Understanding B1/B2 Visas for the USA

B1 B2 US Visas

Hungry to take a bite out of the Big Apple? Ready to wear sunflowers in your hair in San Francisco or try your luck in Vegas? Whether you’re headed to the East Coast, West Coast or anywhere in between, a United States R B1/B2 visa will help you get there.

The B1/B2 visa type is for visitors travelling to the USA for business (B1) and/or tourism (B2) purposes. The R stands for Regular passport, so unless you’ve got a diplomatic, official or service passport, this means you!

Read on to learn all about this type of authorisation, including how to apply, how long you can stay, and what you can and can’t do while you’re in the country.

What Is a B1/B2 Visa?

This authorisation allows foreign citizens to travel to the United States for business and tourism.

Here are some of the main allowed activities under the B1/B2 visa rules:

B1 – Business

  • Attend business/professional conventions or conferences.
  • Consult with business associates.
  • Negotiate contracts.
  • Buy goods or materials.
  • Conduct independent research.

B2 – Tourism

  • Go sightseeing.
  • Enjoy a holiday or vacation.
  • Visit friends or family.
  • Receive medical treatment.
  • Participate as an amateur in musical or sports events, only if unpaid.
  • Participate in a short recreational course, only if not used for credit toward a degree, such as a cooking class.

If you are only travelling for one of these purposes, you can apply for that type only (B1 or B2). Otherwise, you can apply for both combined.

Citizens of US visa waiver countries, including Australia, EU member states, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, will be happy to know that you are able to travel and participate in these same activities by applying for the US ESTA online. This is a faster, easier and less expensive process. However, if you want to visit the ‘land of opportunity’ for more than 90 days, you need to apply for the B1/B2 instead.

Please be aware that the following activities are not permitted with the B1/B2:

  • Study.
  • Employment (the B1/B2 visa is not a work permit).
  • Paid performances, or any professional performance before a paying audience.
  • Work as a member of the foreign media, including radio, film, print journalism or other information media.
  • Permanent residence.

B1/B2 Visa Length of Stay

The validity period of your authorisation depends on your country of citizenship. In most cases, it is valid for 10 years and multiple visits. However, this does not mean that you can stay in the country for the entire duration.

How long you can stay with the B1/B2 visa is determined by the US Customs and Border Protection Officer who checks your paperwork when you arrive at the airport or other point of entry. The period of time you are allowed to remain in the country will depend on the purpose of your visit, so be ready to answer questions about your plans.

You may be permitted to stay for a maximum of 180 days for each visit.

B1/B2 Visa Application Form

You begin the application process by filling in a form called the DS-160 Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application.

It takes about 90 minutes to complete the form to apply for the B1/B2 visa, so you’ll want to find a comfortable chair (and maybe a snack!) Make sure you have following documents handy, as you’ll need them to fill in the online form:

  • Your passport, which must be valid for at least 6 months after your intended stay (unless your country is a member of the 6-month club).
  • A digital photo that meets the photo requirements.
  • Information about other US visas you have had in the past.
  • Information about previous trips you have taken to other countries in the past 5 years.
  • Any other documents related to your travel plans in the US.

Keep in mind that your answers must be in English using English characters only (no letters with accents like é or á, or special characters like ñ), except for when you are prompted to provide your full name in your native alphabet. You are allowed to have another person assist you with your application, so feel free to ask an English-speaking friend or relative for help if needed.

When you start your application, be sure to write down your Application ID in a safe place (don’t quickly jot it down on a scrap piece of paper that might get thrown away). This ID number will allow you to find your application again if you need to close the browser during your application, or if there are technical difficulties with the website.

When you complete the form, submit your application electronically online and follow these next steps:

  • Print the barcode page and store it in a safe place.
  • Schedule a visa interview appointment at a US embassy or consulate in the country where you live. It’s possible to schedule your interview outside your country of residence, but it may decrease your chances of getting approved.
  • Pay the application processing fee. See instructions on the website of your local US embassy or consulate.

How to Have a Successful Interview

Nervous about sitting down for an interview? The best way to calm the jitters and sail through your interview is to be fully prepared. Read this section carefully and you’ll know just what to expect.

