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I am a citizen of a West European country who has been in the US before (although only technically, I've crossed the Canadian-US border at Niagara Falls to see the US side of the falls for a few hours and crossed back into Canada afterwards), but because of a trip to North Korea a few years ago (which was done after entering the US on an ESTA and was obviously done for touristic reasons), I'm not allowed to make use of the ESTA system anymore and have to apply for a visa.

I'm planning (if COVID permits) to travel to the US in 2022 to visit a friend where I'll be staying (a US citizen), combined with some road tripping and sightseeing. When I look up information about applying for a B-2 visa, I'd need documents like:

  • Proof of ties to my home country
  • Proof of financial means
  • A letter from my employer stating I have been allowed leave and am expected to return to work
  • An invitation letter from my friend stating I can stay over
  • Proof of travel history
  • Etc. etc.

These documents are clearly all targeted at people living in countries with a high risk of overstaying. I wonder if, in my situation, I also have to do all the effort of obtaining these documents. I mean, if I'm able to afford a trip to China and North Korea, it sounds obvious to me I should also be able to afford a trip to the US.

To be honest, it's a bit silly I have to apply for a visa in the first place, but I guess it's the law so I'll just do it. I wonder however if I need to bother my employer and friend with writing such letters.

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    Are you looking at an official US visa page? If it says such documents are required that’s what you should provide, unless you want to risk a refusal.
    – Traveller
    Oct 13 at 10:31
  • Which country are you applying from? Did you check the local US embassy's site for details? The list above is not on the generic State Department page on the topic which only states that "Additional documents may be requested to establish if you are qualified. For example, additional requested documents may include evidence of: The purpose of your trip, Your intent to depart the United States after your trip, and/or Your ability to pay all costs of the trip". Where did you get the list you quoted?
    – jcaron
    Oct 13 at 10:53
  • This information comes from external websites, since the official instructions are a bit vague. The local embassy info (Belgium) contains the statement as above, but also clearly states you shouldn't book tickets yet before getting the visa. How can I prove the purpose of my trip and my intent to depart the US without even be able to show a return ticket or hotel bookings?
    – Bv202
    Oct 13 at 11:05
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    Purpose of trip: invitation from your friend and some road trip bookings in the US? Intention to leave: proof of employment and vacation authorisation? If you want to dot the i’s etc
    – Traveller
    Oct 13 at 11:34
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    The State Dept page says "Evidence of your employment and/or your family ties may be sufficient to show the purpose of your trip and your intent to return to your home country", so just salary slips is probably enough, especially if you are a high earner with a stable job, you're only going there for a few weeks, and have other reasons to return.
    – jcaron
    Oct 13 at 12:33
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There is no official list of supporting documentation required for applying for a US visa. As you've discovered, there are lists of 'recommended' documents, however these are normally written for applicants who are citizens of countries that are not eligible for the Visa Waiver Program, where there is deemed to be a higher likelihood of passengers who will overstay their visa. (Overstay rate is actually one of the criteria for a country to be considered for entry to the Visa Waiver Program!).

Your situation is obviously a little different, as you seemingly are from a VWP country but not eligible for entry under the VWP due to your trip to North Korea.

Whilst taking at least some of the documentation suggested may still be a good idea, the more important documentation to take to your interview will be details of your trip to North Korea which show that it was indeed done as a tourist and nothing more. This might include booking details with the company you did the trip with (presuming it was an organized tour as such trips generally are), an itinerary, etc. You've stated that the trip was 'obviously done for touristic reasons', however the simple fact is that there's nothing 'obvious' about this for the consulate staff - they will need to be convinced that it was indeed a tourist trip, and thus that allowing you into the US will not pose a risk for security.

Additional documentation such as invitation letters from your friend in the US is almost certainly not required, however it would still be advisable to take proof of funds and proof of a stable job in your home country - it's very possible these will not be asked for, but if they are and you don't have them then it will at least delay your application.

Obviously it's not possible to give a definitive answer to a question like this, as exactly what is needed will depend on factors that we don't know. The more evidence you can take the lower the chances of rejection/delays, however it's unlikely that it will be needed.

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