Many Nigerians want to travel to the United States for various reasons. To gain access to enter the US, you will need to obtain a US visa. The US immigrant visa will be placed in your passport. Having a US visa indicates that the US Embassy in Nigeria has determined that you are eligible to seek entry for the purpose indicated.
Nigerian is not one of the countries under the US visa waiver program, and residents have to obtain a US visa for them to be allowed to travel to the United States.
What are the types of visas available?
You need to know the types of visas available to Nigerians before you start the application process. The type of US visa you need is determined by the purpose of your visit. There are two main types of US visas. These are:
- Non-immigrant US visas
- Immigrant US visas.
Visa application requirements
When applying for a US visa, there are some standard requirements. These include:
A valid ECOWAS travel passport
A recent passport sized colored photograph
The required visa fee payable to GT Bank
A copy of the passport data page
Letter of invitation
Financial proof through a recent original bank statement
Original marriage certificate for those traveling with their spouses
Parents traveling with children should have original copies of the birth certificates.
Recent utility bills
Details of hotel bookings and flight bookings
Applicants traveling for business purposes should attach the following documents to their application.
Letter of invitation
Full details of the authorized company representative
Physical address and company phone numbers
Non-immigrant US visas
Non-immigrant US visas are for Nigerians who seek to travel to the United States on a temporary basis. It includes tourism, study, temporary employment, and exchange. For you to get a non-immigrant visa, you must show that you have strong ties to Nigeria and that you intend to go back after the temporary stay.
In Nigeria, you can apply for a US non-immigrant visa at the US Consulate General in Lagos and the US Embassy in Abuja.
It takes at least three months for visa appointments to be processed. The visa processing time takes three days, but it might take longer in cases where there are special circumstances.
Application of a US Non-immigrant visa
Once you determine that you need a non-immigrant visa, you will need to apply to get one. You need to know how to apply for a non-immigrant visa. Here is a step-by-step visa application process.
- You need to determine the type of non-immigrant visa you should apply for. The common non-immigrant visa types include:
Exchange visitor visa
Transit/ship crew visa
Domestic employee visa
Journalist and media visa
- Once you know the type of US visa you need, you must pay the US visa application fee. The US visa application fee varies depending on the type of visa you are applying for. The visa fee is non-refundable. Depending on the visa class, you might pay either $160, $190 or $265. The money is payable to GT Bank. The fees is indicated in dollars, but you have to pay using the local currency.
Ensure you keep the bank receipt as you will need the receipt umber to book your appointment.
There are additional fees for those applying for students, exchange visitors, and first-time applicants. If you are using an immigration lawyer, then confirm from them if the visa fee is included in their package.
Students and exchange visitors will have to pay the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fees that will allow them to be tracked until they complete their program. The fee is $200 for students and $180 for exchange visitors. However, the fee is not applicable to visa applicants who are participating in a US Government sponsored program.
First-time applicants have to pay the Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee that is $500. The fee is paid to the cashier at the Consular on the interview day.
- After paying the visa fee, you will need to fill the DS-160 Form. Read the guidelines provided on the form and fill it carefully. Once filled, you are not allowed to make any changes. You can ask an immigration lawyer to help you with the form if you encounter any difficulty. The DS-160 form number will be used to book your appointment.
- You have to create a profile in the US visa and immigration website system. You need to complete all the fields and create a password. Once you create your profile, you will see a dashboard on the left side where you should click on Schedule Appointment to begin the process.
You will need the following when scheduling your appointment:
- Your passport number
- The GT Bank receipt number
- The DS-160 number. It is the ten digit barcode number on the DS-160 confirmation page.
- Visit the US Embassy on the interview date and do not be late. Ensure you carry all the necessary documents needed for your appointment.
There are a limited number of times you are allowed to reschedule your appointment. It is advisable not to reschedule since you might be forced to pay another visa application fee.
- If your visa application is approved, the visa will be sent to the drop-off location you selected during the appointment scheduling process.
Supporting documents needed for the appointment
When scheduling a non-immigrant US visa appointment, you must have these documents:
- A valid passport to travel to the United States dated at least six months beyond your intended stay period in the United States.
If there is more than one person indicated in your passport, they should submit their individual visa application forms.
- The receipt from GT Bank showing your fee payment.
- The DS-160 confirmation page
- A valid telephone number and e-mail address
- Other documents based on the specific visa class.
Application pending further action
After the interview, your application might be suspended pending further information. It means that your visa application has been put on administrative hold because some essential documents or information was missing. You will be asked by the consular officer to submit additional documents or information to continue processing your US visa, or the consular officer might inform you that your case will have to go through administrative processing.
