Do Letters of Invitation for U.S. Visas Still Exist?
Can They Be Helpful?
Letters of invitation used to be an important tool for visiting the United States. Before immigration systems were online and in sync with each other, any documents that could be provided by someone requesting a visa were necessary to show their request was legitimate.
Technology has changed the way the immigration process works. It’s much easier for immigration agencies to independently verify claims and information. Although a letter of invitation is no longer a necessary part of the process of obtaining a visa, it can still be useful.
What Is a Letter of Invitation for a U.S. Visa?
The U.S. Department of State requires that everyone who visits the United States do so with a purpose. The purpose can be as simple as a vacation to a theme park or a conference related to your career. You need to be able to prove that the purpose of your visits and your plans coincide with your visa request.
It used to be difficult for immigration services to verify these details. A letter of invitation could be used to explain the purpose of a visit to the United States. If a friend or family member in the United States wanted to invite someone from overseas to the United States for a specific event, like a family reunion, wedding, or the birth of a new family member, they could write a detailed letter explaining the nature of the invitation.
The letter would include specific details that match the details given within the visa request. The U.S. Department of State would have the ability to verify all of the details in the letter by contacting the individual who sent the letter of invitation.
Who Needs a Letter of Invitation for a U.S. Visa?
No one needs to supply a letter of invitation for a visa. It isn’t a requirement, and plenty of people are granted visas without a letter of invitation.
While they aren’t mandatory, letters of invitation are still helpful. You can choose to include a letter of invitation with your visa application to act as a supporting document. Your letter can be taken to your visa interview appointment at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
Supporting documents make it easier for the U.S. Department of State to make decisions regarding visa applications without having to issue a request for more information. If you provide adequate supporting documents with your application, it may increase your chances of getting your visa approved sooner. An alternative to a letter of invitation may be a USCIS Form I-134 Affidavit of Support. You may also choose to provide both to your U.S. embassy or U.S. consulate/consular officer.
Who Doesn’t Need a Letter of Invitation?
Letters of Invitation are only necessary when someone is traveling to America from a country that doesn’t have a visa waiver agreement with the United States. The United States has an established relationship with many countries that allow most citizens to temporarily travel to the United States without a visa. There is an electronic travel system that allows citizens of those countries to skip or simplify the process of seeking travel approval.
In cases like these, a letter of invitation isn’t necessary because there is no application process. The U.S. government will take your visit in good faith and trust that you will leave the country at the end of your designated stay. They don’t need many details about why you’re visiting or where you intend to stay while you’re here.
Who Can Write a Letter of Invitation?
Letters of invitation can be provided by most people who are visitors to the United States. They can only be written by a United States citizen (through naturalization or by birth), permanent resident (green card holder), or others in the U.S. with legal status. For example, J-1 and F-1 student visa holders are allowed to write letters of invitation to their foreign-born family members who want to attend their formal university graduation ceremony.
Are Letters of Invitation Required for U.S. Visas?
You aren’t required to have a letter of invitation to receive a U.S. visa, but it’s still helpful to have one. A letter of invitation can strengthen your visa application, which may increase your chances for visa approval. Any supporting documents you can provide will add legitimacy to your request for a visa.
The Department of State likes knowing that nonimmigrant visitors who arrive in the United States have a place to stay and a support system. This reduces the chances that they will become stranded, run out of money, or become a public charge. It also shows that they intend to arrive and return to their home country on time, as described in their letter, which demonstrates their willingness to comply with visa laws and rules.
How Do You Write a Letter of Invitation for a U.S. Visa?
A visa invitation letter should include as much information as possible in a concise way. If worded correctly, an invitation letter shouldn’t be lengthy.
The text of the letter should include the host’s full name, the visitor’s full name and date of birth, the reason for the visit, the specific dates of the visit, the relationship between the visitor and the person requesting the visa, the host’s full address, and an acknowledgment of financial support for the visitor.
A letter of invitation does not need to be long. The following sample invitation letter template demonstrates a concise letter of invitation that provides all the necessary details:
To: Visitor’s Name
123 Any Street
Any City, Postal Code
Dear (Visitor’s Full Name),
I would like to invite you to stay at my house in the United States from June 1, 2024, until June 7, 2024, to attend my wedding. I would like you to be a groomsman during my ceremony and enjoy a trip to the beach in celebration of my wedding vows. I will happily provide you with financial support for your basic needs, like food and airfare, for the duration of your visit.
Your (family member or person with whom the visitor has strong ties),
Paul Last Name
Any City, Any State
What Types of Visas Can Use an Invitation Letter?
Invitation letters are most common in family visits through a visitor’s visa. If the purpose for your visit is social or familial, it’s difficult for the Department of State to verify the reason for your visit without a letter of invitation. There are two types of visitor visas: the B-1 visa and the B-2 visa. Both can use a letter of invitation as a supporting document.
Letters of invitation can also be used for business-related visas. If you’ve been invited to speak at an event for your industry or profession, a copy of your invitation or professional agreement with the American organization hosting the event can serve as your letter of invitation. They wouldn’t necessarily need to write a special letter to appease the Department of State; the organization would have already gone through a process to obtain the appropriate visa for you.
If your purpose for coming to the United States involves a job offer from an employer, the job offer itself is a necessary supporting document for your visa application. There’s no need for your employer to write a special letter of invitation.
Every other official piece of paperwork or correspondence between yourself and your potential employer serves as proof. Your employer will be required to provide certain evidence to USCIS, and they’ll be able to do that without you.
Are You Guaranteed a Visa With a Letter of Invitation?
Nothing can guarantee a visa. The Department of State can approve or deny visa applications solely at their own discretion. It doesn’t matter how great of a candidate you are or how much supporting evidence you provide. They can choose to reject your application for any number of reasons.
Maximizing your chances for visa approval is a multi-part process. Completing your paperwork thoroughly and accurately, providing a wealth of supporting evidence, sending proper payment for your filing fees, providing the Department of State with valid contact information, and promptly responding to requests for information is very important.
Your letter of invitation can help, but it won’t act as a substitute for any of the other requirements you need to meet.
Do You Need Legal Help Obtaining a U.S. Visitor Visa?
A letter of invitation is only one piece of the puzzle. Obtaining a nonimmigrant visa involves several steps, and it’s important to complete each step correctly. You may benefit from the assistance of a skilled immigration attorney when completing and filing forms for your visitor visa. The thorough immigration law firm of Cohen, Tucker + Ades is ready to help.
Contact us now for a consultation on your visitor visa case. We can help you find the best path forward.