Visitor Visas USA, Tourist Visa USA

What is a B1/B2 tourist visitor visa?

The B visa category is designed for those who wish to visit the US temporarily. The purpose of the visit determines which B visa is correct for you:

B1 visa: a business-related trip to the US where the visit is for a limited time or specific duration. The visitor must demonstrate intent to return and demonstrate the ability to cover one’s expenses during the visit. If your intended length of stay is less than 90 days, you likely don’t need to apply for a formal visa to go in your passport.

Please be careful! For immigration purposes, “business” visas has a very limited definition.

What you can do on a B1 visa:

  • Tryout for a team or participate in a training camp
  • Make investments or purchases
  • Conduct negotiations
  • Cultivate sales or investment connections
  • Discuss planned investment or purchases
  • Attend and participate in conferences, seminar, or meetings
  • Interview and hire staff for foreign company
  • Conduct independent research on a project that does not benefit a US institution

What you cannot do on a B1 visa:

  • Operate a business
  • Compete as a professional athlete or perform as an entertainer
  • Become employed or work as a member of foreign information media
  • Receive payment from a business or organization within the US
  • Study for credit

B2 visa: The B2 visa is tourist visa for the USA; specifically those who come to the US for a limited time on holiday, to visit family, or for pleasure. You are allowed to travel anywhere within the US during your stay! Have fun and enjoy all that the US can offer you.

But my visa says it’s valid for 10 years.

The length of your permission to enter the US is determined by Customs & Border Patrol (CBP). When you enter the US and go through Customs, your passport is stamped and a time period is handwritten in or around that stamp. If you have a formal visa in your passport, the timeframe written in your passport is what is important,not the expiration date of the visa document itself. The visa itself is generally issued for a 10 year period; your stay is not allowed for up to 10 years. The 10 years simply means is you don’t have to apply for a paper visa to go into your passport for 10 years. But, don’t worry too much: CBP typically gives you 90 days, depending on your country of origin. If you need to extend your stay, then you need to request permission to stay in the US longer.

Visa Waiver Program Countries

Citizens of certain countries may be eligible to travel to the US (or any of its territories such as Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, or Guam) for less than 90 days without having to go through the B visa application process . You may qualify for the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). This is a Department of State program which makes traveling to the United States smoother and less stressful. To qualify for the VWP, you must:

  • be a citizen of a participating VWP country
  • be eligible for a US visa
  • have the correct type of passport (machine readable or has an integrated electronic chip, called an e-Passport)
  • have a valid Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)[CMS3] prior to boarding a plane or ship headed for the US
  • travel on an approved carrier

VWP status is granted solely at the discretion of the United States government.  Thirty-eight (38) countries currently participate in the VWP.

What is ESTA?  Do I need it?

Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is a program run by CBP which gathers your biographical information and eligibility to participate in the VWP when entering the US by plane or ship on an approved carrier. (Don’t focus too much on the approved carrier; most major airlines and passenger ship companies qualify.  If you are traveling on an off-branded carrier, then review this Visa Waiver Program Carriers list.)

ESTA does not make a determination on your admissibility to the United States. Only a CBP officer can do that at the time you present yourself through Customs. ESTA is not an alternative to nor a replacement for a visa.

You do not need ESTA if:

  • You are a Canadian citizen traveling on a Canadian passport or if you are crossing the border by land.  If you are traveling by plane or ship,   you need ESTA.
  • You are a Lawful Permanent Resident of the US (in other words, you have a “green card”) and a citizen of a VWP country.
  • You are a Canadian or Mexican citizen coming by land.
  • You are a US citizen with dual citizenship with a VWP country but you must travel to the US on your US passport.

The Electronic System for Travel Application process is online, quick and easy to complete. It only costs $14.00 so there’s no reason not to do it yourself.  If someone else does it for you, you may be billed extra for that service.

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