B-Visas are the most common nonimmigrant visas issued every year. As a nonimmigrant visa, B-Visas grant foreign nationals permission to travel to the United States for a temporary period for a certain limited purpose. B-Visas fall into two categories: B-1 Business Visitor Visas, and B-2 Pleasure Visitors Visas.
Do You Need to Get a B-1 or B-2 Visa in the First Place?
Normally, a nonimmigrant must obtain a B-1 or B-2 Visa before traveling to the United States for business or pleasure. However, if you are a citizen of Canada or Bermuda, Mexico, or a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), you may be able to travel to the United States without first obtaining a B-1 or B-2 visa.
Canada & Bermuda
If you are a citizen of Canada or Bermuda, you only need to present your passport at a U.S. port of entry and do not need to obtain a B-1 or B-2 visa in advance. Upon reaching the boarder, citizens of these countries may be granted admission pursuant to a B-1 or B-2 Visa for up to one year.
For Mexican citizens, you neither need a visa nor a passport so long as you satisfy the following three criteria:
2.) You are entering the United States from a contiguous territory by land or sea; and
3.) You are applying for entry under B-1 or B-2 status.
If you do not meet these three criteria, you must present your passport upon arrival at a United States port of entry.
If you are the citizen of a country that participates in the VWP and seek to enter the United States for a purpose that is consistent with those listed below for B-1 and B-2 Visas and for 90 days or less, you must only present your passport upon arrival at a United States port of entry. At that time, a Customs and Border Patrol Officer will determine whether you may be admitted. Countries that participate in the VWP are: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea (South Korea), Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg. Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom.
However, citizens of these countries should note that they still must apply for entry under the Electronic System for Traveler Authentication (ESTA). This system came into existence thanks to the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, which mandated the Department of Homeland Security create and implement an electronic system that heightened the security surrounding the VWP. Now, if you are a citizen of a VWP country, you must apply with ESTA and pay a small fee to make sure that you are eligible to use the VWP.
For more information on VWP and ESTA, please visit the United States Department of State’s website; and/or the United States Department of Homeland Security – Customs and Border Patrol’s website.
B-1 Business Visitor Visas:
In order to obtain a B-1 Business Visitor, a foreign national must establish that: 1) she has no intention of abandoning her residence abroad; and 2) she is visiting the United States temporarily for business.
As previously mentioned, nonimmigrant visas constrain their holders’ actions fairly strictly, and B-1 Visas are no different. B-1 Visa holders are quite limited in the activities in which they are permitted to engage. B-1 visa holders can only engage in productive employment on behalf of their foreign employer. In other words, a B-1 Visa holder may not be employed directly by a U.S. employer or on an independent basis. Furthermore, the work a B-1 Visa holder conducts on behalf of her foreign employer should concern international commerce and/or trade.
When determining whether to issue a B-1 Visa to a foreign national, the U.S. Consulate will consider the following questions:
2.) Is the work product is predominantly created in the US?
3.) Would the foreign national’s work be controlled mainly by a US company?
If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” it is likely that the B-1 Visa will be denied.
B-2 Pleasure Visitors
Approximately 15 million nonimmigrants are admitted to the United States every year under B-2 Pleasure Visitors Visas. This figure constitutes more than ¾ of all nonimmigrants admitted to the United States annually. Although B-2 Visas are most commonly associated with tourism, they also cover the visits of relatives and friends, as well as health-related visits and participation in incidental or short courses of study in amateur arts and entertainment events. In addition, prospective students can also obtain a B-2 visa to visit prospective schools.
Depending on the applicant’s national origin, her age and marital status, and her ties to the US and her home country, the application process can be either quick and painless or excruciatingly drawn-out. Generally, B-2 Visas permit a foreign national to stay for six months, but the B-2 Visa holder may apply to extend that period for another six months.
As is the case with other nonimmigrant visas, a foreign national must establish nonimmigrant intent in order to receive a B-2 Pleasure Visitors Visa. Specific to this visa, a foreign national will have to demonstrate the following:
2.) She will not be working and will only be participating in legitimate activities relating to pleasure; and
3.) She has no intention of abandoning her home abroad and will maintain that home during her stay in the United States.
Foreign nationals seeking a B-2 Pleasure Visitors Visa must apply for that visa at a U.S. Consulate abroad. Usually, the foreign national will apply in person at the closest consular post in her home country; however, the consular posts in some countries also permit nationals of other nations to apply. Also, depending on the consular post, an applicant may be able to apply for a B-2 Visa by mail, drop box, or through a travel agent.
In terms of the foreign national’s finances, she should possess the following:
– Evidence of sufficient funds to cover the duration and purpose of the trip.
A lack of evidence that the foreign national personally has sufficient funds to cover her trip will not necessarily lead to a rejected application. If she appears only marginally able to pay for her trip, she should also provide U.S. CIS an affidavit of support on U.S. CIS Form I-134 from the person who the alien is visiting in the United States.
Regardless of whether a foreign national receives a B-1 or B-2 Visa, her visa will generally have a stamp that permits her multiple reentries over the course of ten years Most often. the stamp will often say “B-1/B-2,” indicating the person can use the visa to enter to conduct activities falling under either classification. The right to reenter the United States SHOULD NOT be confused with the right to remain indefinitely throughout the duration of the visa’s validity. Like other Visas, the B-1 or B-2 Visa follows the United States’ “two ticket system.” The first ticket, the visa itself, merely permits its holder to travel to a United States port of entry in order to seek admission. Upon arrival and admission, the Customs and Border Control will issue the visa holder its second ticket in the form of an I-94. This small white card describes the terms of the visitor’s presence in the United States, including any temporal or behavioral limits placed on the visitor. So, in effect, the 10-year duration of the B-1 or B-2 Visa permits its holder to repeatedly seek admission to the United States over that period of time. However, the Customs and Border Patrol will decide not only how long the Visa holder is permitted to stay on each visit, but also whether the holder will be admitted when she seeks admission.