What is a B-1/B-2 visa?
A B-1/B-2 visa is a type of non-immigrant visa issued by the United States for temporary visitors.
It’s often referred to as a “tourist visa” and is intended for people who want to travel to the U.S. for short periods for various purposes.
The B-1 visa is for business-related trips, while the B-2 visa is for tourism, leisure, and visits to family and friends.
In any given year, the U.S. admits more than 13 million people as tourists. Tourists are defined in the U.S. immigration law as persons coming to the United States for “pleasure.”
The critical criteria in qualifying for the B/1-B/2 visa is that the consular officer at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad must be convinced that the person coming to the United States will not engage in employment; is coming for a short period of time with a clear business, medical or tourism purpose; and will depart at the end of their visit.
Visitors coming under this visa must have a definite plan for their temporary trip and the ability to carry it out.
Here’s a breakdown of the two types:
- B-1 Visa: This visa is meant for individuals traveling to the U.S. for business-related purposes. This could include attending conferences, meetings, negotiating contracts, conducting market research, and other activities related to the business. It’s important to note that the B-1 visa doesn’t allow individuals to engage in employment or productive work in the U.S.
- B-2 Visa: The B-2 visa is designed for tourism, leisure, and personal visits. People with a B-2 visa can come to the U.S. for vacations, visiting relatives and friends, receiving medical treatment, participating in recreational or social events, and more. Like the B-1 visa, the B-2 visa also prohibits engaging in employment or productive work.
In some cases, individuals may apply for a B-1/B-2 combination visa, which allows for both business and tourism purposes.
Applicants for B-1/B-2 visas typically need to prove their intent to return to their home country after their temporary stay in the U.S.
This involves demonstrating strong ties to their home country, such as employment, family, property, and other connections that would motivate them to leave the U.S. when their authorized stay ends.
What’s the difference between a B-1 visa and a B-2 visa?
The main difference between a B-1 visa and a B-2 visa lies in the purpose of the visit and the activities that the visa holder is allowed to engage in while in the United States:
- B-1 Visa (Business Visitor Visa): The B-1 visa is designed for individuals traveling to the United States for business-related purposes. This may include attending business meetings, conferences, trade shows, negotiating contracts, consulting with business associates, or engaging in other legitimate business activities. However, the B-1 visa does not permit the visa holder to engage in actual employment or work for a U.S.-based company during their stay.
- B-2 Visa (Tourist Visitor Visa): The B-2 visa is intended for individuals who wish to visit the United States for tourism, pleasure, or personal reasons. This could include vacationing, sightseeing, visiting family or friends, participating in social events, or receiving medical treatment. The B-2 visa is not meant for work-related activities or for studying in the U.S. The primary purpose of a B-2 visa is for non-business and non-employment activities.
In some cases, individuals may apply for a B-1/B-2 combination visa, which allows for both business and tourism purposes.
This can be useful for individuals who need to engage in a mix of activities during their visit to the U.S.
It’s important to note that regardless of whether you hold a B-1, B-2, or B-1/B-2 visa, you are generally not allowed to engage in unauthorized employment, receive payment from U.S. sources, or enroll in a full-time academic program.
These visas are meant for temporary visits, and any activities that involve employment or study usually require different types of visas or authorization.
B-1/B-2 visa requirements
The requirements for obtaining a B-1/B-2 visa (also known as a tourist/business visa) to the United States can vary depending on individual circumstances and the policies in place at the time of application.
However, here are some common requirements and considerations:
- Application Form: You will need to complete the online non-immigrant visa application Form DS-160. This form collects your personal information and the purpose of your visit.
- Valid Passport: You must have a valid passport that will remain valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay in the United States.
- Purpose of Visit: You need to clearly state your purpose for visiting the U.S. and whether it falls under the B-1 (business) or B-2 (tourism) category, or a combination of both.
- Evidence of Ties to Home Country: You should demonstrate strong ties to your home country to establish your intention to return after your temporary stay in the U.S. This could include proof of employment, property ownership, family connections, or other significant commitments.
- Proof of Funds: You might be asked to provide evidence that you have sufficient financial resources to cover your expenses during your stay in the U.S., including accommodation, transportation, and other costs.
- Travel Itinerary: Present a detailed travel itinerary, including your intended dates of travel, places you plan to visit, and any bookings or reservations you have made.
