This article is designed to clearly explain the B-2 visa, detailing the application process and the necessary requirements to obtain one. Grasping the nuances of this visa is essential for ensuring a fulfilling and memorable experience during your stay in the United States.
What is the B-2 visa?
The B-2 visa is a nonimmigrant visa issued by the United States to foreign nationals seeking to enter the U.S. for temporary purposes, primarily tourism or pleasure-oriented. This visa is part of the broader B category of visas, including the B1 visa for business visitors.
Travel Purposes to B-2 visa
- Tourism: Visiting the U.S. for vacation, sightseeing, or exploring various attractions and landmarks.
- Vacation: Taking a trip for relaxation or a holiday.
- Visiting Relatives or Friends: Traveling to the U.S. to spend time with family members or friends living there.
- Medical Treatment: Seeking medical treatment in the United States, including consultations, surgeries, or other medical procedures. This requires additional documentation, such as a medical diagnosis from a local physician and a letter from a U.S. healthcare provider.
- Participation in Social Events: Attending social events hosted by fraternal, social, or service organizations.
- Amateur Participation in Musical, Sports, or Similar Events: Participating in events or contests as an amateur, where no payment or remuneration is received.
- Enrollment in Short Recreational Courses: Engaging in short-term recreational study, such as a two-day cooking class, as long as the course does not count towards a degree or academic certification.
Visitor visas will not be issued for birth tourism (travel for the primary purpose of giving birth in the United States to obtain U.S. citizenship for their child).1
B-2 Visa Application Process
Here’s a step-by-step guide to the application process:
- Determine Eligibility: Ensure you meet the criteria for a B-2 visa. This visa is appropriate for tourism, visiting friends or family, medical treatment, and similar non-business activities.
- Complete the Online Visa Application (Form DS-160): Fill out the Form DS-160 online at the Consular Electronic Application Center website. After submission, print the confirmation page with the barcode, you’ll need this for your interview.
- Pay the Visa Application Fee: Pay the non-refundable visa application fee, typically $185 for a B-2 visa. Keep the receipt as proof of payment.
- Schedule Your Visa Interview: Schedule an appointment for your visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your country.
- Gather Required Documentation: See the needed documents here.
- Additional documents to prove your eligibility, such as evidence of your ties to your home country, financial capability, and the purpose of your trip.
- Attend the Visa Interview: Go to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate on the date and time of your visa interview.
- Visa Processing and Issuance: Your visa application will be processed after the interview. Processing times vary. If your visa is approved, you might need to pay a visa issuance fee, depending on your nationality.
Your passport will be returned by mail, or you’ll need to pick it up at a specified location with the visa inside.
REMEMBER: a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. A U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the port of entry will decide your admission.2
Documentation Required for B-2 Visa
For a B-2 visa, which is issued for tourism, leisure, or medical treatment purposes in the United States, the following documents are typically required1:
- Valid Passport: Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your stay in the United States.
- Photograph: A digital photograph that meets specific criteria the U.S. Department of State sets.
- Fee Payment: A receipt showing payment of the non-refundable visa application fee.
- Interview Appointment Letter: Confirmation of your appointment for an interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
- Proof of Funds: Evidence of sufficient funds to cover expenses during your stay in the U.S., such as bank statements or a sponsor’s affidavit of support.
- Travel Itinerary: If you have already made travel arrangements, documents showing the purpose of your trip and your intended plans (like hotel bookings and flight reservations).
- Ties to Home Country: Documentation demonstrating solid ties to your home country, including a job, family, property, or other commitments that indicate you will return home after your visit.
- Previous U.S. Visits Documentation: If applicable, documents related to previous stays in the U.S.
- Medical Treatment Documentation: If the purpose of the visit is medical treatment, provide a medical diagnosis from a local physician, explaining the nature of the ailment and the reason you need treatment in the U.S., along with a letter from a physician or medical facility in the U.S., confirming they will treat you and outlining the projected length and cost of treatment.
REMEMBER: Additional documentation may be required depending on your individual circumstances.
B-2 Visa costs
Here are the costs associated with obtaining a B-2 visa1:
|Visa Application Fee (MRV Fee)
|Visa Issuance Fee
|Depends and varies based on the applicant’s country
|Depends and varies based on the applicant’s country
B-2 Processing Time
The time it takes to schedule a B-2 visa interview can vary significantly depending on various factors, but the visa appointment is the main one. The average wait time for a B-2 visa interview ranges from a couple of days to 3 years in some countries3. Check the visa appointment wait times in your country here.
B-2 Visa Validity, Entries & Duration of Stay
|Up to 10 years
|Can be issued as single-entry or multiple-entry visas.
|Duration of stay
|It is up to 6 months, as determined by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the port of entry1.
B-2 Visa Interview Process
To be eligible for a B-2 visa, applicants must demonstrate that their trip is for a temporary visit, and they have a residence outside the U.S. that they have no intention of abandoning.
The B-2 visa interview is a crucial step in the process of obtaining a tourist visa to enter the United States. This interview is conducted by a consular officer at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate and is designed to determine your eligibility for the visa1.
Here are some key aspects of the B-2 visa interview:
After completing the online visa application (Form DS-160), you’ll need to schedule an interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your country. The waiting time for an interview appointment can vary.
