By Dev B. Viswanath, Esq.
A B-2 visa is a temporary non-immigrant visitor visa for pleasure or personal needs. If you are the beneficiary of being from a Visa Waiver Country (ESTA), then this visa may not be necessary but for longer trips or for non-visa waiver countries, this visa category can be helpful. This visa is for individuals who are coming to the U.S. for tourism purposes. Some qualifying tourism purposes include:
- Visiting family and friends;
- Enrolling in a short recreational course of study such as a two-day cooking class;
- Participating in a musical, sports, or similar event if not being paid for participation;
- Medical treatment; or
Travel activities not allowed to take part in on a B-2 visa:
- Employment, whether paid or unpaid;
- Receive education which credits to a degree or diploma;
- Arrive in the U.S. as a part of a crew of a ship or an aircraft;
- Work as a journalist, foreign press, or other information media;
- Perform before a paying audience;
- Manage a business located in the U.S; or
- Permanent residence in the U.S.
Am I Eligible for a B-2 Visa? In order to be eligible for a B-2 visa an individual must meet the following criteria:
- The visit must be for a legitimate visitor purpose;
- The trip must be for a specific limited period of time;
- You must be able to financially fund the trip and stay on your own;
- You can show proof that you have a residence outside of the U.S. and you have an intention of returning at the end of the visit; and
- You don’t have any other restrictions that would not allow you to be admitted into the U.S. such as an arrest or previous visa violation.
The steps of the application process for a B-2 visa vary depending on the U.S. Embassy or Consulate you apply at. It is recommended that applicants NOT make firm travel plans to visit the US until they have their B-2 Visitor Visa in hand after interview and approval. Given the Covid-19 pandemic coupled with the President’s Proclamations for many countries, visa appointments and consular communication is much slower than normal processing and applicants should keep that in mind.
Under a B-2 visa an individual may stay in the U.S. from one to six months, six months being the maximum. After the initial period of stay ends, an extension may be granted for up to an additional six months. The maximum total amount of time permitted in B-2 status on a single trip is one year, with limited exceptions. Any dependents of B-2 nonimmigrants, spouse and children under the age of 21, are not allowed to obtain a dependent visa. Each dependent who will join the B-2 visa holder to the U.S. must apply separately for their own B-2 visa.
This is the appropriate visa for most short term visitors to the United States for pleasure and it is a convenient way to come quickly to the US. For more information to see whether the B-2 visitor visa is right for you or your family or friends, you should contact an experienced immigration attorney with consular experience.