B Visa Overview

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The B visa category applies to citizens of foreign countries who wish to visit the United States for a temporary period.  There are two types of B visas: B-1 (for business) and B-2 (for pleasure or medical treatment).  A B-1 visa would be issued for an individual desiring to enter the U.S. to consult with business associates; attend a scientific, educational, professional or business convention or conference; settle an estate; or negotiate a contract.  A B-2 visa would be issued for an individual wishing to enter the U.S. for touring, amusement, visits with friends or relatives, rest, medical treatment, and activities of a social or service nature.

Foreign travelers who are citizens from certain eligible countries may also be able to visit the U.S. without a visa for tourism or business for 90 days or less on the Visa Waiver Program.  (See Visa Waiver Program below.)

A. Duration of Stay

A business visitor (B-1) will be granted a period of entry sufficient to conduct his or her business.  Generally, these visits are approved for less than three months.  

A non-business visitor (B-2) will automatically be granted a six-month period of entry.  Only in unusual circumstances will a B-2 visa holder be granted a period of entry that is shorter or longer than six months.  

It should be noted that it is possible to obtain a period of admission of one year on initial entry to the U.S.  Additionally, extensions of up to six months may be granted.

B.    Application Process

In order to obtain a B visa, you need only apply with the U.S. consulate; an application to the Immigration Service is not required.

C.  Items for Travel

It is useful, in order to assure entry at the border, for the B-1 visa holder to carry a letter from his or her company, similar to the letter supporting the visa application that affirms:

 • The purpose of the trip.

• The limited duration of the trip.

• The visa holder's steady employment with the company and strong ties with his or her home country.

 The individual applying for the tourist visa should carry a letter of invitation, together with such other pieces of documentation as hotel reservations or evidence of other travel arrangements.

 The B-1 and B-2 visa holder should also bring with him or her:

• Copies of the documentation that accompanied the visa application.

•The return portion of his or her round-trip ticket and evidence of prepaid accommodations or confirmed hotel reservations.

• Sufficient funds to cover the period of stay requested by him or her.

D.    Special Conditions

It should be noted that an alien entering the U.S. with a B visa must not engage in gainful employment (labor for hire) in the U.S.  Additionally, the undertaking of an academic study program is not permitted (with a few limited exceptions).

E.   Basic Requirements for Obtaining B-1/B-2 Status

There are five basic requirements for issuance of a B visa, as specified by The State Department:

1.    The alien is entering the U.S. for a limited duration.

2.    The alien intends to depart the U.S. at the expiration of his or her stay.

3.    While in the U.S., the alien maintains a foreign residence which he or she has no intention of abandoning.

4.    The alien has adequate financial arrangements to travel to, sojourn in, and depart from the U.S.

5.    The alien will engage solely in legitimate activities relating to business or pleasure.

F.   Additional Information

No assurances regarding the issuance of visas can be given in advance. Therefore, final travel plans or the purchase of non-refundable tickets should not be made until a visa has been issued.

Unless previously canceled, a visa is valid until its expiration date. Therefore, if the traveler has a valid U.S. visa in an expired passport, do not remove the visa page from the expired passport. You may use it along with a new valid passport for travel and admission to the United States.

Visitors are not permitted to accept employment during their stay in the U.S.

G.  Family Members

There is no derivative status for B visas, which is why family members must qualify independently for a B visa.

H.  The Visa Waiver Program

Nationals of several countries do not need to obtain B visas for business or tourist visits to the United States for a period of up to 90 days, as long as certain conditions are met. Here is the list of countries whose nationals are eligible for the Visa Waiver program, according to the Department of State website:

 Currently, 36 countries participate in the Visa Waiver Program, as shown below:

Andorra

Hungary

New Zealand

Australia

Iceland

Norway

Austria

Ireland

Portugal

Belgium

Italy

San Marino

Brunei

Japan

Singapore

Czech Republic

Latvia

Slovakia

Denmark

Liechtenstein

Slovenia

Estonia

Lithuania

South Korea

Finland

Luxembourg

Spain

France

Malta

Sweden

Germany

Monaco

Switzerland

Greece

the Netherlands

United Kingdom

For more information, click here.

Nonimmigrant Visas: 

Comments

I have a B1/B2 US visa and applied for the California CPA board exam. I'm planning on flying to the US this year to take the exam. Will I be allowed to enter with my B1/B2 visa?

Taking an exam should be permitted on a B-1/B-2, but the call on entry is always at the discretion of the CBP officer at the airport, Jia.

Note: Not intended to create attorney-client relationship.  Answers could be incomplete, incorrect or outdated.  Use caution.

Hi there,
Thanks a lot for this great generous information. I'm a US citizen and planning to invite my Mother ( 60 years), my sister (37 ys) and her son 9 years old. My wife is pregnant and due in September and I want my Mother to be here in October to see the baby. I have my US citizen mother in law as well. I hear visitor visas are normally denied in case of pregnancy. Also, do i sponsor my Mother's visa? or My brother who is in Egypt and owns an international company based in Egypt, Dubai and china? since my mother doesn't have a bank account. My sister has her own bank account. the embassy in Cairo mentions that it is not possible to sponsor because I'm a third party for my parents.

Momen, join our free community conference call day after tomorrow (Thursday 1230 PM EST). I will try to guide.

Note: Not intended to create attorney-client relationship.  Answers could be incomplete, incorrect or outdated.  Use caution.