Applying for the USA Tourist Visa B-1/B-2 – this is how it works

usa visa

In the previous article I explained the difference between ESTA and visa. There you can find out if ESTA or the tourist visa B-1/B-2 is suitable for you.

Below I describe the process for applying for the B-1/B-2 visa for the USA. In Germany and for German citizens. Exactly how I successfully went through it myself. So if you want to know what to look out for, then read on here.

What are the grounds for the B-1/B-2 visa??

The US Embassy lists all possible reasons for which you are eligible for this visitor visa here. This includes medical treatment, family visits, business trips – or other reasons that have little to do with travel.

I assume at this point that traveling is your reason. So: you want to explore the USA as a tourist and therefore you belong to the circle of those who are qualified to apply for it.

With this you can go straight to the next step: the application process.

The application process for the B-1/B-2 visa for tourists

Here's the summary for applicants in a hurry: You fill out the DS-160 form online. You need a passport photo and have to answer several questions about your circumstances. You pay the fee of 128 EUR. And make an appointment for a personal interview. You will be asked questions about your reasons for applying for the visa and your income situation. Your fingerprints will be taken. You leave your passport there. The visa is issued and pasted in your passport. You will receive your passport in the mail.

Below I describe all these steps in detail.

Fill out the DS-160 application online

You apply for the visa by filling out the DS-160 form for a non-immigrant visa. You can find the official form here.

  • You need a contact person and an address in the USA.
  • You need a passport that is valid for at least 6 more months.
  • You need a delivery address for your passport. This will be sent to you by mail.

You have to fill out the form online. It's submitted purely electronically, so you don't have to print it out and send it to the embassy again.

The form is long and they want to know a lot about you. Whether you are a terrorist, were a member of the communist party. And above all some information about your professional situation.

Tip: Take notes on what you have entered in the form. Or print it out. If you can't remember or give contradictory information later during the interview, you risk rejection.

You fill out the form and upload your passport photo. When everything is sent, it goes to pay, which I did myself by credit card. After successful payment you can make an appointment at the consulate in the next step.

You will then receive confirmation of the appointment by mail. There are again the date, the address, a number for a possible cancellation and the behavior tips: do not bring any electronic devices with you.

The cost of the visa

The visa currently costs 128 EUR. This fee is payable online by credit card when submitting the DS-160 form. In the meantime, there are other payment methods that can be used to pay the fee, such as Sofort uberweisung.

In addition, there are follow-up costs: possible travel costs to the interview at the consulate. And you have to take the time off for the interview at the consulate.

The photo for the visa

Then the photo. I had the photo only digitally. You need a passport photo in the US format 5x5cm and that printed out. The photo requirements for the visa of the U.S. Embassy can be found in German under photo requirements.

There it says that you should bring the photo printed on photo paper to the appointment in the embassy. This will give you 2 options:

Option 1: Take your own photo with a digital camera, print it out on photo paper using a photo printer and bring it with you to your interview appointment.

Option 2: Have a passport photo in US passport photo format taken at a photo studio. Then scan (or have the photo studio send you the photo digitally). Upload and bring printed copy to interview appointment.

Tip: There is an emergency variant, if you have no photo at hand. Or your photo is not accepted in the upload process and the system tells you to bring another photo to the interview appointment. There is a Fotofix machine at the consulate that will take photos in US passport photo format. Cost: 6 EUR. Bring coins.

The journey to the interview at the consulate (in Berlin)

You have to appear in person at the consulate. Good if you live in one of the 3 cities with US consulate. Otherwise you have to travel extra for it. Be sure to allow time for the security checks.

The US consulates for non-immigrant visas are located in Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich. You can find the addresses here on this page of the US Embassy.
Here I describe my experiences at my appointment in Berlin. The section for non-immigrant visas is not located in the main building of the embassy at the Brandenburg Gate, but rather far outside in Clayallee in Dahlem.

Since you can't take drinks with you and may have to wait: there is a vending machine in the waiting room that accepts Euros.

A hint to Frankfurt: There is a report about the interview at the consulate general there from the blogger colleagues of feel4nature

You need to bring the following documents to the interview

  • Your passport
  • The confirmation site of the printed DS-160 application form
  • Photo
  • Confirmation of appointment

Do NOT bring these items with you to the consulate

The website clearly states: no cell phones, no USB sticks. And there are no lockers. Be sure to read through what it says before your visit. The security arrangements are subject to change.

And it can also happen that you are surprised on the spot! I took the subway to Dahlem and walked along Clayallee to the embassy building. Just to know there: no bags are allowed. How now – no bags? In the email and on the website it only said something about "large bags" and "backpacks". But in general: no bags at all. The security officer then said something about "…at the kebab store you can stow your bag". This really worked and was reported in Die Zeit already in 2004. But this is a walk of about 10 minutes there and back.

Tip: Leave your bag directly for 1 EUR at the Donerimbiss at the subway station of the U3 Oskar-Helene-Heim. Or come without a bag.

The Interview

The actual interview then turned out to be speedy and different than expected. After the waiting time I was asked again about my information. The main focus was on my professional situation and not whether I would harbor terrorist intentions. The official wanted to know how I could finance my long time off. I explained my professional and financial situation and said that I would be able to return to my old job afterwards. Everything seemed to fit. And he meant "visa granted". Afterwards my fingerprints were taken.

The passport is retained here and sent by mail. This can take a few weeks.

Tip: Your passport will be withheld. You should plan for that and don't apply for any other visas in the meantime. And it's best to take photos of your passport in advance so you can get passport number and expiration date, should you need this info in the meantime for flight bookings!

Congratulations – that was it! Once you get here, all you have to do is wait for your passport to arrive by mail. With the B-1/B-2 visa.


The procedure is quite complex. If you don't really need it, don't apply for a visa but enter via ESTA. Also the price was one of the most expensive visas on my whole world trip.

How long does the process take?

I submitted the DS-160 form on 7.11. sent online. My interview appointment was on 17.11., here I also gave my passport. According to the imprint, my visa was issued on 2.12. issued. The passport then came on 10.12. with me by mail to.

So: you should allow 3-5 weeks and therefore apply for it well in advance of your travel date.

Does the visa entitle me to enter the country?

No. Neither ESTA nor a tourist visa entitles you to enter the USA. This is decided by the border official at the airport when entering the country.

How long is the visa valid?

After issuance the visa is valid for 10 years.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *