By Attorney Robert L. Reeves and Anthony J. Favero
The United States is one of the most popular nations in the world for tourists and is home to some of the world’s most famous cities and landmarks. From New York City to Los Angeles, the United States hosts over 51 million tourists each year. In addition, some of the world’s largest and most influential businesses are headquartered in the United States, making it a central location for business travel. For tourists and business-people visiting from overseas, the first step of their journey to the United States is procuring a visitor’s visa. However, for some individuals, obtaining a visitor’s visa can prove a complex and frustrating task.
Generally, a “visitor” visas are designed for individuals who seek to enter the United States temporarily for business, pleasure, or combination of both. Business visitors are given “B-1” visas, visitors for pleasure are given “B-2” visas, and those visiting for both business and pleasure are given hybrid “B-1/B-2” visas. Thus, if your travel is for a meeting with business associates, a specific business convention or conference, to settle an estate, or to negotiate a contract, then a “B-1” business visitor visa is appropriate for your trip. Conversely, if one is traveling for a vacation, to attend a wedding, to sightsee, or to receive medical treatment, a “B-2” visitor visa is appropriate.
All visitor visas are considered “non-immigrant” visas, meaning that they are valid only for a specific purpose and for a fixed length of time. Usually, a visitor visa entitles its holder to spend between six months in the United States with the possibility of a six month extension. In addition, many visitor visas allow multiple entries into the United States while others are limited to only one.
Beyond these limitations, individuals entering the United States with a B-2 visa are not permitted to work. Also, family members are not included on any visitor visa. Thus, each family member must apply for and receive his or her own visitor visa in order to enter the United States.
Individuals seeking to receive a visitor visa start by filing an application with a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. While the application can be filed at any U.S. consular office abroad, it is highly recommended that applicants file at the embassy closest to their residence.
Beyond filing an application, applicants must provide evidence of eligibility for a visitor visa. This means that an applicant must prove to the embassy that he or she will not stay in the United States beyond the time permitted, will not work in the United States, and has the full intention of returning to his or her home country. In addition, the applicant must prove he or she has the financial resources necessary to finance a round trip to and from the United States, including living expenses. The applicant must also present a valid passport.
After the visa application is filed, the applicant will be scheduled for an interview at their local embassy. At this interview, the applicant will be fingerprinted and questioned about the purpose of their trip, the amount of time they plan to stay in the United States, their familial or economic ties to their home country, and any familial or economic ties to the United States. The applicant may also be required to present original documents supporting his or her eligibility for a visitor visa. At the end of the interview, the consular officer will either approve or deny the application. If the application is approved, the applicant will receive his or her visitor visa and will be free to travel to the United States.
All in all, applying for a visitor visa used to be a relatively simple process. However, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the resulting changes in U.S. immigration policy have greatly increased scrutiny on all visa applicants. Consequently, attempting to secure a visitor visa without proper guidance can prove a difficult and frustrating experience. Thus, those individuals seeking to visit the United States either for business or for pleasure are well advised to consult our website for practical down to earth tips and advice on how to obtain this visa.
B-1/B-2 Visitor’s Visas is a featured topic of “The Immigration Experts”. Episodes are available for viewing on KSCI-18 Television in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Bernardino and KTSF-26 in the San Francisco Bay Area on Sundays at 4:30 PM. Episodes are also available for viewing on www.immigrationexperts.tv