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Applying for a Tourist Visa to the USA

September 29th, 2011

I have had a few emails from readers asking how hard it is for a Costa Rica citizen to get a US tourist. Spouses of North Americans are specifically concerned with this.

A Costa Rica citizen applying for a tourist visa to the USA may find the road a bit difficult.  My wife just received hers last Monday.  The US is a tad nutsy over the possibility that they will issue a visa to someone who then never leaves the US after their visa expires. Can you imagine that!?

If he/she has no serious ties here (family does not count) assets, land ownership, long term employment… especially professional… etc, it can be a difficult and expensive process. Being married to a North American is no slam dunk either. It is not uncommon the split a family, offering a visa to a parent but denying one for the kids. Ever wonder why the USA is not always popular?  I guess they have a job to do, but it strikes me as a bit harsh at times.

OK… The process (easiest) is to go online to https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/

The applicant will fill out the application form.  It is the form from hell… maybe 20-30 pages long and requires a ton of detailed info regarding the person’s family all prior visits to the US, etc..

CRITICAL:  SAVE YOUR WORK regularly.  There are options to save the form as each page is completed.  DO THIS… and save a copy on your computer.  It would be a stinker to start from scratch.

Some of the questions are pretty funny… like they ask an applicant if he is a terrorist.  Wonder how that works out for real terrorists seeking visas… Probably they answer “no”, huh?

Once complete, the applicant will need a digital photo that meets the state department requirements for size, quality etc. It is then uploaded and the application is complete and submitted.  Then, you will get a very high quality .PDF copy that embeds the applicant’s photo. Print a couple of copies. Need ’em later.

Then, you will go to Banco Nacional (I did it online) and make an appointment.  You pay for this privilege… $14.00. Once paid, you get a toll free number and a PIN.  You then call for the appointment.  My wife’s was for about ten days after she made the call.

You will now need to pay another $140.00 (I think she used Banco de Costa Rica) and save the receipt.

Day of appointment… arrive 45-60 minutes earlier than they tell you to.   MAKE 1000% sure you have every supporting document.  Take the CR cedula. They leave that off the list.

First… enter main application review line.

Next, submit documents at one of the windows

Next, get fingerprinted at a second window

Next, await in another line for the interview at a third window.  I went with her and turns out that was a good idea. They asked me if my wife would ever want to live there or get citizenship.  Pretty funny… in my wife’s opinion, (and interestingly in MANY Tico’s opinions), the US exists only for shopping

So… If the person passes the interview, they get in the DHL line and arrange delivery of her visa (another 3000 colones).

That’s it.

Total Time: 3.5 hours beginning to end… excluding the enormous time spent on the application.



10 Responses to “Applying for a Tourist Visa to the USA”

  1. Ad Orientem on September 30, 2011 11:19 am

    Save your money and a lot of aggravation. Go to Canada or somewhere else if you really must travel north. I live in the US and can’t think of too many reasons to travel here. This is not the friendliest country on the planet.

  2. Len Petry on September 30, 2011 5:47 pm

    Getting a temporary visa to Canada is no picnic either.

    And a spousal visa allowing residency for your spouse in Canada? Very time consuming. In many cases applicants wait several years for an answer. It’s as if Canada wants to be tougher than the USA or European countries. Not sure why.

  3. Javier on September 30, 2011 7:28 pm

    So, this procedure has become a standard in LA, but be happy they treated you well… In Venezuela they give you the appointment 9 Months later

  4. Sjaak on October 3, 2011 10:58 am

    Hi Tim, I have to travel to Europe together with my wife and in order to save some money we want to go through the US. We have absolutely no intention to stay there but even for a transit visum we have to go through all this hassle.

    We don’t want to fly through Panama, Mexico, et cetera because all those flights are way more expensive.

    It’s so unfair to see that all those US citizens can come here without any paper to fill out and CR citizens have to go through all of this. Just because they are latino’s and US citizens that latino’s are nothing more than cockroaches trying to “steal their jobs” and stuff.

  5. Tim on October 6, 2011 8:45 am

    Going to Europe but want to avoid the US and the horrible US airline companies (Yes, AA, I am talking about YOU)

    I learned this trick last year when we went to Spain, Malta and Italy.

    Next time flying from Costa Rica, check out http://iberia.com/cr

    Direct flights to Madrid and from there, you can be anywhere in Europe in hours!

  6. laura on October 24, 2011 5:06 pm

    Len P – I agree…a temporary visitors visa to canada is ridiculously challenging as well…
    they require major ties (family doesn’t count) to costa rica. We are trying to get my fiance here to canada to be present for the birth of our child…we have no intention of living here in canada, and funny enough I wanted to have our baby in costa rica at first….but I can’t imagine going through the same process to come visit my family with our tico baby!! We’re on our second try for the application, a big learning curve, and hopefully we’ve provided enough information to convince the canadian immigration office that we will indeed be returning to our ‘home’ in costa rica. Vamos a ver que pasa!!!

  7. Horizon Pacific Vacations on November 22, 2011 8:08 am

    Actually I heard that recently as in the last month or so Costa Rican citizens got the A.O.K. for visas to Canada. Double check this but I have heard this from quite a few people. It isn’t fair that their country is our country and our country is our country. Ridiculous.

  8. Global Traveler on February 7, 2012 3:55 pm

    Thanks for the info! Not often enough we get info on visas to the US.

  9. Ken Collins on October 11, 2012 10:17 pm

    Post 9/11 the TVOW was eliminated and a person cannot transfer to another plane within the U.S. unless they are a resident or have some other document allowing them into the U.S.
    Two friends of which both had previous 10 year visas to the U.S. (one person had received 3 10 year visas) and was recently denied 2 times and needs to travel to the U.S.The other person has profesional relatives and had traveled to the states 4 times during the 10 year period.
    The joke among CRicans is that…those that do not want to return always get visas and those that will return to their country (C R)do not get visas. I am certain that those people know the system and know what to have in place to have in their favor a visa.

  10. Thomas Reeves on May 12, 2018 3:40 pm

    Is it easier to get my fiance a visa if we get married in CR then apply or apply for a fiance visa?