B-2 Visa Classification

B-2: Pleasure Visitor

The B-2 visitor visa allows an individual to enter the U.S. for a short period of time for pleasure, specifically for activities of a recreational character, including tourism, amusement, visits with friends or relatives, rest, activities of a fraternal, social or service nature. B-2 visas are also issued to individuals who are coming to the U.S. to undergo medical treatment. An application for a B-2 visa application may be made directly at a U.S. consulate or embassy.

A B-2 visitor must maintain a foreign residence abroad to which the individual intends to return at the end of the authorized period of stay in the U.S. A B-2 visitor is not authorized to be employed or perform productive employment in the U.S.

To demonstrate eligibility for a B-2 visa or B-2 status, the applicant must prove that:
•    He or she has adequate finances to cover the cost of the trip to the U.S. and the planned activities;
•    He or she has specific and realistic plans for the entire duration of the visit;
•    The period of time projected for the visit is consistent with the purpose of the trip;
•    He or she has strong ties abroad, i.e. permanent employment, meaningful business and financial connections, close family ties or close social associations; and
•    He or she has made adequate provisions for the support of any spouse or children remaining abroad.

A B-2 visitor may be admitted to the U.S. for not more than one year. In practice, a B-2 visitor will usually be admitted for an initial period of up to six months or for a period of time sufficient to cover the planned pleasure activities, whichever is less. He or she may be granted extensions in increments of not more than six months at a time (certain dependents of nonimmigrant visa holders may receive extensions for up to one year). Prolonged pleasure visits, however, may give rise to a presumption that the visitor is engaged in prohibited productive employment and/or has immigrant intent.

Special B-2 Rules and Regulations for Dependents of Nonimmigrant Visa Holders

A foreign national may apply for a B-2 visa or B-2 status to accompany another “principal” foreign national, who in turn will hold nonimmigrant status in the U.S. Such an application may be made by a dependent cohabitating partner, common law spouse, same-sex partner, extended family member, or another household member. The “principal” foreign national must hold E, H, I, L, F, J, M, A, G, or NATO nonimmigrant status. The dependent foreign national must depart the U.S. with the principal foreign national.

The B-2 visa applicant must demonstrate the maintenance of a residence abroad, even if the principal foreign national is not required to do so. The consular officer may consider the visa applicant’s current situation, prospects in the home country upon return, the strength of the relationship with the principal foreign national, and the principal foreign national’s own ties abroad when adjudicating the B-2 visa application.

Visa Waiver Program and Electronic System Travel Authorization (ESTA)

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables eligible citizens of participating countries to travel to the U.S. for tourism or business for a period up to a maximum of 90 days without obtaining a U.S. visa. Currently there are 35 participating countries in the program: Andorra, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

A VWP citizen is permitted to enter the U.S. under the same rules as the B-1 business visitor through the Visa Waiver program for up to 90 days. Neither an extension of stay nor a change of status may be granted to a VWP visitor.

Prior to travel to the U.S., VWP travelers must apply for and receive valid travel authorization through the Department of Homeland Security’s Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). ESTA is a free, automated system used to determine the eligibility of visitors to travel to the U.S. under VWP. Once granted, travel authorizations will be valid for multiple entries into the U.S., and are valid for up to two years. Information on ESTA can be obtained by visiting the Department of Homeland Security Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website. VWP travelers must meet all eligibility requirements to travel to the U.S. without a visa on VWP. Therefore, some travelers from VWP countries may not be eligible to use the program and must apply for a visa. Complete information on the VWP and eligibility requirements can be found on the U.S. Department of State’s website.