Visitor visas are non-immigrant visas that allow for temporary entry into the United States for either a business purpose or for non-business purposes such as vacation, tourism, or medical treatment. Visitor visas are split into two categories: B-1 Business Visitor Visas and B-2 Tourism and Visit Visas.
When You Need a B-1 Business Visitor Visa
- You’re a professional athlete participating in a tournament or sporting event in the United States.
- You’re attending a meeting, conference or exploring a business investment opportunity.
- You’re selling products to U.S. consumers
When You Need a B-2 Tourism and Visit Visa
- You’re traveling to the United States to visit friends or family.
- You’re taking a vacation in the United States.
- You’re seeking medical treatment in the United States.
Validity period and duration of stay
As with other non-immigrant U.S. visas, a B1/B2 visa has a validity period (from 1 to 10 years), allows for either one or multiple entries into the U.S, and elicits a period of stay (3–6 months) recorded by the Customs and Border Protection officer at the port of entry on the individual’s form I-94.
Validity periods per country are listed in the U.S. Department of State Visa Reciprocity Tables and vary from 3 months for Iran, 1 year multientry for China, 3 years for Russia, and 5 years for Australia, to 10 years for Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Singapore, South Africa and most European Countries.
Periods of stay for B-1 visas may be granted initially for a duration long enough to allow the visitor to conduct their business, up to a maximum of 6 months, and can be extended for another 6 months; B-1 visas usually granted for three months or less, while B-2 visas are generally granted for six months. Extensions are possible, provided the individual has not violated the conditions of their admission.
A Border Crossing Card (BCC), also called a laser visa, has a 10-year validity and functions as both a BCC and a B1/B2 visitor’s visa.
Uses of a B1/B2 visa
Business or pleasure cover a wide variety of possible reasons to visit the United States. Under the category of temporary visitor for business, it can be used to:
- Negotiate and sign contracts
- Purchase supplies or materials
- Hold business meetings or attend/exhibit at a convention
- Settle an estate
- Sit different types of exams and tests held inside the United States
- Perform certain professional services.
Under the category of temporary visitor for pleasure, a B2 visa can be used to:
- Travel within the US
- Visit family or friends
- Participate in activities of a fraternal, social, or service nature
- Obtain medical treatment
The B2 visa can also be used by cohabiting (unmarried) partners of non-immigrant visa holders.