Besides working and studying, you can also visit the U.S on a U.S visitor visa. The visitor visas allow you to travel to the U.S for tourism, business, or medical purposes. You can see the most famous sights in the U.S and even create new contacts who can invest in your business back home.
Only those who are not in the U.S Visa Waiver Program need to apply for the visa to visit USA. If you are from a country which does not require you to apply for a visa for the U.S, then you are in luck. You can just follow the simple procedures of registering and then making your travel arrangements.
However, for those who need a visa, there are two main categories for visitors:
- B-1 visa is the visa which allows you to enter the U.S with the purpose of doing business with a company within the U.S
- B-2 visa is the visa which allows you to enter the U.S with the purpose of tourism, pleasure, or visit to friends and family
This article will go through the B-2 visa, what it is, how to apply for it, and other relevant details.
What is a B-2 Visa?
The B-2 or US tourist visa was made for those who want to visit the U.S as tourists. This can be to either visit family and friends, or just travel throughout the country. To qualify for the B-2 visa, you must be going to the U.S for one of these purposes only:
- Have a holiday in the U.S
- Tour various cities in the U.S
- Visit friends or family
- Participate in social events hosted by various organizations
- Visit the country for medical treatments
- Participate in events or contests related to music or sports, for which you will not receive payment
- Enroll in short study courses for which you will not receive credit (ex. cooking classes)
If you do not fall into any of the categories above, then you cannot get a B-2 visa. You should look into other types of U.S non-immigrant visas to see for which ones you qualify. With a B-2 visa, you are allowed to visit and travel the U.S, but you are strictly forbidden from doing these activities:
- Become a full or part time student
- Perform and get paid for it
- Work in press or journalism
- Engage in any form of employment
- Enter as a crewmember on an aircraft or ship
- Seek permanent residence in the U.S
A difference between many other types of U.S visas and the B-2 visa, is that it has no cap. This means that as long as you qualify and meet the requirements, you will be allowed to visit the U.S.
B2 Visa Requirements
Different from U.S work visas, the U.S tourist visa requirements are not as strict. So to be allowed to go to the U.S with a visa B-2, you have to meet the following eligibility criteria:
- That your intent for visiting is either tourism, medical treatment, or business
- You have enough finances to cover your stay in the U.S
- You intend to return to your home country as soon as your visa expires and you do not intend to stay in the U.S
If you meet these B-2 visa requirements and can prove your eligibility through valid documents in the application phase, then you will be able to apply and get the US B-2 visa.
B2 Visa Application Process
The process for the B-2 visa application is similar to other U.S nonimmigrant visas. You have to follow these steps:
Submit Form DS-160
Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application is the standard form for U.S visas. It will collect your information as well as details about your purpose of visit. You must fill in the sections for your US B-2 visa and then submit it online. After you submit it, you will get a verification page and code which you need for your documents file.
Pay the visa fees
The application fee for the visa B-2 visa is $160. To continue with your application, you must pay this fee. Depending on your country’s relationship with the U.S, you might have to pay other fees too. These are called visa issuance fees and they vary from country to country. When you pay all the applicable fees, make sure to save the receipts and add them to your documents file.
Schedule your interview
All applicants between 14 and 79 years old must go through a visa interview at the U.S Embassy they are applying in. To get this interview, you must schedule it through your country’s U.S Embassy. Due to the high workload that they have, make sure you schedule it as soon as possible. When this procedure is done, you will get an interview confirmation letter which you need to bring to the interview.
Compile your document file
The B-2 visa documents file that you have includes all supporting documents to show the U.S Embassy that it is safe to give you the visa. You must bring all documents to your visa interview. Your file, must have the following documents:
- Your valid passport
- A photograph that meets the Photo Requirements
- The Form DS-160 confirmation page and code
- Receipts that you have paid the fees
- The interview confirmation page
- Letter which describes the purpose of your trip
- Financial or bank statements to prove you have the finances to stay in the U.S
- Ties to your home country such as family, job contract, lease, or property deed, which prove you will return
- Optional invitation letter from friends or family in the U.S
- Criminal records or letter from authorities stating that you do not have prior convictions
- If you have visited the U.S before, bring documents relevant to your prior visits
- If you are a student, bring your transcripts or diploma
- If you work, bring a letter from your employer and pay slips for the last three months
- If you are visiting family or friends, bring photocopies of your relative’s status in the U.S (permanent residence, valid visa, etc)
- If you are visiting for medical purposes, bring letters from doctors on your diagnosis and treatment
Attend the visa interview
On the date of your interview, a U.S Embassy official will ask questions about your background and why you want to go to the U.S. They will go through your documents to ensure that everything is in order. The interviews do not last long, but make sure to disclose all necessary information to avoid problems later on.
How Long is the B-2 Visa Processing Time?
Processing times for B-2 tourist visas and U.S visitor visas in general differ from country to country. It depends on the workload that the U.S Embassy where you applied has. Typically, your visa can be processed for a few weeks up to a few months. If you do not hear from the Embassy, be patient and wait for them to inform you on whether you got the visa or not.
How Long is the Tourist Visa Valid?
The B-2 visa is initially given for a period of 6 months by the U.S Embassy. You can use that time and travel throughout the U.S or for any other purpose. However, as soon as your visa expires, you must return to your home country. If you want to stay longer, you can get a B-2 visa extension for up to 1 year. Although extensions are available, remember that you are not allowed to work, so you must show that you can finance your extended stay.
Additionally, you are allowed to apply for a change of status, so for another visa during the time that you are in the U.S. If for example, you find a job during that time and your employer wants to sponsor you for an H-1B visa, you can file the documents for it. If your intention is to visit the U.S to find a job, you must state this during your visa interview. If you do not tell your interview, you must prove later on that the job opportunity came unexpectedly and that you were not actively looking for a job.
Can I Get a Green Card With a B-2 Visa?
The B-2 visa is a temporary US visa. To get the visa, you must prove that you will return to your home country after it expires. The visa does not allow you to look for a job or start studying, so you cannot stay in the U.S for more than the allowed time. Because of this, it is also very difficult to get permanent residence or a Green Card from a B-2 visa.
It can be done however in different ways. If you have family in the U.S, you can apply for the family Green Card. Additionally, if you marry with a U.S citizen, you will be allowed to stay permanently. Another way to get the Green Card is if you find employment during the time you are in the U.S with a B-2 visa, and your employer agrees to sponsor you. So you can change your status then to a work visa, such as the H-1B visa. From this, you can apply for the Green Card.
Can I Bring my Dependents on a Tourist Visa?
Since the B-2 visa is a temporary visa and does not allow you to work or enroll in any studies in the U.S, it also does not allow dependents. If you have a B-2 visa, you cannot bring your spouse or unmarried children under 21 years old to the U.S. For them to accompany you, they would have to get their own visa. This means that if you want to travel with your family to the U.S for tourism purposes, you would all need to get a B-2 visa.