- Invitation Letters or Documentation: Depending on the purpose of your visit, you might need to provide letters of invitation from U.S. contacts, conference organizers, or other relevant parties.
- Health Insurance: It’s recommended to have travel health insurance that covers medical expenses in case of illness or injury during your stay in the U.S.
- Visa Fee: Pay $185.00 non-refundable visa application fee, which is usually required for visa processing.
- Interview: In most cases, applicants between the ages of 14 and 79 are required to attend an in-person visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country.
Meeting the requirements does not guarantee that a visa will be issued; it’s up to the consular officer’s discretion to approve or deny the visa based on the information provided during the application process and the interview.
How to apply for B-1/B-2 visa
To apply for a B-1/B-2 visa, which is a combined tourist and business visa for the United States, follow these general steps.
Keep in mind that the specific requirements and procedures may vary depending on your country of residence and the U.S. embassy or consulate you are applying through.
Always refer to the official website of the U.S. embassy or consulate in your country for the most accurate and up-to-date information.
- Complete Form DS-160: Start by completing the online nonimmigrant visa application form DS-160. This form gathers information about your travel plans, purpose of visit, personal details, and other relevant information. Once completed, you’ll receive a confirmation page with a barcode that you’ll need for your interview.
- Pay the Visa Fee: Pay $185.00 non-refundable visa application fee, which is required for visa processing. The payment process and amount may vary depending on your country. Keep the payment receipt as you’ll need it for your visa interview.
- Create an Account: Create an account on the website of the U.S. embassy or consulate where you will apply for the visa. This account will be used to schedule your visa interview and track your application status.
- Schedule the Visa Interview: Log in to your account and schedule an appointment for your visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate. In most cases, applicants between the ages of 14 and 79 are required to attend an in-person interview.
- Gather Required Documents: Collect all necessary documents to support your visa application. This may include:
- Passport valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay.
- DS-160 confirmation page with barcode.
- Visa application fee payment receipt.
- Passport-sized photo adhering to U.S. visa photo requirements.
- Proof of ties to your home country (employment, property ownership, family relationships, etc.).
- Travel itinerary, including flights, accommodations, and planned activities.
- Financial documentation to demonstrate your ability to cover your expenses during your stay.
- Invitation letters or documentation from U.S. contacts, if applicable.
- Any other documents that pertain to your travel purpose.
- Attend the Visa Interview: Attend your scheduled visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate. Be sure to arrive on time and bring all the required documents. During the interview, the consular officer will ask you questions about your travel plans and intentions in the U.S.
- Wait for Visa Processing: After the interview, your application will undergo processing. The processing time can vary, so be patient. You can track the status of your application through your account on the embassy or consulate’s website.
- Receive the Visa: If your visa application is approved, you’ll receive your passport with the visa stamp. Make sure to review the visa information for accuracy.
- Travel to the U.S.: Once you have your visa, you can travel to the United States during the visa’s validity period. Remember to carry all relevant documents with you when you travel, including your passport, visa, and supporting documents.
B-1/B-2 visa fees
The B-1/B-2 visa fees for the United States varied based on the applicant’s country of residence and reciprocity agreements between the U.S. and that country.
Visa fees can change over time, so it’s crucial to check the official U.S. Department of State Fees for Visa Services page for the most up-to-date fee information before applying.
In general, the B-1/B-2 visa application process involves two main fees:
- Visa Application Fee (MRV Fee): This is a non-refundable fee paid when submitting the DS-160 form online. The fee amount can vary depending on the country and the type of visa you are applying for. The payment is usually made through a payment portal on the U.S. embassy or consulate’s website.
- Visa Issuance Fee: In some cases, certain countries have agreements with the U.S. that require visa applicants to pay an additional issuance fee if the visa is approved. This fee is paid only if the visa is granted and is typically collected at the U.S. embassy or consulate during the visa interview.
Be cautious of any third-party websites or individuals claiming to process visas for a fee. The official visa application process is managed by the U.S. Department of State and its authorized channels.
How long does It take to get a B-1/B-2 Visa?
The processing time for obtaining a B-1/B-2 visa (tourist/business visa) for the United States can vary based on several factors, including the volume of visa applications, the time of year, the specific U.S. embassy or consulate you are applying through, and individual circumstances.
