Visa Stamp USAThe B nonimmigrant tourist visa covers foreign visitors for business (B-1) and pleasure (B-2). Most foreigners who travel into the United States each year enter as nonimmigrant visitors in the B visa category. Commonly, stays in the United States in this category are short, with permitted activities such as:

  • Sightseeing
  • Family visits
  • Healthcare
  • Litigation, meetings with attorneys, court trials
  • Limited business activities for an overseas employer

The trips are temporary and cannot involve employment in the United States or the undertaking of an academic study program – until approved by the U.S. Immigration Service.

General Requirements

The U.S. State Department has specific requirements for issuance of a Tourist Visa to a foreign national:

  •  The visitor is entering the U.S. for a limited duration.
  • The visitor intends to depart the U.S. at the expiration of his or her stay.
  • While in the U.S., the visitor maintains a foreign residence which he or she has no intention of abandoning.
  • The visitor has adequate financial arrangements to travel, stay and depart from the U.S.
  • The visitor will engage solely in legitimate activities relating to business or pleasure.
  • You must have a passport valid for at least 6 months after your planned departure from the United States (unless exempted by country-specific agreements). For families, each member of your family, including infants and children, must have his or her own passport. Other requirements by law also apply to the technology or features that must be in the passport.
  • Not be ineligible due to past commission of certain crimes, immigration violations, or other reasons as determined under U.S. law.

Before the foreign visitor can enter the U.S. in B-1 or B-2 status, he or she must obtain a visa from a U.S. consulate located outside the United States.

Further, whether a foreigner wishing to visit the United States needs a visa depends on what country they are from.  If you are a citizen of a country which is a part of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), then you may come without a visa for up to 90 days.  Before you can travel, you will need to answer an online application with the Department of Homeland Security, called ESTA.  Additionally, the requirements for whether you are eligible for using the VWP ESTA program is similar to the requirements for issuance and admission using a Tourist Visa. One critical difference from a regular tourist visa is that travelers requesting admission under the Visa Waiver Program are generally waiving their right to review or appeal a CBP officer’s decision as to their application for admission at the port of entry.

Currently, 37 countries participate in the Visa Waiver Program, as shown below:

Visa Waiver Program – Participating Countries

AndorraHungaryNew Zealand
AustraliaIcelandNorway
AustriaIrelandPortugal
BelgiumItalySan Marino
BruneiJapanSingapore
Czech RepublicLatviaSlovakia
DenmarkLiechtensteinSlovenia
EstoniaLithuaniaSouth Korea
FinlandLuxembourgSpain
FranceMaltaSweden
GermanyMonacoSwitzerland
Greecethe NetherlandsTaiwan
United Kingdom

New countries are sometimes added to this list, and beginning on March 31, 2014, citizens of Chile meeting the criteria of the Visa Waiver Program may travel to the United States for business or tourism, for up to 90 days, without a visa.

For more information about whether you are eligible for a B-1/B-2 Visa, the VWP ESTA program, please contact our firm before you seek admission into the United States, apply online, or visit a U.S. consular section in your home country.

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