Visitor Visas - Business and Pleasure (B1/B2)

Overview

Generally, a citizen of a foreign country who wishes to enter the United States must first obtain a visa, either a nonimmigrant visa for temporary stay, or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. The visa allows a foreign citizen, to travel to the United States port-of entry and request permission of the U.S. immigration inspector to enter the U.S. The "visitor" visa is a nonimmigrant visa for persons desiring to enter the United States temporarily for business (B-1), for pleasure or medical treatment (B-2), or combination of both (B-1/B-2) purposes.

Business Visitor Visas (B-1): If the purpose for your planned travel is to consult with business associates, travel for a scientific, educational, professional or business convention, or conference on specific dates, settle an estate, or negotiate a contract, then a business visitor visa (B-1) would be the appropriate type of visa for your travel.

Personal or Domestic Employees: Under immigration law, visitor visas are limited to the following circumstances, for personal or domestic employee purposes of travel to the U.S. A visitor (B-1) visa is appropriate when all eligibility requirements are met, for a personal or domestic employee who accompanies or follow to join: 1) A U.S. citizen employer having a permanent home or is stationed in a foreign country, who is visiting or is assigned to the United States temporarily; or 2) A foreign citizen employer in the United States in B, E, F, H, I, J, L, M, O, P, or Q nonimmigrant visa status.

Pleasure, Tourism, Medical Treatment - Visitor Visas (B-2): If the purpose of your planned travel is recreational in nature, including tourism, vacation (holiday), amusement, visits with friends or relatives, rest, medical treatment, activities of a fraternal, social, or service nature, and participation by amateurs, who will receive no remuneration, in musical, sports and similar events or contests, then a visitor visa (B-2) would be the appropriate type of visa for your travel. If you are going to the U.S. primarily for tourism, but want to take a short course of study which is recreational and not for credit and the course is less than 18 hours per week, this is permitted on a visitor visa.

Visa Waiver Program

Travelers coming to the U.S. for tourism or business for 90 days or less from qualified countries may be eligible to visit the U.S. without a visa if they meet the visa waiver program requirements. Currently, the following 35 countries participate in the Visa Waiver Program: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom

Qualifying for a Visitor Visa

There are specific requirements which must be met by applicants to qualify for a visitor visa under provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The consular officer at the embassy or consulate will determine whether you qualify for the visa. The presumption in the law is that every visitor visa applicant is an intending immigrant. Therefore, applicants for visitor visas must overcome this presumption by demonstrating that:

  • The purpose of their trip is to enter the U.S. for business, pleasure, or medical treatment;
  • That they plan to remain for a specific, limited period;
  • Evidence of funds to cover expenses in the United States;
  • Evidence of compelling social and economic ties abroad; and
  • That they have a residence outside the U.S. as well as other binding ties that will insure their return abroad at the end of the visit.

Documentation Needed - When Seeking to Travel for Medical Treatment

Persons desiring to travel to the U.S. for medical treatment should be prepared to present the following:

  • Medical diagnosis from a local physician, explaining the nature of the ailment and the reason the applicant requires treatment in the United States.
  • Letter from a physician or medical facility in the United States, expressing a willingness to treat this specific ailment and detailing the projected length and cost of treatment (including doctors’ fees, hospitalization fees, and all medical-related expenses).
  • Statement of financial responsibility from the individuals or an organization that will pay for the patient’s transportation, medical and living expenses. The individuals guaranteeing payment of these expenses must provide proof of ability to do so, often in the form of bank or other statements of income/savings or certified copies of income tax returns.

Misrepresentation of a Material Facts, or Fraud and Denials

Attempting to obtain a visa by the willful misrepresentation of a material fact, or fraud, may result in the permanent refusal of a visa or denial of entry into the United States. If the consular officer should find it necessary to deny the issuance of a visitor visa, the applicant may apply again if there is new evidence to overcome the basis for the refusal.

Staying Beyond Your Authorized Stay in the U.S. and Being Out of Status

  • It is important that you depart the U.S. on or before the last day you are authorized to be in the U.S. on any given trip, based on the specified end date on your Arrival-Departure Record, Form I-94. Failure to depart the U.S. will cause you to be out-of-status.
  • Staying beyond the period of time authorized by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and being out-of-status in the United States is a violation of U.S. immigration laws, and may cause you to be ineligible for a visa in the future for return travels to the U.S.
  • Staying unlawfully in the United States beyond the date Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have authorized--even by one day--results in your visa being automatically voided, in accordance with INA 222(g). Under this provision of immigration law, if you overstay on your nonimmigrant authorized stay in the U.S., your visa will be automatically voided. In this situation, you are required to reapply for a new nonimmigrant visa, generally in your country of nationality.