US B visas for Foreigners
If you are planning to visit the United States on a temporary or permanent basis for business or as a tourist, it is important to check which visa you need before you travel. If you are from one of the 38 countries in the US visa waiver scheme, you can travel to the US for business or tourism for up to 90 days. If not, you will need to apply for a US B visa. Under the US B category of visas, there are two variants; one for business and one for tourists. In this article, we will take a look at who needs to apply for a US B-1 or B-2 visa, the activities they allow, and how to apply.
What Is A US B visa?
US B visas are for foreign nationals who wish to visit the US on a temporary basis for business (visa category B-1), for tourism (visa category B-2), or for a combination of both (B-1/B-2).
US B-1 visas
US B-1 visas are specifically intended for business people who wish to travel to the US for a short period, for reasons such as:
- Selling – this may include taking part in an exhibition, setting up an exhibition booth, taking display samples, signing contracts, and taking orders
- Consulting with business associates
- Attending a scientific, educational, professional, or business convention or conference
- Settling an estate
- Negotiating a contract
- Dealing with litigation
- Installing, servicing, or repairing commercial or industrial equipment or machinery sold by a company in your home country
- Guest speaking/lecturing
- Taking up an “elective clerkship” at a medical school
- Voluntary work
A B-1 visa differs from a work visa in that holders are typically not allowed to undertake gainful employment or productive activity such as running a business or undertaking consultancy work.
US B-2 visas
US B-2 visas are for tourists who wish to travel to the US for the purposes of:
- Visit with friends or relatives
- Medical treatment
- Participation in social events hosted by fraternal, social, or service organizations
- Participation by amateurs in musical, sports, or similar events or contests, if not being paid for
- Enrolment in a short recreational course of study, not for credit toward a degree
How Can I Apply For A US B Visa?
Before travelling to the US, you will need to complete a number of steps in order to secure your travel visa. You will need to show your valid travel visa at the US border in order to be permitted entry. Nonimmigrant visas are typically processed at your local embassy or consulate. The application steps are as follows:
Step 1: Complete the online Nonimmigrant Visa Application - Form DS-160. This will involve answering the questions on the online form and then printing the form in readiness for an interview. You will need to upload a digital photo that meets the state department’s requirements. The DS-160 form will need to be completed for every person travelling to the US, no matter their age.
Step 2: Pay the application fee (referred to as the Machine Readable Visa (MRV) fee). To do this, you will need to visit the website for your respective country.
Step 3: Book your interview. Interviews are not always required (you will be advised if you will need to book one). The guidance advises that those 13 and under and those over 80 will not require an interview; those between 14 and 79 typically will be invited to attend an interview. You will need to book your interview with your local embassy or consulate. The amount of time you will need to wait for an interview will vary by location, season, and the visa category you are applying for.
Step 3: Provide the required documentation. You will need to collate your supporting documentation in readiness for your interview; this includes the following:
- Passport valid for travel to the United States – Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your period of stay in the United States (unless exempt by country-specific agreements). Each individual who needs a visa must submit a separate application, including any family members listed in your passport.
- Form DS-160 confirmation page.
- Application fee payment receipt if you are required to pay before your interview.
- Photo – You will be asked to upload your photo while completing the online Form DS-160.
You may also need to bring with you evidence of your reason for travelling to the US, your intention to leave the US once finished, and that you can pay for all aspects of your visit to the US.
Step 4: Attend your interview. The aim of your interview with a US embassy or consulate official is to verify that you are eligible for a US B visa. As part of the interview process, you will have your fingerprints scanned. Depending on how the interview goes, you will either be approved for a US B visa, or it may be referred for further administrative processing. The latter may happen, for example, if further documents or information is needed before a final decision can be made
If your visa is approved, you will need to pay a fee to have your visa issued and arrange to have your passport returned to you (with your new visa).
Step 5: Travel to the US with your new visa. Depending on what happens during your time in the US, you may be able to further extend your visa or apply for a change of status. You will need to change the status of your visa, for example, if you secure employment in the US or if you get married.
The process of securing a visitor visa for business or tourism is reasonably straightforward, but the interview process can seem onerous to some applicants. If you need any assistance with your US B visa, consider speaking to an immigration solicitors in the US who are well versed in the process and can manage the process for you, allowing you to focus on your holiday or business trip planning. We wish you all the best with your forthcoming trip to the US.