Bring all necessary documents to the interview, including a valid passport, the confirmation page of your DS-160 form, a photograph, the visa application fee receipt, and any other documents that support your application, such as proof of ties to your home country, financial stability, and the purpose of your trip.
The consular officer will ask questions to assess your intentions for visiting the U.S., your financial means to support your trip, your ties to your home country, and your travel plans. Common questions might include the purpose of your visit, how long you plan to stay, where you will stay, and your plans after returning to your home country.
One of the primary objectives of the interview is to determine that you have strong ties to your home country and that you intend to return after your visit. Evidence of employment, family, property, or other commitments can support this.
You may need to prove that you have enough funds to cover your expenses during your stay in the U.S. This can be through bank statements, employment records, or sponsorship letters.
Generally, the interview is conducted in English. However, if you’re not comfortable with English, you can request an interpreter or bring one with you.
At the end of the interview, the consular officer will decide whether to approve or deny your visa application. If approved, you may be required to pay a visa issuance fee, depending on your nationality, and your passport will be taken to affix the visa.
If your visa is approved, there may be additional processing time before your passport with the visa is returned to you.
Interviews are generally required for visa applicants with certain limited exceptions below1:
|If you are age:
|Then, an interview is:
|13 and younger
|Generally, not required
|Required (some exceptions for renewals)
|80 and older
|Generally, not required
Entering the U.S. with a B-2 Visa
Entering the United States with a B-2 visa, which is primarily used for tourism, leisure, or medical treatment purposes, involves several steps and adherence to specific regulations. Here’s what you should know about entering the U.S. with a B-2 visa:
- Arrival at a U.S. Port of Entry: When you arrive in the U.S., you will first go through customs and border protection (CBP) at a port of entry, which could be an airport, a seaport, or a land border crossing.
- Inspection by CBP Officers: You will be interviewed by a CBP officer. This is to verify your identity, confirm the purpose of your visit, and ensure you have the correct visa. The officer will also determine the length of your stay.
- Documents for Inspection: You should have your passport (with the B-2 visa), the DS-160 confirmation page, proof of financial means to support your stay in the U.S., and a return ticket (or onward ticket) to demonstrate your intention to leave the U.S. after your visit.
- Entry Stamp and I-94 Form: If you are admitted, the CBP officer will stamp your passport and issue an electronic or paper Form I-94, which records your arrival and departure dates. The I-94 form indicates the duration of your permitted stay in the U.S. It’s important to check the date on the I-94 to know when you must leave the country.
- Duration of Stay: Typically, B-2 visa holders are admitted for a period of 6 months. However, the actual duration of your stay is determined by the CBP officer at the port of entry and may be shorter or longer than six months.
- Adherence to Visa Conditions: While in the U.S., you must adhere to the conditions of your B-2 visa. This means engaging only in activities permitted under the visa, such as tourism, visiting family and friends, or medical treatment, and not engaging in unauthorized work or study.
- Exiting the U.S.: When leaving the U.S., ensure that you depart by the date specified on your I-94. Overstaying can result in consequences like being barred from returning to the U.S. in the future.
- Extension: If you wish to extend your stay beyond the date indicated on your I-94, you must file a request with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) using Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, before your authorized stay expires4.
B-2 Visa FAQs
How Long can I stay in the U.S. on a B-2 Visa?
Typically, B-2 visa holders are admitted for a period of up to six months. The exact duration of stay is determined by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer at the port of entry.
Can I Work in the U.S. on a B-2 Visa?
No, the B-2 visa does not permit employment in the United States. It’s intended for leisure, tourism, and medical purposes only1.
Can I study on a B-2 Visa?
While you can take recreational or short-term non-credit courses on a B-2 visa, you cannot enroll in a course of study that grants academic credit or leads to a degree.
Can I Extend My Stay on a B-2 Visa?
Yes, it is possible to apply for an extension of stay on a B-2 visa. You must file Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before your authorized stay expires5.
Is the B-2 Visa Multiple Entry?
B-2 visas can be issued as either single-entry or multiple-entry visas. The type you receive depends on various factors, including your nationality and the discretion of the visa officer.
What if My B-2 Visa Application is Denied?
If your visa application is denied, the consular officer will provide an explanation for the denial. You can reapply if your circumstances have changed or if you have additional information that was not presented in the initial application6.
Do I Need a Return Ticket When Entering on a B-2 Visa?
While not a formal requirement, having a return ticket can help demonstrate your intent to leave the U.S. after your temporary stay7. For more info from real people, check out this discussion on Reddit about needing round trip tickets to the US on tourist visa.
What happens if I overstay my B-2 stay?
If you overstay your B-2 visa in the United States, you become illegally present in the country, which can lead to a ban from re-entering the U.S. for three to ten years, depending on the length of the overstay. Additionally, overstaying can negatively affect your future visa applications, making it more difficult to obtain a U.S. visa in the future8.
Can I Visit Canada or Mexico and Return to the U.S. on a B-2 Visa?
Generally, visitors to the U.S. on a B-2 visa can visit Canada, Mexico, and adjacent islands and be readmitted to the U.S. within the initial admission period9. However, this is subject to certain conditions and may not apply to all nationalities.