All foreign citizens not under the visa waiver program are required to obtain a visa to enter the United States. Those who travel for tourism or to see a family can apply for B-2 visas, and B-1 visas for those traveling for business reasons.
B-1 visas permit a visitor to:
- Consult with business associates
- Attend a scientific, educational, professional, or business convention or conference
- Settle an estate
- Negotiate a contract
The B-2 category, on the other hand, permits a visitor to:
- Take a vacation for tourism
- Visit friends or family members
- Obtain medical treatment
- Participate in social events hosted by fraternal, social, or service organizations
- Participate in musical, sports, or other similar events or contests, where they are not paid for participating
- Enroll in a short class that does not provide credit toward a degree
The B-1 and B-2 visas have limitations such as temporary stays, no employment or study allowed, and no intent for permanent residency, with the length of stay determined by the border officer.
Engaging in activities that are outside the scope of visiting may result in having a visa revoked and being barred from reentering the U.S. for a period of time. B-1 and B-2 visas can be issued separately, they are most commonly issued together, as B1-B2 combined visas.
Applicants older than 13 and younger than 80 are generally required to attend an in-person interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate.
The visas allow visitors to enter the United States for up to six months at a time, and are generally valid for 10 years. Those numbers may vary depending on the country. Visit the Department of State’s Visa Appointment Service website, USTravelDocs, for information specific to different countries.