Visas for Visitors – B-1, B-2, ESTA
What are the B-1 and B-2 visas
The B-1 and B-2 visas allow individuals to enter the United States temporarily for business, tourism, or a combination of both. Thus, both the B-1 and B-2 visas are nonimmigrant visas.
How are the B-1 and B-2 visas different?
While both the B-1 and B-2 visas allow individuals to come to the United States temporarily, they are different based on the purpose of the individual’s travel.
The B-1 visa allows individuals from foreign countries to visit the United States temporarily to consult with business associates; attend a scientific, education, professional, or business convention or conference; settle an estate; or negotiate a contract.
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 qualifies for a B-1 and B-2 visa?
Individuals may qualify for the B-1 or B-2 visa if they plan to come to the United States for 90 days or fewer for business or pleasure.
Generally, both the B-1 and B-2 visas are available for individuals who do not qualify for the Visa Waiver Program.
Individuals who apply for either the B-1 or B-2 visa must prove:
- That the purpose of their trip is to enter the United States temporarily for business or pleasure;
- 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.
There are numerous reasons an individual can come to the United States that would qualify him or her for a B-1 or B-2 visa.
Individuals may qualify for a B-1 visa if they are coming to the United States:
- To sell merchandise, sign contracts, take order, or take part in an exhibition;
- To service or repair commercial or industrial equipment or machinery sold by a company in the United Kingdom to a buyer in the United States;
- To speak at a qualified event for which the visa holder will receive no compensation other than expenses related to travelling to the United States;
- To survey potential sites for a business and/or to lease premises;
- To participate in a scientific, educational, professional, or business convention, conference, or seminar;
- To engage in independent research for which the visa holder will receive no compensation from a U.S. source and the results of the research will not benefit a U.S. institution;
- To take an elective clerkship as a medical student at a U.S. medical school’s hospital for no compensation from the hospital;
- To participate in a voluntary religious or non-profit charitable service program that benefits a U.S. local community;
- To perform services on the Outer Continental Shelf.
Individuals may qualify for a B-2 visa if they are coming to the United States:
- To receive medical treatment in the United States;
- To perform as an amateur entertainer or athlete in a show or competition for which the visa holder receives no compensation;
- To participate in a course of recreational or avocational study for which no academic credit will be achieved.
What is the process for obtaining a B-1 or B-2 visa?
The process for obtaining a B-1 or B-2 visa may vary somewhat depending on the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the applicant’s country.
Fill Out Form DS-160
Generally, applicants for the B-1 or 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.
Attending the 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.
At the interview, the applicant will meet with a U.S. Embassy or Consulate officer and may have biometric scanning done. 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.
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;
- Documentation proving the applicant’s ability to pay all costs of his or her trip to the United States
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.
What activities are not permitted under a B-1 or B-2 visa?
Individuals visiting the United States on a B-1 or B-2 visa are not permitted to participate in study, employment, paid performances, work as foreign press in information media, permanently live in the United States, come into the United States for the purpose of giving birth, or arrive as a crewmember on a ship or aircraft.
What is the Visa Waiver Program and ESTA?
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) is a program administered by the United States Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State that permits citizens of 39 specific countries to travel to the United States for business or tourism for 90 day stays without a visa.
ESTA stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorization. Individuals from any of the 39 countries eligible for the VWP must apply for and receive an approved travel authorization via the ESTA.
Who qualifies for the Visa Waiver Program?
Individuals qualify for the VWP if they are a citizen or national of one of the 39 countries that qualify under the program. Some countries include Denmark, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, Chile, and Singapore.
Individuals from one of the 39 countries must:
- Be only intending to enter the United States for 90 days or less for business, pleasure, or transit;
- Have a valid passport issued by their country;
- Arrive on a VWP signatory carrier;
- Have a return or onward ticket;
- Not have their travel end in contiguous territory or adjacent islands unless the traveler is a resident of one of those areas;
- Meet certain security requirements;
- Be able to prove eligibility for VWP
What is the process for obtaining a visa waiver?
In order to obtain a visa waiver, applicants must apply through the ESTA online application portal.
When applying through the ESTA, applicants must provide:
- A valid email address;
- Home address and phone number;
- Emergency point of contact and email;
- Payment for the application fee;
- Any aliases or other names;
- Any national ID or personal ID;
- Any Global Entry ID number;
- Any employer’s address and phone number;
- Any United State’s point of contact name, address, and phone number.
Applicants must also have an e-passport that contains an embedded electronic chip in order to apply for the visa waiver.
How much does it cost to get a B-1 or B-2 visa?
- The fee for Form DS-160 is $160
- Any biometrics fee is $85
How much does the Visa Waiver Program cost?
- The application fee is $4.00
- An extra $10.00 is charged if the application is approved.