Challenges (and possible solutions) in obtaining a visa to visit the U.S.A. from Panama

Blog by Andres Lay


USA Visa


A person who is planning to apply for a U.S. visa should consider the fact they might get it rejected. So why pay around $160 for a visa that might not be worth it because the embassy may decline your application? Let’s look at the issue more closely…

There are different types of visas a person could apply for to go to the US but the most commonly pursued one is the B-2 Visa which is designated for someone applying for the purposes of tourism, vacation or pleasure. Before applying for a visa you should put together the proper documentation that the U.S embassy requires so the chances of being rejected will be minimized. For instance, fill out the form ahead-of-time to apply for a visa and have a valid passport that is not expiring for at least a year. In addition, bring two passport quality color photos. Also on the day you arrive for your appointment, it is important to bring any extra documentation like your college transcript and/or a work letter that proves you are either a student or an employee in good standing in Panama. One of the reasons why so many people get rejected is because they are not able to explain clearly the reasons they are applying for the visa leading the interviewer to believe that you would like a visa because you might want to stay in the U.S. You want to show the interviewer that you are a responsible individual who has a “life” in Panama that s/he would be returning to after their visit to the U.S.A. The other reason for the rejection may be because the person didn’t bring all of the required documents to the interview. If there is something missing then you are most likely going to be rejected and will unnecessarily lose the $160 application fee. Here is a list of potential reasons an applicant may be rejected for the U.S. visa by the embassy:

  • The applicant failed to complete the entire application and/or provide all the proper documentation
  • The applicant misrepresented themselves on the B visa application
  • The applicant did not effectively establish a case that their visit would be temporary or that they were not going to immigrate permanently to the U.S.
  • The applicant has a criminal history with incidents of drug use, serious crimes, or multiple convictions with jail time
  • The applicant could not demonstrate ability to support themselves financially during the trip
  • The applicant has previous immigration issues or violations on record

Below is a video that you may find helpful when applying for the U.S. visa (B1 – business visa or B2 – tourist visa):

I had to go through this process back in 2009 so let me tell you what I experienced the first time I applied for my visa. It was just a few months after I graduated from my high school in Boquete when my aunt, who lives in Maryland, asked me if I wanted to go to the U.S. to improve my English. I was thrilled to have that opportunity! Once I got my appointment at the U.S. embassy, I started to put everything together such as the proper documentation, passport, profile pictures and the letter and filled out the form that the U.S. College sent me to apply for the English classes and I also had to go to the bank and pay the application fee. The day I had my appointment I arrived at the embassy (in Panama City) early in the morning so that I would go through the process as quickly as possible. The first thing I did once I arrived at the embassy was to go to the checkpoint just like in the airport and it was all for security purposes. After that, I went into the main building where they gave me a ticket with a number so I had to sit and wait until they called my ticket number. Then once they called my ticket number I walked up to the first window where they checked my passport and all the documents to see if they were valid and then was given another ticket number for the interview so I had to sit back again and wait. After waiting for a few minutes they called my number and I had to go to the second window. I was nervous because my English wasn’t as good as it is now so I was afraid that my visa will get rejected. When I got there the person started to talk to me initially in English and I understood a little and responded back to him in English as best as I could. Thank God he switched to Spanish and started to ask me some questions such as what was the reason I was going to the U.S. He asked me if I had family living in the U.S. and what were my plans after studying English and some other related questions. Apparently I answered all of the questions that he asked me to his satisfaction because next thing I knew he asked me to put by fingers on the machine to get my fingerprints. Once he was done with that he gave all my documents back to me except for my passport. He informed me that the student visa will be ready in 15 days. At that point a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. I suddenly realized how tense I had been throughout the whole process. There it was, I had just obtained my student visa to the U.S.! I was beaming from ear-to-ear as I walked out of the immigration office!

This is what the Visa will look like stamped on your passport:


I stayed in the U.S. for a total of 3 years. During the first year I focused on improving my English language skills. The last two years, I was enrolled in a college in Maryland, majoring in business. I will never forget the experiences I had in the U.S. It was a great way not only to learn the language and my college courses but to also learn about the culture, how to be more independent and to transition into adulthood. It sure was worth it for me to spend the $160 application fee the first time around! I have been back in Panama for two years and have been going to the University in David to finish my undergraduate degree.

The time has come for me to apply for a tourist visa now to go back and visit the U.S. again. Hopefully I have learned a lot more about how to go about obtaining a tourist visa because of my previous experiences. Wish me luck! Please write to me through Casa de Montaña email to ask me how things went and/or share your own experiences in obtaining a visa to visit the U.S. from Panama.

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