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What is the B-1/B-2 visa?

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February 10, 2022

Key Takeaways

The B-1/B-2 visa is a temporary, non-immigrant visa that allows foreigners to travel to the United States for business or tourism purposes. If you're traveling to the United States for a business conference or trip, you'll need a B-1 visa. The B-2 visa, on the other hand, covers tourism, such as vacations or visits with family. This article is a deep dive into the B-1/B-2 visa, explaining the visa requirements, who can apply, how much it costs, and how to apply. The article also answers some commonly asked questions about the B-1/B-2 visa.


Table of Contents

What are the B-1/B-2 visa requirements?

The B-1/B-2 visa allows people to travel to the United States for many reasons, including business activities and tourism. 

These reasons for travel, among others, all qualify under a B-1 visa or B-2 visa: 

  • Conducting business, such as attending a meeting with business associates 
  • Attending a professional, educational, or business conference
  • Settling a family member’s estate 
  • Taking a vacation or participating in other tourist activities 
  • Visiting family members 
  • Receiving medical treatment 
  • Attending events such as concerts or classes where the attendee receives no payment or credit 

However, the U.S. Department of State determines that you would not qualify for a B-1 or B-2 visa for these reasons for travel: 

  • Study 
  • Long term employment by a U.S. company
  • Paid or professional performances before a paying audience
  • Arrival as a crew member on a ship or aircraft
  • Work for the foreign press, including radio, film, and print journalism
  • Permanent residence in the United States 

A B-1/B-2 visa does not provide you with a green card or permanent resident status. It is a temporary visa. However, if you qualify, you may apply for a green card while in B-1/B-2 status. 

The maximum period of stay allowed by your B-1/B-2 visa is 180 days. It may also allow for multiple entries into the United States. 

Who can apply for a B-1/B-2 visa?

To qualify for B-1/B-2 visa eligibility, you will have to prove your travel to the United States is temporary, and you can afford all the costs of your trip. Under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), you will also have to show you do not intend to remain in the United States after your stay. You will have to prove you will not abandon your residence outside of the United States. 

These are the required documents to apply: 

  • A passport valid for six months after the date of your return 
  • A recent digital photograph that meets the U.S. government’s photo requirements
  • Documentation of your past five previous trips to the United States, if applicable 
  • Proof of funds to cover your entire trip, including travel, living accommodations, and other incidental expenses 
  • Evidence of ties to your home country, including family, a job, and property 

There are other options available to citizens of certain countries. The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows nationals of certain countries to travel to the United States with a U.S. visa for tourism or business purposes or while in transit for up to 90 days. This program includes 38 countries and territories, including most countries in the European Union. For citizens of China traveling to the United States for business or pleasure, you can enroll in the Electronic Visa Update System (EVUS). 

How much does it cost to get a B-1/B-2 visa?

The filing fee for a B-1/B-2 visa application is $160. This amount does not include the cost of gathering required documents, evidence, and passport photos. You may also have to pay additional visa issuance fees, which vary depending on your home country. However, there are certain circumstances where you may not have to pay at all. For example, if you are working for the U.S. government or visiting for a charitable event, you may not have to pay a fee.

How to apply for a B-1/B-2 visa

To apply for a B-1/B-2 visa, you will need to submit your application to the U.S. embassy or U.S. consulate in your home country. You can undergo a visa interview in a third country, but your visa application process will take longer. 

You will follow this process: 

  1. Complete Form DS-160, “Online Non-Immigrant Application.” You will file the form online and print the confirmation page for your visa interview. 
  2. Upload the digital photo. 
  3. Pay the visa application fee. 
  4. Schedule and attend an interview with a consular officer at the U.S. consulate or U.S. embassy in your home country. You will need to provide a fee receipt at your interview and the confirmation page of your Form DS-160. 

You will also have to undergo digital, ink-free fingerprint scans. The consular officer may take these at the time of your interview. After your interview, they may decide your application requires additional information and processing. They will tell you if this is the case. 

What is the length of stay for a B-1/B-2 visa?

When you enter the United States at a port of entry, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer will authorize you to stay for up to six months. Your Form I-94, available online, will have the most information on how long you can stay in the country. You may wish to remain in the United States for longer on your trip. Temporary visa holders can extend their visas for up to one year through an application. 

Can you extend your B-1/B-2 visa?

If you want to extend your visa, you can extend your visa by filing Form I-539, "Application to Extend or Change Nonimmigrant Status." It would be best to extend your visa at least 45 days before your visa expires, so it is essential to think ahead. You can file this form by yourself.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

Here are some answers to commonly asked questions about the B-1/B-2 visa, including whether you can work as a visa recipient, whether Canadians need to apply for this visa, whether you should use ESTA or a B visa, and the process of renewal. 

Can you work on a B-1/B-2 visa?

No, you cannot work while in the United States on a B-1/B-2 visa. While you can enter the United States as a business visitor, such as for a business convention, you cannot work for a U.S. employer. If you want to work in the United States for a U.S. employer, you should look for another visa category, such as the H-1B visa

Do Canadians need a B-1/B-2 visa to visit the United States?

Canadian nationals typically do not need a visa to enter the United States unless they plan to work, stay, invest, or immigrate. Depending on your circumstances, your maximum length of stay could be between 6 months to 1 year. 

If you qualify, should you use ESTA or a B-1/B-2 visa?

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows residents of 38 countries to enter the United States through an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) instead of a B-1/B-2 visa. You can apply for an ESTA online and enter the United States for business or tourism purposes that way. 

However, you can only stay for up to 90 days. If you wish to stay longer in the United States, the B-1/B-2 visitor visa may be a better choice. 

What is the process to renew a B-1/B-2 visa?

To renew your B-1/B-2 visa, you will have to undergo the initial application process again. This means you will need to file a new Form DS-160, upload a photo, pay the fee, and attend your visa interview. However, it depends on the U.S. embassy or consulate where you submitted your visa application. You may be able to renew your visa without another interview.

Conclusion

Obtaining a B-1/B-2 visa can be complicated, but working with a good immigration attorney can make it easier. If you eventually want to become a permanent resident of the United States but can't afford the attorney fees and don't want to handle your green card case alone, we may be able to help. If you are eligible, our free web app will walk you through the process and help you prepare and file your application with the U.S. government. Click "Get Started" to see how we can help make your American dream come true!


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