B-2 / WB Visas
Generally, a citizen of a foreign country who wishes to enter the United States must first obtain a visa, either a nonimmigrant visa for a temporary stay or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. The visa allows a foreign citizen to travel to a U.S. port of entry and request permission of the U.S. immigration inspector to enter the United States. Nonimmigrant visas ("NIVs") are issued to individuals who intend to remain in the United States temporarily. NIVs are designated by letters of the alphabet. The type of visa a foreign national is issued depends principally upon the nature of the foreign national's proposed activities in the United States, the duration of those activities, and in some instances, his or her nationality. It is often easiest to understand NIVs and their limitations, criteria, and characteristics by distinguishing them in terms of the principal activity authorized by the visa: (a) employment-based NIVs; (b) NIVs for students and exchange visitors; (c) NIVs for business visitors and tourists; and (d) other NIV categories including diplomats, international civil servants, and family relatives.
Temporary worker visas are for persons who want to enter the United States for employment lasting a fixed period of time and are not considered permanent or indefinite. Most of these visas requires the prospective employer to first file a petition with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS"). An approved petition is required to apply for a work visa.
A "visitor" visa is a nonimmigrant visa and generally is used to enter the United States temporarily for business (B-1), for pleasure or medical treatment (B-2), or a combination of these purposes (B-1/B-2).
Pleasure, Tourism, Medical Treatment - Visitor Visas (B-2)
If the purpose of the planned travel is recreational in nature, including tourism, visiting friends or relatives, rest, or is related to medical treatment, activities of a fraternal, social, or service nature, or participation by amateurs who will receive no remuneration in musical, sports, and similar events or contests, then a visitor visa (B-2) would be the appropriate type of visa for the travel. Persons planning to travel to the United States for a different purpose including students, temporary workers, crew members, or journalists, must apply for a different category of visa.
Visa Waiver Program
Travelers coming to the United States for tourism or business (B-1 or B-2 category visa) purposes for 90 days or less from qualified countries may be eligible to travel without a visa if they meet the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) requirements. Currently, 38 countries participate in the VWP. The VWP enables most citizens or nationals of participating countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. Travelers must have a valid Electronic System for Travel Authorization ("ESTA") approval prior to travel and meet all other requirements. If you prefer to have a visa in your passport, you may still apply for a visitor (B) visa.
Qualifying for a Visitor Visa
There are specific requirements which must be met by applicants to qualify for a visitor visa under U.S. immigration law. The consular officer at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate will determine whether you qualify for the visa. The required presumption under U.S. law is that every visitor visa applicant is an intending immigrant until they demonstrate otherwise. Therefore, applicants for visitor visas must overcome this presumption by demonstrating: (a) that the purpose of their trip is to enter the United States temporarily for business or pleasure; (b) that they plan to remain for a specific, limited period; (c) evidence of funds to cover expenses in the United States; and (d) that they have a residence outside the United States as well as other binding ties that will ensure their departure from the United States at the end of the visit.
Applying for a Visitor Visa
Applicants for visitor visas should generally apply at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country where they live. It is important to apply for a visa well in advance of the travel departure date.
Completing Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, is the first step in the visa application process. After you have submitted Form DS-160, print the confirmation page and bring it to your interview. Next, pay the non-refundable visa application fee, if you are required to pay it before your interview. Then, make an appointment for an interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you pay to apply for your visa. You can learn how to schedule an appointment for an interview, pay the application processing fee, review embassy-specific instructions, and much more by visiting the website of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will be applying. The wait time for an interview appointment for applicants can vary, so early application is strongly encouraged. During the visa application process, an ink-free, digital fingerprint scan will be taken. Some visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the visa applicant's interview by a Consular Officer.
No assurances regarding the issuance of visas can be given in advance. Therefore final travel plans or the purchase of non-refundable tickets should not be made until a visa has been issued.
Unless canceled or revoked, a visa is valid until its expiration date. If your passport expires, you may use the valid visa for travel and admission to the United States along with your new valid passport containing the same biographic data. Do not remove the visa page; instead carry both passports together.
If the consular officer finds it necessary to deny the issuance of a visitor visa, the applicant may apply again if there is new evidence to overcome the basis for the refusal.
More detailed, case-specific advice is available from Matthews Immigration Group by scheduling a consultation.