B-1/B-2 Visitor Visas

B-1/B-2 Visitor Visas


The most common nonimmigrant visa is the B visa. There are two types of B visas: B-1 visas for business visitors, and B-2 visas for visitors for pleasure.


The B-1 Business Visitor category is available to persons who can demonstrate that they 1) have no intention of abandoning their residence abroad and 2) they are visiting the US temporarily for business

Business visitors are quite limited in the activities in which they are permitted to engage. B-1 visa holders must not be engaging in productive employment in the US either for a US employer or on an independent basis. Any work done in the US must be performed on behalf of a foreign employer and paid for by the foreign employer. The work should also be related to international commerce or trade. The consulate will consider several factors when deciding whether to issue a visa including 1) whether a US worker could be hired to perform the work, 2) whether the work product is predominantly created in the US, and 3) whether the work is controlled mainly by a US company. If the answer to any of these questions is “yes” then the B-1 visa is likely to be denied.


Of the more than 20 million nonimmigrants admitted annually to the US, more than three fourths come as tourists. The appropriate visa category for a tourist is the B-2 visa (a B-2 visa actually covers tourists, visits to relatives or friends, visits for health reasons, participation in conferences, participation in incidental or short courses of study and participation in amateur arts and entertainment events. Prospective students can also obtain a B-2 visa.

The process for obtaining the B-2 visa can be quite simple or very difficult depending on the national origin of the applicant, the age and marital status of the applicant, and the applicant’s ties to the US and his/her home country. Tourists are normally given a six month stay which can be extended in some circumstances for an additional six months.

In order to qualify for a tourist visa, an individual must meet a few broad requirements necessary to show nonimmigrant intent:

  • The alien is coming to the US for a specific period of time
  • The alien will not be engaging in work and will engage solely in legitimate activities relating to pleasure
  • The alien will maintain a foreign residence that he or she has no intention of abandoning during the period of his or her stay in the US.

The application for a B-1 or B-2 visa is made at a US consulate. An applicant will normally apply at the closest consular post in their home country. Some consular posts in other countries also accept applications from third country nationals. Most of the time, the application must be made in person, though some consulates allow the application to be made by mail, a travel agent, or drop box.

With respect to financial arrangements, the alien should possess the following:

  • a round-trip plane ticket and evidence of sufficient funds to cover the duration and purpose of the trip and
  • if the alien appears only marginally able to pay for the trip, an affidavit of support on U.S. CIS Form I-134 from the person who the alien is visiting in the US should be provided.

In most cases, successful applicants for a B-1 or B-2 visa will be given a multiple entry visa stamp that stays valid for ten years. The stamp will often say “B-1/B-2,” indicating the person can use the visa to enter to conduct activities falling under either classification. Note that a multiple entry, multiyear visa DOES NOT mean that a person can stay in the US for as long as the visa is valid. Rather, the US has a “two ticket” system to entering. The visa is your first ticket and allows you to seek admission at a US point of entry (an airport in the US, a land crossing port, or a US seaport). The inspector at the point of entry will electronically issue an I-94 card authorizing the visitor to stay in the US for a specified period of time (normally six months). Thus, the 10-year visa would allow a person to seek admission multiple times over the 10 years. But an inspector will determine the length of time authorized for each visit.