What Is a B-2 Visa?

This visa allows people from other countries to visit the United States. The B-2 visa is mainly for people traveling for pleasure. It's also known as a visitor visa. It's primarily for tourists.

What Is the Difference Between the B-1 and B-2 Visas?

When someone applies for a B visa, they must state the reason for their visit. A B-1 visa is for guests who are in the U.S. on business. A B-2 visa is mainly for travelers visiting the country for pleasure. An exception is sick people. They can enter the U.S. with a B-2 visa, listing their reason as medical treatment.

Who Needs a B-2 Visa?

The rules for international travel into the United States are complex. Someone flying in on a participating airline from a foreign country may not need a visa.

More than 30 countries have agreements in place with the United States. People from these countries don't need a B-2 visa to visit the U.S. They can only stay a maximum of 90 days, though.

Anyone outside of these countries must get a B-2 visa. The same is true of visitors seeking to stay for more than 90 days. The length of these stays is finite. A person cannot apply to stay longer.

Some countries have a waiver program with the United States. Residents of these places can freely enter America without the need for a visitor visa. 

What Are the Advantages of a B-2 Visa?

Anyone outside the United States is eligible to apply. A person doesn't need a sponsor to apply for a B-2 visa. That's unusual for visas.

The B-2 visa application is also easy to fill out. It doesn't require a lot of information and doesn't come with difficult rules. The federal government wants to encourage international travelers to visit the United States. A hard application would lead to lower tourism rates.

B-2 visa holders also have flexibility. Guests who want to stay longer in the U.S. can apply to switch to a different visa. Immigrants have plenty of options for visa eligibility.

Alternately, they can attempt to extend the B-2 visa. Note that the United States government doesn't give out extensions as easily as the first B-2 visa. Switching is usually easier.

Does the B-2 Visa Have Any Restrictions?

A person using the visitor visa may not:

  • Stay beyond the expiration date of the visa
  • Move out of their primary residence outside the United States
  • Work in the United States
  • Bring family members under the same visa
  • Stay in the United States more than six months out of the year

What Are Acceptable Reasons to Get a B-2 Visa?

The government will authorize a B-2 visa for people who list any of the following as a reason:

  • Tourism
  • Visiting with friends or family members
  • Social engagements such as conventions, parties, and fraternal meetings
  • Medical treatment
  • Visiting to marry an American citizen
  • Participating in an athletic event or musical performance for free

What Are the Rules for the B-2 Visa?

The applicant must show that:

  • They have a purpose for the trip, either pleasure or medical
  • They will stay in the United States for a limited amount of time
  • They can pay for their travel and other expenses while in the U.S.
  • They have a residence in a different country that prevents them from staying in the United States permanently

A B-2 visa holder must meet these requirements each time they enter the United States. Otherwise, they'll get stopped at customs.

Note that the recipient of a B-2 visa isn't allowed to work in America. The general rule is that they cannot take classes, either. An exception exists, though. A person can take college courses that are not for credit. Even then, the limit is 18 hours per week.

The visa holder should always make sure before signing up for a course. The people to ask are at the consulate, the embassy, or the American government. Anyone visiting the United States for a college class needs a student visa.

What Does a Person Need to Apply for a B-2 Visa?

The important step is to prove that the American visit is temporary. The applicant must show documents such as:

  • Travel itinerary
  • Bank information to prove the person can pay for their American travel
  • Proof that the person is welcome to return to their home country
  • Evidence that family members are staying in a foreign country
  • Evidence that the applicant still has school, work, or other activities in a foreign country
  • Ownership or leasing information about overseas residence
  • Proof that the visit is temporary
  • A round-trip airplane ticket
  • Proof that they are attending a conference, meeting, or event, if applicable

An applicant doesn't need to show all the above items. They only need enough to convince the government official that they don't intend to stay in the United States.

The person then needs to fill out an application. They must show a digital photograph that meets the following specifications:

  • Square
  • At least 600 pixels by 600 pixels
  • No more than 1,200 pixels by 1,200 pixels
  • 24-bit color
  • .jpg or .jpeg file extension
  • No larger than 240 kilobytes

The application document is form DS160. The nonrefundable application fee is $160.

How Does the Application Process Work?

To get a B-2 visa, you must:

  • Determine the type of visa you need
  • Review the Visa Waiver Program to make sure you need a visa. Residents of nations in the Visa Waiver Program don't need to apply. You may not need a travel visa to enter the United States. Ask your consulate or embassy for a decision.
  • Complete the Non-Immigrant Visa Electronic Application (DS-160 Form). You cannot change anything on the DS-160, so don't make any mistakes.
  • Pay the visa application fee. 
  • Schedule an interview appointment at your local consulate or embassy. 
  • Schedule an appointment at the Visa Application Center.

After Applying, What Happens Next?

The person must schedule a pair of interviews. One is at the off-site facilitation center. Government officials will study your picture and get a fingerprint. They might also ask for a DNA sample.

The second interview is at the consulate or embassy. It's a personal discussion about the reason for the trip. The applicant must convince the official that the trip isn't one-way.

At both interviews, you should bring:

  • Current and all prior passports
  • Photograph
  • DS160 confirmation page with approval stamp
  • Application fee receipt
  • Interview appointment letter
  • Any other supporting documents

What Are Potential Reasons for Rejection?

The most likely causes for rejection of a B-2 visa application are:

  • Lack of a bank account
  • Lack of proof of taxes paid
  • Unmarried
  • Previously lost a passport
  • Unpaid alimony
  • Outstanding legal issues
  • Poor health, especially communicable diseases
  • Convicted criminal
  • Youth (travelers under the age of 30 are less likely to gain approval)
  • Frequent trips to foreign countries

How Long Does a B-2 Visa Last?

The B-2 visa expires six months after its starting date in most circumstances. The B-2 visa holder can ask for a yearlong visa if six months isn't enough. The applicant must show why they need the extra six months, though.

Extended stays beyond a year are possible. The holder must apply again if they want to stay longer. This must happen before the first B-2 visa expires. Otherwise, the person faces deportation.

The I-94 permit states the length of the visit. When a holder enters the country by airplane, a customs agent stamps the passport with this date.

Anyone who doesn't know the expiration date of their B-2 visa can download it from the Department of Homeland Security. You can also change the purpose of your visit by updating your status.

What Are the Rules for a 10-Year B-2 Visa?

Someone with a 10-year B-2 visa must follow the same rules as a regular one. You still have a nonimmigrant visa as a guest of the United States. You can visit as many times as you'd like during those 10 years. You still have to explain the nature of your visit each time.

A government official has the right to deny your entry if you can't prove you're traveling for business or for pleasure. If the officer approves your request, you receive an I-94 form and a passport stamp. The date of the stamp is the last day you can stay in the United States.

Getting a B-2 visa isn't hard, you just need to understand the process. Post your legal need to hire an expert from a trustworthy online marketplace like UpCounsel. You'll get great advice on the best way to gain a visa.