Documents Required for B1/B2 Visa Interview

To make sure you are able to corroborate your answers to the interview questions, take the following documents with you to the interview:

  • Your passport.
  • A printout of the confirmation page of your completed DS-160 application form.
  • The receipt that shows you’ve paid the application fee, for applicants required to pay before the interview.
    A photo that meets the requirements, in case your digital photo did not upload correctly during your online application.

The facility where you have your interview may have additional documentation requirements, so be sure to check their website. You may be asked for documents that show:

  • The purpose of your visit.
  • Your ability to cover the costs of your trip, or evidence that another person will cover some or all of these costs.
  • Your intent to leave the country after your temporary stay.

An invitation letter is not required, and will not be considered in approving your application.

B1/B2 Visa Interview Questions

The official at your visa appointment may ask you any number of questions to determine if you meet the requirements to obtain your visitor visa. You should be prepared to answer interview questions including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Have you been to the US before?
  • What do you plan to do during your visit?
  • When do you plan to visit and why?
  • Where do you plan to visit?
  • How much money do you expect to spend during your time in the country?
  • How do you plan to finance your trip?
  • Where do you plan on staying?
  • Who will you be travelling with?
  • How long do you plan to stay in the country?
  • What evidence can you provide to show you intend to return to your home country?
  • Where do you work and what is your position?
  • What is your annual income?

Consider how you will truthfully answer these questions and how you can provide details and documentary evidence to support your case.

If you’re an Indian citizen applying for a B1/B2 visa, you can find out more about making your interview appointment in our US Visa Appointment in India Guide.

B1/B2 Visa Extension and Renewal

Can’t get enough of the red, white and blue? You can request to extend your time allowed in the country if:

  • Your visa is still valid.
  • Your passport will remain valid for the entirety of your extended stay.
  • You have not broken any of the rules related to your current authorisation.
  • You have not committed any crimes that make you ineligible.

To extend your B1/B2 visa, you will need to file Form I-539.

You must apply for an extension before your current authorisation expires. If you have overstayed your visit, your application will not be considered and you may be barred from visiting the US in the future.

If you are currently in the United States and wish to stay longer, extending your authorisation is your only option. B1/B2 visa renewal is only permitted at a US embassy or consulate abroad, unless you are a diplomat or a government official.

If you are in your home country and your B1/B2 visa will expire soon or has expired in the last 12 months, you can renew your authorisation at your local US embassy or consulate. Depending on your situation, it may be best to complete your B1/B2 visa renewal before expiry so that you have the continuous ability to travel.

Frequently Asked Questions

At this point you should have a good general idea of the B1/B2 visa meaning and how to prepare for getting your authorisation. For your convenience, you can also find answers to the most commonly asked questions on this topic below.

Where Is My B1/B2 Visa Foil Number Located?

You can find your number printed in red ink on the bottom right-hand side of your visa document. Chinese nationals need this number to apply for the Electronic Visa Update System (EVUS).

What Should I Know About Getting Married on a B1/B2 Visa?

You can get married on this type of authorisation, but doing so is no guarantee that you will be allowed to change your status and remain in the country. You can apply to request a change to your nonimmigrant status using the I-539 form if you wish to stay, or you can return home after your wedding before your authorisation expires.

It’s important to know that getting married is not a valid reason to apply for the B1 or B2. If it is determined that you applied for this authorisation with the intention of getting married and staying in the country, you may be considered to have committed visa fraud and may be barred from future visits to the country.

If you apply for a status change within 30 days of your arrival to the country, it will be presumed that you have acted in bad faith. If you apply 31 – 60 days after your arrival, you will be suspected of having acted in bad faith. This is called the 30/60 rule.

Can I Change My B1/B2 Visa to a Work Permit?

Yes, it is possible to do so. If you are offered employment while in the US, your prospective employer must file Form I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker before your Form I-94 expires. You cannot begin work until your status change has been approved since you cannot work in the US with a B1/B2 visa.

Can A B1/B2 Visa Holder Apply for a Green Card?

Yes, you can. However, having a B1/B2 does not make you eligible for a Green Card or permanent resident card. You must fulfill the requirements and complete the application procedure just like any other applicant.

 

Now that you’ve got a firm grasp on what this travel authorisation is all about, you should be ready to apply. Remember that there is no guarantee that your application will be approved, so it’s best to wait to buy your plane tickets until you have your visa. Happy travelling!