B-1 and B-2 Visitor visas are non-immigrant visas for persons who want to enter the U.S. on a temporary basis for business (visa category B-1), tourism, pleasure or visiting (visa category B-2), or a combination of both (B-1 / B-2).
A business visa is a non-immigrant visa to the U.S., which is also known as a B-1 visa issued to those looking to conduct certain business activities on behalf of a foreign company.
Requirements of B-1 Visa Visitor
B-1 visa holders may not “work” or engage in paid employment for a U.S. entity nor freelance/independent contract work and must be able to prove that they are entering the U.S. on a temporary basis and will return to their residing country once their business activities in the U.S. are completed.
Individuals may however, engage in the following:
- Conduct Negotiations in relation to a contract;
- Consult with business associates;
- Solicit sales or investment;
- Discuss planned investment or purchases;
- Make investments or purchases;
- Attend Meetings, and participate in them fully;
- Interview and hire staff;
- Conduct research;
- Attend a scientific, educational, professional, or business convention or conference; and/or
- Settle an estate.
The B-2 Tourist Visa is a non-immigrant visa meant for persons entering the U.S. for pleasure or medical treatment. The B-2 visa is commonly referred to as a tourist visa.
Requirements of B-2 Visa Visitor
B-2 visas are issued to those looking to temporarily enter the U.S. for reasons other than business such as:
- Tending to a sick family member;
- Seeking medical treatment;
- Participation in social events or contests;
- Holiday or tourism;
- Participation by amateurs in musical, sports, or similar events or contests, if not being paid for their participation; and/or
- Enrollment in a short recreational course of study, not for credit toward a degree (ie: a two-day cooking class while on vacation).
The following activities require a working visa, and may not be carried out by business (B-2) visitors:
- Running a business.
- "Gainful employment"
- Payment by an organization within the U.S.
- Participating as a professional in entertainment or sporting events.
Period of Stay
It is possible to visit the U.S. for a period of 90 days without obtaining a visa if your resident country is part of the Visa Waiver Program (which is further outlined below), however, simply because you have been granted a U.S. visa in your passport, it does not automatically allow you to enter the U.S., it only gives you permission to apply to enter the United States. A visa simply indicates that your application has been reviewed by a consular officer at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate, and that the officer determined your eligibility to travel to a U.S. port-of-entry for a specific purpose. The port-of-entry can be an airport, a seaport or a land border crossing.
At the port-of-entry, a U.S. immigration officer of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) decides whether to allow you to enter and how long you can stay for any particular visit, as part of the Admission process. Only the U.S. immigration officer has the authority to permit you to enter the United States.
Those entering on visitor B-1 or B-2 visas will generally be granted 6 months’ admission (the maximum allowable is one year) on entry. It may be possible to obtain a six-month extension to the visit visa as long as the candidate will be maintaining visitor status, and there are good reasons to do so. It is sometimes possible to change status to another longer-term visa whilst in the U.S. as a visitor, as long as the candidate advised the relevant U.S. Embassy or Consulate of this possibility beforehand, or there was no pre-conceived intent to do so.
Visa Waiver Program
For those who come under the visa-waiver scheme, there is usually no need to apply for a visitor visa at all if the candidate wishes to visit the U.S. for three months or less.
As long as you are travelling on a participating airline (i.e. most scheduled airlines from participating countries), and hold a return or onward ticket to a country other than Canada, citizens of the following countries do not need a visa for visits to the U.S. of up to 90 days:
Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom.
Those present in the US under the visa waiver scheme are subject to basically the same conditions as those on a B1/B2 visa, except that it is not usually possible to extend the visa while in the U.S. or change to another visa.
Foreign nationals who do not qualify for the Visa Waiver Program must obtain a B-2 visa before visiting the U.S. for any reason whatsoever. Foreign nationals who do qualify for the Visa Waiver Program but wish to remain in the U.S. for longer than 90 days must obtain a B-2 visa.