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I am an academic, originally from a country that requires a visa to enter to the US.

I don't have such a visa at the moment, which has been a hindrance in some cases where I was invited to visit some universities, and because of reasons I couldn't get a visa at the time.

So I would like to apply for a visa nowadays, so that when the next opportunity comes a-knockin', I will be able to say yes. But I worry that usually when applying for a visa you need some invitation or something like that.


Can I apply for a U.S. visa (whichever is suitable for academic visits) without an invitation? Or do I need to ask one of my colleagues to produce some invitation for this purpose?

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When you apply for a US visa you must provide the date and location of your first visit to the US. If you don't know the exact details yet you are supposed to at least provide an approximate month of arrival. Likewise you would be asked to tell about your plans at the interview in the US consulate.

If I were you I'd either wait for a legitimate opportunity or plan an actual tourist trip to the US and then apply for a B1/B2 visa. Depending on your country of citizenship you will usually receive a 5 or 10 year multi entry visa, so it should last you by the time of your next academic visit.

However be aware that B1/B2 visas forbid you from receiving payment of any kind from US entities during your stay, so if the stays in question are paid for by the accepting university you would need to apply for a completely different visa with different rules.

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    Last paragraph is not quite true. A visiting lecturer can receive an honorarium and/or have their expenses paid under a B1 visa, within certain criteria: google.co.uk/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://… – user35890 Dec 7 '17 at 9:40
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    @dan1111: God, I hate all these stupid rules and distinctions... :| – Ink blot Dec 7 '17 at 12:06
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    So, does "payment of any kind" include reimbursement for travel, or god forbid some per diem? (Accommodation is easier, since they can book it directly, so I don't get any money from anyone...) – Ink blot Dec 7 '17 at 12:25

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