Most non-immigrants who enter the United States each year are being admitted on a B visa, whether a B-1 or a B-2. This guide contains helpful information concerning this exceptionally popular visa category.
What are the general requirements for a B-1 visa (Business) or B-2 visa (Tourist)?
The B nonimmigrant visa category covers foreign visitors for business (B-1) and pleasure (B-2). The vast majority of foreign nationals who enter the U.S. each year do so as nonimmigrant visitors in the B visa category. Generally, the B visa category is used for brief stays in the U.S., and involve activities such as touring, visiting relatives, obtaining medical treatment, or conducting business on behalf of a foreign employer.
How long can a nonimmigrant remain in the U.S. on a B-1 or B-2 visa?
While most stays in the U.S. on a B visa are short, it is currently possible to obtain a period of admission of one year upon initial entry to the U.S. Extensions of stay can be granted for no more than six months at a time. A business visitor (B-1) will only be granted a period of admission necessary to conduct his (i.e. his or her) business. Most business visits are approved for less than three months, and only in unusual circumstances would a stay of more than six months be granted. On the other hand, a tourist (B-2) is automatically given a period of entry of six months, even if the visitor only intends on remaining in the U.S. for a shorter period of time. It is technically possible for a period of stay that exceeds six months to be granted, but only in unusual circumstances. A border agent can grant a stay of under six months only "for good cause", and only when approved by a higher-level official.
Can a person work in the U.S. on a B visa?
Generally, an individual cannot engage in gainful employment in the U.S. on a B visa. (For obvious reasons, gray areas on this point exist with respect to business visitors in the B-1 category). The pivotal question, however, is whether the individual will be paid a salary from a U.S. employer or otherwise engage in activity inside the U.S. that results in payment to the individual of a fee for services rendered.
Can a person study in the U.S. on a B visa?
Generally, a person cannot study on a B visa. Before enrolling in classes, persons who are in B status must first acquire F-1 status (academic student) or M-1 status (vocational student). Enrollment in classes while in B-1 or B-2 status is considered to be a violation of nonimmigrant status. Such persons are not eligible to extend their B status or change to F-1 or M-1 status. However, a B-2 visitor (tourist) can engage in a short course of study that is secondary to the main purpose of his trip, e.g. sightseeing or visiting relatives. Although the type of "short course of study" permissible is not expressly stated in the rules, it should last no more than a few months and certainly cannot include a degree-granting program. If the student plans on spending a week or more of full-time study (i.e. more than 18 hours per week) for academic credit or completion of an academic program of study in the U.S., an F-1 or M-1 visa would likely be needed. However, certain Summer classes that are provided by universities/colleges to high school students with the intention of inducing them to enroll in the college are acknowledged to require only a B visa.
Can a person be an "au pair" on a B visa?
Absolutely not. The appropriate visa would be a J-1 visa (Exchange Visitor).
What are the five requirements to qualify for receiving a visa from a U.S. consulate?
(1) the person is entering the U.S. for a limited duration of time; (2) the person intends to depart the U.S. at the expiration of his stay; (3) the person maintains a foreign residence which he has no intention of abandoning, even during his stay in the U.S.; (4) the person has adequate financial arrangements to travel to, sojourn in, and depart from the U.S.; and (5) the person will engage only in legitimate activities related to business or pleasure.