The B (visitor) visa category is available to those who wish to visit the U.S. temporarily for either business or pleasure. Business visitors are issued B-1 visas, and visitors for pleasure are issued B-2 visas. The form for this (and many other) non-immigrant visa applications is the DS-160, which must be completed online.
Those who wish to enter for different purposes (such as to study or to work) must apply for a different visa.
Acceptable B-1 business visitor activities include:
Acceptable B-2 pleasure visitor activities include:
Qualifying for a Visa
Applicants for visitor visas must be able to show that they qualify for the visa when they apply at a U.S. consulate. They must show that:
If satisfied with the applicant's eligibility, the consulate may issue the visa the same day, or instruct the applicant to return at some later date.
Visa Waiver Program
Travelers from certain eligible countries may also be able to visit the U.S. without a visa, through the Visa Waiver Program. Read more about how to participate in the Visa Waiver Program
Passing through a U.S. Port of Entry
It is important to remember that a visa does not guarantee entry into the U.S. Immigration inspectors at the port of entry can, and frequently do, deny admission.
Likewise, the validity dates on a visa do not have any effect on how long the visitor is allowed to remain in the U.S. Immigration inspectors determine the period for which the bearer of a visitor visa is authorized to remain in the U.S. The standard period granted is 6 months. However, in recent years, the government has gotten much stricter in limiting the period to 3 months or less if the purposes for the visit to not appear to require the full 6 months.
At the port of entry, the immigration inspector must authorize the visitor's admission to the U.S. At that time the Form I-94, Record of Arrival-Departure, which notes the length of stay permitted, is stamped.
Extending the Period of Authorized Stay
Frequently, visitors will want to extend their stay in the U.S. past the date stamped on their I-94.
The visitor may try to do this using USCIS Form I-539 ("Application to Extend or Change Status"). This Application should be supported by documentation that establishes that:
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