What Is a Visitor Visa?

A visitor visa, also known as a B-2 visa, is a tourist visa required for foreign visitors to the United States. This is a non-immigrant visa solely given for people who plan to visit the U.S. as a tourist, visit family or friends, or seek medical treatment. Non-immigrant visa holders cannot work or accept a job.

Do I Need a Visitor Visa?

If you are a citizen of one of the countries listed in the Visa Waiver Program, and you plan to only visit the United States as a tourist, you will not be required to apply for a visitor visa. You will, however, need to apply for an ESTA.

Reasons to Consider a B-2 Visa

If you are a passport holder of a country listed in the Visa Waiver Program, you may still want to apply for a B-2 visa. Entering the U.S. on the Visa Waiver Program will only allow for 90 days of tourism. It cannot be renewed. If you plan to visit the United States for longer than this, you will need to apply for the B-2 visa. This can be renewed for an additional 6 months.

Qualifications for a B-2 Visa

To qualify for a B-2 visa, the following must be true:

  • You are coming to the U.S. for pleasure or for medical treatment — not to work or to stay permanently.
  • You plan to stay for a specific and limited period.
  • You have a home outside of the U.S.
  • You have other binding ties, like family or a job, that ensure you will return home after your visit.
  • You have permission to enter a foreign country at the end of your stay in the U.S.
  • You have the funds to pay for your visit to and departure from the U.S.

What Is Not Permitted on a B-2 Visa?

While visiting the United States on a B-2, the visa holder is unable to do any of the following:

  • Study or take credit-based classes
  • Work or accept payment from a U.S. entity
  • Participate in performances for payment or in any professional performance before a paying audience
  • Arrive as a crew member on a ship or aircraft
  • Work as a foreign press journalist or another role in information media
  • Seek permanent residence in the United States

Unlike some types of visas, a B-2 visa does not allow for dependents. Any dependents who wish to travel with you must apply for their own B-2 visa.

Keep in mind that a B-2 visa does not guarantee you entry into the United States. It merely enables you to travel to a U.S. port of entry; U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have the authority to grant or deny your request to enter the country.

B-1 Versus B-2 Visa

A B-1 visa is for business-related travel, while a B-2 visa is for tourism. Both the B-1 visa and B-2 visa are non-immigrant visas, and neither allows a visitor to work or receive money from a U.S. entity. Often when someone applies for a B-1 visa, a combination B-1/B-2 visa will be issued, allowing allow business visitors to enter the country as tourists as well.

How to Apply for a Visitor Visa

  • Step 1: Get a digital photograph of yourself to submit with the application. The picture should meet the following requirements:
    • It must be a square.
    • It must be at least 600 pixels by 600 pixels.
    • It must not be larger than 1200 pixels by 1200 pixels.
    • The picture must be in color (24 bits per pixel).
    • The picture must be in JPEG format (.jpg or .jpeg file extension).
    • The file size of the picture must be less than or equal to 240 kilobytes.
  • Step 2: Fill out the DS-160 application. Once you complete the application, you'll get an email confirmation with a 10-digit barcode You need to print this confirmation page and bring it with you to your interview.
  • Step 3 : Pay the application fee. This can be done either online or, depending on your country of residence, at a designated bank.
  • Step 4 : Make an appointment with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. You may also be required to make an appointment at the nearest Visa Application Center (VAC) in order to submit fingerprints.
  • Step 5 : Attend your interview at the VAC and U.S. embassy or consulate. You will need to bring the following documents with you:
    • Your current passport as well as your old passports, if you have any
    • Your photograph
    • The DS-160 confirmation page that was stamped at the VAC
    • Visa application fee receipts
    • Interview appointment letter
    • Any other supporting documents that will assist the consulate in making their decision, such as proof of funds to support your trip, evidence of strong ties to your home country, and evidence that shows the purpose of your trip

Although consular officers have the discretion to require an interview of anyone, interviews are generally not required for those 13 and younger or 80 and older.

Reasons You May Not Get a B-2 Visa

Applying for a B-2 visa does not mean you will automatically receive it. These are several factors that could negatively affect your ability to get a visitor visa to the United States:

  • You are between the ages of 15 and 30.
  • You frequently visit certain countries.
  • You are not married.
  • You are a widow or widower.
  • You don't make very much money.
  • You do not file income tax returns.
  • Someone has filed an immigrant petition for you.
  • Your passport was lost at one time.
  • You have an infectious disease.
  • You are currently involved in any court cases.
  • You were sentenced for a crime, no matter how small, at some point in your life.
  • Someone has given the U.S. consulate negative information about you.
  • You have past-due alimony for your wife or children.

If you are over the age of 60, own a home in your country of residence, or you have traveled to other countries as a tourist, you should bring proof of this information with you to your interview, as these factors will weigh in your favor.

How to Renew or Change a B-2 Visa

If you would like to renew your visitor visa to the United States or change your non-immigrant visa status, you need to file form I-539, the Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In order to be eligible to renew or change your visa, you must be able to prove the following:

  • Your passport will be valid for the duration of your extended stay.
  • You were lawfully admitted into the U.S. with a non-immigrant visa.
  • Your non-immigrant visa status is still currently valid.
  • You have not committed any crimes.
  • You have not violated any of the conditions of your admission.

Expiration of a B-2 Tourist Visa

The expiration date of your B-2 visa and the amount of time that you are allowed to stay in the U.S. are different.

The date of expiration is the date before which you need to enter the U.S. If you try to enter the U.S. using that visa after the expiration date, you will not be allowed. If you enter the U.S. before this date, however, you are able to remain in the U.S. even after that date has passed.

The amount of time you are allowed to stay in the U.S. is determined by the immigration officer at the point of entry where you enter the U.S.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I get married on a visitor visa?

If you simply want to come to the United States to get married, then return to your home country, you can get married on a visitor visa. If you plan to come to the United States on a B-2 visa to get married and then apply for a green card, you will be committing visa fraud.

  • Can I re-apply for the visitor visa if I was previously refused under section 214(b)?

Yes, you can re-apply if you feel that your circumstances have changed since your previous application.

  • Do I need a visa if I have an ABTC?

Yes, you will still need to apply for a visitor visa unless you qualify for the Visa Waiver Program. Having an Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Business Travelers Card (ABTC) does not change visa requirements for entering the United States. It is possible, however, that having an ABTC will give you the ability to apply for an expedited interview appointment.

  • When is a B-2 visa allowed for medical treatment?

It is allowed if you can prove the following

  • You have received a medical diagnosis from your local physician that requires treatment in the United States.
  • A physician or medical facility in the U.S. is willing to treat this condition.
  • The cost of transportation, treatment, and all medical expenses have been estimated. You must also be able to show that someone will take responsibility for covering those costs.

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