Visitor Visas: B-2 (For Tourists) & B-1 (For Business)

B-2 visas are for people who are entering the U.S. for pleasure or tourism. Foreign students entering the United States visit prospective schools may also qualify for a B-2 visa, so long as the embassy or consulate issuing the visa is informed of the prospective student's plans at the time the B-2 visas is granted. B-2 visas may also be issued to foreign nationals coming to the United States for medical treatment.

B-1 visas are for people who are entering the U.S. to engage in short-term business activities, and not to seek permanent employment. B-1 visas can be issued to foreign corporate personnel coming to the United States to set up a subsidiary, as well as to persons who are thinking about making an E-2 investment. Religious workers, professional athletes and domestic servants can also qualify for B-1 visas. A B-1 visa holder can negotiate contacts, participate in conferences or seminars, and consult with business associates.

B visa holders may extend or change their status without leaving the U.S.


Do You Qualify For A Visitor Visa?

You qualify for a B-1 visa if you are coming to the U.S. as a visitor for a temporary business trip. You qualify for a B-2 visa if you are visiting the U.S. temporarily, either as a tourist or for medical treatment as mentioned above. Often, these two visas are issued together in combination so you have all the options under both. You must have the intent to return to your home country after your visit is over. Usually, you must have a home abroad to which you will return.

Although it's a ground of inadmissibility for other visa applicants, business and tourist visitors coming to the U.S. for up to 60 days receive an automatic waiver.

A B-1 visa will allow you to be in the U.S. for business purposes such as the procurement of goods, making business investments, attending lectures or seminars, or performing other temporary work for an employer located outside the United States. You may not, however, be employed or operate your own company. You may not be paid by a source inside the United States. It is sometimes difficult to draw the line between permissible business activities and illegal employment on a B-1 visa.

Unlike the B-1 visitor, the B-2 tourist may not engage in business-related activities at all. A condition of being admitted on a B-2 visa is that you are visiting solely for purposes of pleasure or medical treatment.

If you enter the U.S. with a B visa, your intention must be to come only as a temporary visitor. Tourists are usually given stays of up to six months and business visitors may stay as necessary up to a maximum of one year. The date when your permitted stay will expire will be shown on your Form I-94, a little white card that the Customs and Border Patrol ("CBP") officer at the border or airport will put into your passport. Theoretically, you may leave the U.S. at the end of your stay, return the next day, and be readmitted for another stay. Conversely, when your permitted stay has expired, you can apply for an extension of stay without leaving.

If your travel history shows that you are spending most of your time in the U.S., the CBP will assume you have the intent to be more than just a temporary visitor. On the basis, you can be denied entry altogether, even though you do have a valid visa. Some people, thinking that they have found a loophole in the system, try to live in the U.S. permanently on a visitor's visa by merely taking brief trips outside the country every time their permitted stay expires. Don't expect this tactic to work for very long. However, those who want to have vacation homes in the U.S. and live in them for about six months each year do so legally.


What Is A Visa Waiver?

If you're planning to come to the U.S. for tourism or business, are willing to leave within 90 days, haven't been denied past visas or violated their terms, and come from a country that does not have a history of illegal immigration to the U.S., you may be able to avoid formally applying for a visa before your trip. A so-called visa waiver ("VW") is available to people from the following countries currently participating in the Visa Waiver Program: Andorra, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the Untied Kingdom.

Each visitor who enters under the a VW must arrive with a transportation ticket to leave the United States. They must also present what's called a machine readable passport, that is, one with two lines of scannable characters at the bottom of the biographical information page. The passport must be good for at least six months past the date of entry. Entry under a VW is permitted on land through Canada or Mexico, but qualifying visitors must show evidence at the border of sufficient funds to live in the U.S. without working.

When you enter the U.S. under a VW, you will not be permitted to change your status to another nonimmigrant classification or apply for a green card without first leaving the country. However, there is an exception for a person who marries a U.S. citizen for are the unmarried children or parents of a U.S. citizen.

Participation in a VW is optional, not a requirement. Those people from countries qualifying for VW can still get standard visitor's visas. You will have more flexibility and rights once you enter the U.S. if you come with a valid visa.


Can I Extend My Stay In The U.S.?

Hypothetically, if you can show that you're not just trying to stay in the U.S. permanently, and your total stay will not exceed one year, USCIS may grant you an extension of your B-1 or B-2 stay. Usually, six additional months is as long an extension as you can hope for. You must submit your request for an extension before the date on your I-94 card has passed, but USCIS recommends submitting it 45 days before that.


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