If you are required to provide more information, the officer will tell you how you should submit the information. You have 12 months from the application date to submit the information, or you will be forced to pay a new visa application fee since the application will be rejected.
Additional information or documentation is to be delivered through the DHL courier service.
If your application requires administrative processing, you will be informed on the day of your interview. Most cases requiring administrative processing are resolved within 60 days of the visa interview. However, it can take longer depending on the uniqueness of the case.
Before you inquire on the status of your visa, you are advised to wait for at least 60 days from your interview day or the day you submit the supplement documents.
Nigerians who want to live in the United States permanently apply for an immigrant visa. A US immigrant visa allows an application for admission into the United States as a Legal Permanent Resident. It is a step towards becoming a US citizen.
Most applications for an immigrant visa begin with qualified family members who are US citizens or are legal permanent residents submitting a petition on behalf of the intending immigrant. The petition is submitted to the US Citizenship & Immigration Services in the United States (USCIS).
An employer can also file for a Nigerian employee whom they want to employ for a permanent position.
If you can, then employ the services of a good immigration lawyer to handle everything for you.
Before applying for a US immigrant visa, the applicant must have the petition approved by USCIS. An applicant with an approved petition and priority date that is current for processing is eligible to apply for the immigrant visa or K nonimmigrant visa. You can look at the USCIS Website for more specific information on the petition applications.
Nigerians are required to fill their I-130 forms and mail them with the USCIS Chicago lockbox.
For regular mail deliveries, they should be addressed to:
P.O. Box 804625
Chicago, IL 60680-4107
For express mail and courier deliveries, they should be addressed to:
131 South Dearborn-3rd Floor
Chicago, IL 60603-5517
In Nigeria, if you want to apply for a US immigrant visa, you will have to go to the US Consulate General in Lagos. The service is not available at the US Embassy in Abuja.
US immigrant visa application process
Here is the US immigrant visa application process in detail.
- File a Petition in Nigeria
All US immigrant visa applications are processed by the U.S. Consulate General in Lagos. The immigrant visa unit accepts I-130 petitions for immediate relatives of American citizens who are Nigerian residents.
The following documents are needed for a petition for an immigrant visa.
- A duly completed and signed I-130 form
- The valid email address of the petitioner and beneficiary
- Completed Form G-325A that is a biographic data form for the petitioner and beneficiary. There should be a passport photo attached to the bottom of the form.
- Evidence documents are showing that the petitioner has been a Nigerian resident for more than six months before the filing of the petition.
- Copies of the original civil documents that prove:
- The petitioner is a US citizen
- The beneficiary’s birth. There should be evidence of the beneficiary’s parents’ existence and the beneficiary’s children even if a petition is not being filed for them.
- The relationship between the petitioner and beneficiary.
- Translation of all non-English documents into English. Notarization is necessary for the translated document.
- A copy of each document or you will pay $1 for each document photocopied at the embassy.
Once you file a petition, you need to wait for it to be processed. There is no exact time to get the results since the circumstances vary in each application.
- After the petition is approved
Once the visa application petition is approved, you will receive instructions from the National Visa Center. You will be required to submit your documents so an appointment can be scheduled. The amount of time it takes to schedule an interview depends on how long it takes for you to submit all the required documents. Appointments can be scheduled a month after submission of all the documents.
If you do not respond to the NVC notice within one year, you risk termination of your petition, and you will lose all the benefits of the petition including the priority date. The petition might be reinstated if you establish that failure to comply was due to reasons you could not control. The reinstatement might be within two years notice of availability of the visa.
- Choosing an agent
You will need to choose an agent to represent you for the visa processing. The agent will receive communication concerning your case from the NVC. You may use the agent who represented you and the petitioner during the petition.
You need to fill the DS-261 form to choose your agent. Wait for three weeks for your agent request to be processed before you can continue.
- Fee payment
After choosing your agent, you will need to pay the necessary fees. The processing fees are:
- Immigrant visa application processing fee
- Affidavit of support fee
The fees are payable online at the Immigrant Visa Application Center. To make the payment, you will need a savings or checking account number and a bank routing number from a US bank.
You will need to have your Invoice ID number and NVC case number.
You can now log into the Immigrant Visa Invoice Payment Center and pay the fees one at a time.
After submission, you can wait for a week before proceeding.
- Collection and submission of forms to the NVC
You need to collect and submit the forms and necessary documents to the NVC. After the documents have been collected, you will wait until your priority date is current then the NVC will schedule your interview. At this stage, your case will be handed to the US Consulate.
You will submit the following to the NVC.
- The visa application form (Form DS-260)
- Financial documents showing the petitioner can support you in the United States.