Here’s a general idea of what to expect:
- Visa Interview Appointment: The time it takes to secure a visa interview appointment can vary. Some embassies and consulates might have more available slots than others, and during peak travel seasons, appointment availability might be limited. It’s recommended to schedule your appointment well in advance to secure a convenient date. You can check the approximate waiting times for visa appointments and processing times can be found here.
- Interview Wait Time: After attending the visa interview, the processing time for a decision can also vary. In some cases, a decision is made immediately after the interview, while in others, additional administrative processing might be necessary. This processing time can range from a few days to several weeks.
- Administrative Processing: If your visa application requires additional administrative processing, it can significantly extend the processing time. This processing is often needed for more complex cases, security clearances, or situations where the consular officer requires more time to review the application.
- Visa Issuance and Delivery: If your visa application is approved, the time it takes to receive your passport with the visa stamp depends on the embassy or consulate’s procedures for returning passports. Some embassies offer courier services for passport delivery, while others might require you to collect it in person.
In general, it’s a good idea to apply for a B-1/B-2 visa well in advance of your intended travel dates to account for potential delays.
Always plan your travel and visa application timeline with some flexibility to accommodate any unexpected delays that might arise during the application process.
How long can I stay in the U.S. on a B-1/B-2 visa?
The duration of stay in the United States on a B-1/B-2 visa (tourist/business visa) is determined by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the port of entry when you arrive in the U.S.
The CBP officer will stamp your passport with an admission date and a “admitted until” date, which specifies the maximum duration you are allowed to stay in the U.S.
Typically, visitors on a B-1/B-2 visa are initially granted a stay of up to six months.
This period can be shorter than six months, depending on the CBP officer’s discretion and the purpose of your visit.
It’s important to note that the granted duration of stay is not a fixed period; it can vary based on individual circumstances and the information you provide to the CBP officer.
If you wish to extend your stay beyond the initially granted period, you can apply for an extension with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before your authorized stay expires.
However, extensions are not guaranteed, and you must demonstrate a valid reason for needing additional time in the U.S.
You should apply for an extension (Form I-539) well in advance of your current status expiration date.
It’s crucial to adhere to the authorized period of stay granted by the CBP officer and, if necessary, to apply for an extension if you need more time.
Overstaying your authorized period of stay can have serious consequences, including future difficulties with obtaining visas or entering the U.S.
Can I apply for a green card while I’m in the U.S. on a B-1/B-2 visa?
Some B-1/B-2 visa holders might be eligible to apply for a green card (permanent residency) while they visit the U.S. on a B-1/B-2 visa. However, we strongly recommend you to book a free consultation with an immigration attorney to discuss your case.
The B-1/B-2 visa is a non-immigrant visa, which means it’s intended for temporary visits and not for the purpose of seeking permanent residency.
Applying for a green card while on a B-1/B-2 visa can lead to complications and potential issues with your immigration status if filed incorrectly.
Here are some important points to consider:
- Immigrant Intent: When you apply for a B-1/B-2 visa, you are expected to demonstrate non-immigrant intent, which means you intend to return to your home country after your temporary stay in the U.S. If you apply for a green card while on a B-1/B-2 visa, it could raise concerns about your true intentions and potentially result in denial of both the green card application and the B-1/B-2 extension. Check our 90-Day Rule guide for more information.
- Adjustment of Status: If you enter the U.S. on a B-1/B-2 visa and subsequently decide to apply for a green card, you would need to adjust your status from non-immigrant to immigrant status. This process can be complex, and there are specific categories and pathways for obtaining green cards. Find more information about the Adjustment of Status before filing any applications in the U.S.
- 3/10-Year Bar: If you overstay the authorized period of your B-1/B-2 visa, you could trigger a 3-year or 10-year bar on re-entry to the U.S. This would complicate your efforts to obtain a green card.
If you are interested in pursuing permanent residency in the U.S., it’s recommended to explore the appropriate pathways for obtaining a green card, such as family-sponsored or employment-based categories, and to comply with the applicable U.S. immigration laws.
Each immigration category has specific requirements, processes, and eligibility criteria, so it’s important to consult with an immigration attorney to determine the best course of action for your situation.
Always ensure that you comply with U.S. immigration laws and regulations to avoid potential complications or negative consequences for your immigration status.