B-1:B-2 Visas for Temporary Visitors
When you want to visit the United States for work or as a tourist, you’ll most likely need a temporary visa.
A temporary visa – depending on whether you get a B-1 visa or a B-2 visa, or a combination for both purposes (B-1/B-2) – allows you to enter the country and stay as long as your visa is valid.
What is a B-1 Visa?
A B-1 visa is a permit to come into the United States to participate in business activities of a commercial or personal nature.
These types of visas are restricted to people participating in certain activities, so if you’re traveling to the U.S. for another reason that doesn’t involve business, another type of visa may be right for you.
What Are Some Acceptable Reasons for Traveling to the U.S. on a B-1 Visa?
B-1 visas available to people who will be in the U.S. to:
- Attend a conference
- Attend an educational, scientific, professional or business convention
- Consult with business associates
- Deadhead, which applies to certain air crewmen who will enter the U.S. as part of a deadhead crew
- Negotiate a contract
- Participate in short-term training
- Settle an estate
- Transit through the U.S. (some people may do so with this type of visa)
They’re also available for a handful of other reasons, so for most people, it makes sense to talk to an Dallas or Houston immigration attorney. That way, even if a B-1 visa isn’t right for you, you’ll be able to discover alternatives and get help applying.
Who’s Eligible for a B-1 Visa?
Only certain people are eligible for B-1 visas. If you don’t meet the eligibility criteria, another type of visa may be right for you. Here’s what you must demonstrate to be eligible for this type of visa:
- You’re coming to the United States for business of a legitimate nature
- You will remain in the U.S. for a specific and limited period of time
- You have enough money to cover your trip’s cost, including your stay in the U.S.
- You have a home outside the U.S. that you don’t intend to abandon, and you have other binding ties that will ensure you leave when your visit is over
- You are otherwise admissible to the United States
How Long Can You Stay in the U.S. on a B-1 Visa?
Your initial period of stay on a B-1 visa can’t last longer than 6 months. However, while you’re here, you can ask the government to extend your stay for an additional 6 months. The absolute maximum amount of time anyone can stay in the U.S. on a B-1 visa is one year.
Do You Need an Employment Authorization Document for a B-1 Visa?
In some cases, you do need an employment authorization document, or EAD, to conduct your business in the United States. However, not all people do – only if you fall into one of these categories:
- Personal or domestic servants who are accompanying or following to join an employer who is entering (or has already entered) the U.S. in a B, E, F, H, I J, L or TN nonimmigrant status
- Domestic servants of U.S. citizens who are accompanying or following to join the U.S. citizen employer who has a permanent home or is stationed in a foreign country, if that person is temporarily visiting the U.S.
- Employees of a foreign airline engaged in international transportation of passengers freight, if your position would entitle you to a treaty trader nonimmigrant classification
If one of these circumstances applies to you, you must prove:
- You have a home abroad that you don’t intend to abandon
- You have at least one year of experiences as a personal or domestic servant
- You have been employed abroad by your employer for at least a year prior to the employer’s admission into the U.S. (or your employer must show that he or she has regularly employed a domestic servant in the same capacity)
Can You Bring Your Family to the U.S. if You Have a B-1 Visa?
If you come to the United States on a B-1 visa, your spouse and children aren’t eligible for dependent visas. Each of them will have to separately apply for a B-2 visa.
Can You Turn a B-1 Visa Into an H-1B Visa?
You can apply for a change of status from a B-1 visa to an H-1B visa. That would enable you to stay in the U.S. under a different immigrant classification . However, to do so, you must apply before your B-1 visa expires, and a U.S. company must file Form I-129 for you, naming you the beneficiary. The U.S. company must meet all the requirements necessary to use an H-1B worker.
What is a B-2 Visa?
A B-2 visa is authorization to enter the United States for tourism purposes. If you’re here on a B-2 visa, you must be coming to the U.S. for tourism or medical care only. If you’re coming to visit your child or another family member who is a student in a U.S. college or university, you may qualify for a visit for up to 90 days without a visa – but only if you qualify for the U.S. Department of State’s Visa Waiver Program.
Why Would You Choose a B-2 Visa?