The following applicants need to get an affidavit of support:
- Applicants for family-based immigrant visas and that includes certain orphans
- Applicants for employment-based immigrant visas where the petition was filed by a relative or has 5% or more ownership interest in the business responsible for filing the petition.
- Other documents including adoption documentation, birth certificates, court and prison records, marriage certificates, marriage termination documentation, military records, petitioner documents, police certificates, and photocopy of valid passport biographic data page.
Only submit copies of these documents as you will need the original ones for your interview.
You can submit your documents through mail or email depending on the kind of immigration visa you are applying for.
Do not send your documents in any form of electronic media since the NVC will not open it for security purposes.
The NVC will review the documents for up to eight weeks. You will be informed if additional documentation is needed or you have completed your visa pre-processing.
You can go to the Consular Electronic Application Center.
- Medical requirements
All immigrant visa applicants are expected to go for a medical exam, and it should be done by a physician approved by the US Embassy. It is advisable to have your medical exam done before your scheduled interview. Completing your interview before your medical exam will cause a delay in the entire process since the consulate has to receive your medical results.
- The interview
Once your case is qualified, you will be invited for an interview at the US Consulate. Interviews are scheduled a month in advance.
An interview appointment letter will be sent to you, your petitioner, and your agent. The letter will give details of the interview date, time and venue.
Once the appointment is scheduled, the NVC sends the application form and other documents to the U.S. Consulate General in Lagos.
You need to have the original documents ready as you must bring them to the interview.
On the day of the interview, you and any other applicants must appear before the US Consulate. You are expected to bring the following documents:
- Appointment letter
- Valid passport
- Two identical colored passport photographs
- Medical exam results
- Original and supporting documents
- English translations
- Any unpaid visa fees
- After the interview
After your visa interview at the U.S. Consulate General in Lagos, the consular officer will inform you if your immigrant visa application was approved or denied.
Upon approval of your visa:
- You will be informed after the interview by the consular officer how your visa and passport will be returned to you.
- Your US immigrant visa will be placed on a page of your passport. You should ensure that the visa has no errors and in the case of any errors, report it to the U.S. Consulate General in Lagos.
- You will receive a sealed packet. The sealed packet will contain documents that must be presented to the US Customs and Border Protection at the port-of-entry. The packet must not be opened until you hand it over.
- You must arrive in the United States and apply for admission at a date not later than the visa expiration date indicated on the visa.
- You will have to pay the USCIS Immigrant fee that is $220 before you travel to the United States.
- If any children are traveling with you, they are required to have complete vaccination records. You must carry any X-rays with you and not put them in the luggage.
- You must request entry to the United States at the port of entry by giving the customs officials the sealed packet. The immigration visa does not guarantee entry to the United States and the US customs officials can deny or approve your entry to the United States. Once your request is approved, you enter the United States as a Lawful Permanent Resident and can be allowed to live and seek employment in the United States permanently.
Once you become a lawful permanent resident, you will need to learn about your new status and living in the United States.
You will learn how to apply for the US Social Security Administration benefits and the ones that are available to you.
US Visa application rejection
After the interview, your immigration visa application might be denied if the consular officer finds that the documents are not sufficient to complete the application process. If this is the situation, the officer will inform you of the additional documents needed.
In case your application needs administrative processing, you will be informed by the consular officer.
Not everyone who applies for a US immigrant visa is eligible. You are advised to look at the various laws where you are ineligible for a visa. Some factors that make you ineligible include:
- Health related grounds
- Criminal and related grounds
- Security and related grounds
- Public charge
- Documentation requirements
The consulate officer will inform you if you can apply for a waiver and you will get detailed instructions on the application requirements and procedure.
There are special types of visas issued to government officials or diplomatic representatives allowing them to travel to the United States. There are very specific requirements for different kinds of visas. The visa types available include:
A-1 OR A-2 visa
The visa is issued to government officials who are on assignment in the United States.
The visa is issued to personal employees accompanying holders of the A-1 and A-2 visa. It is not issued to domestic workers.
The visa is issued to members who are on a permanent mission from a recognized government. The visa is issued to their families and employees except for domestic employees.
It is issued to government representatives and their immediate families traveling to the US temporarily to attend meetings.
The visa is issued by non-recognized or non-member governments and their immediate families. The visas are issued to officials who are staying in the United States temporarily.
The visa is issued to any person proceeding to the United States to be appointed to an international organization. It is issued to the members, immediate families and employees except for domestic employees.
It is issued to attendants and personal employees of government officials in G-1 to G-4 status.
If you are a Unites States Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) and get employed by a United States Foreign Mission, you would be eligible for a diplomatic visa in the A class if you are willing to surrender your permanent residence card.