in the US on H1B ( he’s not a citizen either) and to join him I needed to apply for H4:) Pretty nice option, one big complaint I had with it, is that H4 does not give you work authorisation. However with the changes Obama made to the immigration process H4s can now apply for something called EAD that allows spouses to work.
        #complicatedmuch? 😛

  • Reply europejczyk 27 January 2017 at 22:51

    Ain’t the visa waiver programme just enabling people to get a visa on arrival, but on the same conditions? Personally if I were to be denied entry to the US I would prefer to be on the Royal Route than at the JFK airport then

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 28 January 2017 at 08:26

      Yeah I think it’s basically just a “visa” at the border, like you said. I’d be pretty pissed too if I were denied entry somewhere.

  • Reply Agnieszka 20 March 2017 at 19:15

    Hi, how it works when someone who don’t speak English at all wants to get visa? Is it even possible to make an interview? I mean the situation when I want to go US with my parents who don’t speak English

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 20 March 2017 at 19:19

      Hey Agnieszka – yeah for sure you can do it in Polish too! I wouldn’t worry about it 🙂

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