Most people choose B-2 visas for leisure trips. These types of visas cover:
- Enrollment in a short recreational course of study, but not for credit toward a degree (like a two-day SCUBA diving class or something of that nature)
- Medical treatment
- Participation by amateurs in musical, sports or similar events or contests, if you are not being paid to participate
- Participation in a social event hosted by fraternal, social or service organizations
- Visits with friends or relatives
Who’s Eligible for B-2 Visas?
If you want to come to the United States on a B-2 visa, you must show the U.S. government that you:
- Will only stay here temporarily
- Intend to depart the U.S. at the end of your stay
- Have a valid foreign passport
- Have a residence abroad that you intend to return to
- Are able to support yourself financially while you’re in the country, and that you have enough money for the duration of your stay and to get back to your country of origin
Can You Attend School or Work on a B-2 Visa?
You can’t attend school or work if you’re in the United States on a visitor visa, including a B-2 visa. In fact, you can’t use a B-2 visa to come to the U.S. to:
- Be present as a crewmember on a ship or aircraft
- Gain permanent residence in the U.S.
- Participate in paid performances or any professional performance in front of a paying audience
- Work, including as a member of the foreign press, in radio, film, print journalism or any other type of information media
You also can’t come to the U.S. for “birth tourism,” which is travel for the primary purpose of giving birth in the United States to obtain U.S. citizenship for your child.
Can You Get Residency in the U.S. Based on a B-2 Visa?
Tourist visas are only for temporary visits. In order to get one, you must show that you have a home elsewhere that you don’t intend to abandon – and that you intend to depart the United States at the end of your stay. You can’t adjust your status as a B-2 visa holder to become a permanent resident of the U.S.
If you want to get residency in the U.S., you’ll have to take a different route – and that’s where a Houston or Dallas immigration attorney comes in. Your attorney will be able to give you specific guidance on what may work in your situation.
What is a B-1/B-2 Visa?
A B-1/B-2 visa is an authorization to come into the United States for business and pleasure. If you plan on doing a mix of these things in the U.S., a combination visa may be the right choice for you:
- Attending a conference (B-1)
- Attending a scientific, educational, professional or business convention (B-1)
- Consulting with business associates (B-1)
- Enrolling in a short recreational course of study, like skiing lessons, a cooking class or something similar while you’re on vacation (B-2)
- Negotiating a contract (B-1)
- Participating in a musical, sporting or similar event, as long as you are an amateur and aren’t being paid for your participation (B-2)
- Participating in a social event hosted by a fraternal, social or service organization (B-2)
- Receiving medical treatment (B-2)
- Settling an estate (B-1)
- Tourism (B-2)
- Vacationing (B-2)
- Visiting family or friends (B-2)
How to Apply for a B-1 or B-2 Visa
For most people, the most sensible course of action when visiting the U.S. for business or pleasure (or both) is to work with an immigration attorney who can help with the application process. There are several steps you must take (or that your lawyer will take for you) in order to apply for a B-1 or B-2 visa to come to the United States.
You must file a nonimmigrant visa application (Form DS-160) and you must bring a copy of your filled-out application with you to your interview. You’ll also need a photo, which needs to meet very specific requirements. For example, it must be in color and your head must measure 50 to 69 percent of the image’s total height. It must also be taken within the last 6 months, in front of a plain white or off-white background, and with a neutral facial expression with both eyes open. (You can learn more about the many photo requirements here.)
Do You Have to Attend an Interview for a B-1 or B-2 Visa?
Most people have to attend an interview before the U.S. government will approve a visitor visa. However, there are a few exceptions. For example, those aged 13 and under aren’t usually required to attend an interview – but those aged 14 to 79 typically are, unless they’re renewing. For most people 80 and over, interviews aren’t required, either. Every case is different, though, so even if you fall into a group that’s usually exempted from an interview, you may still have to participate in one.
You’ll schedule an appointment for your visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country. You can schedule it at another Embassy or Consulate, but it might be tougher to qualify for a visa if you’re applying outside your home country. It’s important to remember that wait times vary by location, so you should apply as early as possible before your visit.
Do You Want to Talk to an Attorney About a B-1 or B-2 Visa to Visit the United States?
If you’re considering a visit to the U.S. under a B-1 or B-2 visa (or both), we may be able to help you. Call our office today or fill out our contact form – we’ll be happy to answer your questions and get the process started.