Answer: That depends on the visa that you are applying for and the circumstances. There are many, many, many different types of visas that are available and processing time often depends on whether it is a short term visa that’s just for a visit—either for private, family or personal reasons—or for work reasons. If it’s something where someone is applying to come to the United States to remain permanently or a long period of time, those generally take longer to process. If it’s something where somebody is coming in as a tourist, coming in for a work conference or a seminar or coming in to visit family for a short and definite period of time, those usually take a much shorter period of time. They also are processed in different ways in different places.
Someone who wants to come into the United States based on a family relationship and they want to stay in the United States as a permanent resident or some other long-term situation, usually a U.S. citizen or a U.S. legal permanent resident has to file with Immigration Services, has to go through an application process there and then the person has to get the visa in a consulate that is close to their residence in whatever country they live in.
If someone is just coming to the United States for a short period of time and they are outside of the United States, they apply at a consulate. There’s actually a lot of online applications that are available now. But apply, they have to go to the consulate and get the visa. Often that’s a very short process that doesn’t take a lot of time, depending on the circumstances.