B-2 Visa

What is the B-2 Visa?

The B-2 visa allows individuals from foreign countries to visit the United States for tourism; vacation; visiting friends or relatives; medical treatment; participation in social events or amateur contests; or enrollment in short recreational study courses.

Who is Eligible for the B-2 Visa?

In order to qualify for a B-2 visa, an applicant must prove:

  • That the purpose of their trip is to enter the United States temporarily for leisure;
  • That they plan to stay in the United States for a specific, limited period of time;
  • That they have funds to cover expenses while in the United States;
  • That they have a residence outside the United States as well as other binding ties that will ensure their departure from the United States at the end of their visit.

What Can I Do in the United States with the B-2 Visa?

The B-2 visa generally allows individuals to engage in leisure activities in the United States. Some qualifying activities under the B-2 visa include:

  • Tourism;
  • Vacation/Holiday;
  • Receiving medical treatment in the United States;
  • Visit with friends or family;
  • Performing as an amateur entertainer or athlete in a show or competition for which the visa holder receives no compensation;
  • Participating in a course of recreational or avocational study for which no academic credit will be achieved;
  • Participation in social events hosted by fraternal, social, or service organizations;
  • Participation by amateurs in musical, sports, or similar events or contests for no financial compensation.

What Am I Not Allowed to Do in the United States with the B-2 Visa?

The B-2 visa doe not permit travel to the United States for the purpose of engaging in certain activities, including:

  • Long-term employment by a U.S. employer;
  • Obtaining permanent residence in the United States;
  • Study;
  • Performing for pay or before a paying audience;
  • Arrival as a crewmember on a ship or aircraft;
  • Working as a member of the foreign press or information media, including print journalism, film, or radio.

For How Long is the B-2 Visa Valid?

The B-2 visa allows individuals to stay in the United States for no longer than 180 days (or 6 months).

Can B-2 Visa Holders Extend their Stay Past 180 Days?

B-2 visa holders may apply to extend their stay in the United States by filing Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Applications to extend stay must be filed at least 45 days before the currently authorized stay expires.

Generally, B-2 visa holders are permitted to stay in the United States for an initial period of stay of 1 to a maximum of 6 months. B-2 visa holders may extend their stay for up to an additional 6 months. The maximum amount of time a B-2 visa holder may stay in the U.S. after extending their stay is 1 year.

Individuals who stay in the United States longer than authorized on the Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record risk being barred from returning to the United States or may face deportation from the United States.

In order to qualify for a visa extension, a B-2 visa holder must:

  • Have been lawfully admitted into the United States under the B-2 visa;
  • Maintain a valid nonimmigrant visa status;
  • Have not committed any crimes that make them ineligible for a visa;
  • Have not violated the conditions of their admission by engaging in impermissible activities;
  • Have a valid passport that will remain valid for the duration of their stay

What is the process for obtaining a B-2 visa?

The application process for the B-2 visa involves several general steps. However, before beginning the B-2 visa application process, applicants should recognize that the application process may vary somewhat depending on the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the applicant’s country. Applicants should check with the Embassy or Consulate in their country for any specific requirements as they go through the steps outlined below:

Fill Out Form DS-160 Online

Generally, applicants for the B-2 visa must first fill out and submit Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application. While filling out Form DS-160 online, applicants must pay the application fee and upload a photo of themselves that meets the United States Department of State photo requirements. After the Form DS-160, applicants will need to print the application form confirmation page to bring to their interview.

Schedule and Attend the Consulate Interview

After completing Form DS-160, applicants should schedule an appointment for a visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the applicant’s country. Interviews are generally not required for applicants under the age of 14 and over the age of 80.

At the interview, the applicant will meet with a U.S. Embassy or Consulate officer to answer questions to determine eligibility for the B-2 visa. Additionally, applicants may have biometric screening done, which includes ink-free, digital fingerprint scans.

The visa applicant must bring the following documentation to the interview:

  • Valid passport for travel;
  • Form DS-160 confirmation page;
  • Application fee payment receipt;
  • Photo that meets the photo requirements;
  • Documentation proving the purpose of the applicant’s trip to the United States;
  • Documentation proving the applicant’s intent to depart the United States after his or her trip, such as proof of family ties, temporary job contract, or a deed to property the applicant owns in his or her home country;
  • Documentation proving the applicant’s ability to pay all costs of his or her trip to the United States, such as financial or bank statements.

Individuals who are applying for a B-2 visa in order to receive medical treatment in the United States may be required to provide additional documentation at their visa interview, including:

  • Documentation of the applicant’s medical diagnosis from a local physician that explains the nature of the applicant’s ailment and the reason the applicant needs treatment in the United States;
  • A letter from a physician or medical facility in the United States that states they are willing to treat the applicant’s specific ailment and details the anticipated length of time and the cost of treatment, including doctors’ fees, hospitalization fees, and all medical-related expenses;
  • Proof that the applicant will be able to pay for transportation, medical, and living expenses in the United States, such as income or savings statements from the applicant’s bank or certified copies of the applicant’s income tax returns or any third person or organization paying for the applicant’s treatment. ​​

After the interview, the visa application may be immediately approved or it may need further administrative processing. If the visa is approved, the applicant may have to pay a visa issuance fee.

Entering the United States

Once the visa is issued, the applicant will be subject to additional screening at the United States port of entry. Customs and Border Protection officials at the port of entry have the authority to permit or deny admission to the United States. An applicant should have all documentation ready to present to officials upon arriving in the United States.

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

  • The fee for Form DS-160 is $160
  • Any biometrics fee is $85
  • Additional costs may be involved when gathering all required documentation and for individuals seeking medical treatment in the United States.

Sweta Khandelwal

Sweta completed her Masters in Law from the University of California, Los Angeles and her JD from the Faculty of Law, Delhi University in India and has been practicing law for 15+ years getting visas, green cards, and citizenship for 1000+ clients, 100+ companies across 50+ nationalities.

Sweta has been recognized as a ” Super Lawyer, Rising Star,” and as amongst the ” Top 40 under 40″ immigration attorneys in California (American Society of Legal Advocates). She is also the recipient of the Advocacy Award by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Sweta is also a chartered accountant — the equivalent of a CPA. This makes her uniquely positioned to understand the immigration needs of her business clients in the broader context of their corporate objectives.

Sweta is actively involved with immigration issues and immigrant communities in various capacities. She has assumed key roles at the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), both at the local and national level. She has been a past chair at the Santa Clara Valley Chapter at AILA and has also been involved in various practice area committees at AILA National. Sweta has addressed multiple conferences/forums in the United States and worldwide on immigration and business issues.