Written by attorney Moses Apsan

Top Ten Questions Asked About B-2 Tourist Visas for Pleasure

What is a B-2 Tourist for Pleasure?

If you need to come to the U.S. to visit, the B-2 business visitor's visa is the visa you need. It is generally quick and inexpensive to procure. This visa permits entry into the U.S. for a period of time to conclude your visit. In general the B nonimmigrant visa category covers visitors for business (B­1) and pleasure (B-2). By far the vast majority of visitors who enter the United States each year do so as nonimmigrant visitors in the B visa category. This article however, is intended for those wishing to enter in B-2status (Tourist Visa for Pleasure)

Generally, stays in the United States in this category are brief, and in­volve such activities as touring, attending shows, visiting family and obtaining health care. A B2 tourist cannot be involved in employment while in the United States and cannot undertake an academic study program.

How long can your remain in the U.S. with a B-2 visa?

In most cases, a tourist for pleasure is granted a period of stay of 6 months. The B-2 family members may receive extensions coinciding with the authorized period of stay of the B-2 visitor.

The B category applicant, unlike other nonimmigrant categories, requires that an application be made at the U.S. consulate. The visa application process is straightforward, and fast for many foreign na­tionals, particularly from Europe and Japan. The visa can be is­sued for long period of validity, such as ten years and for an unlimited number of entries.

What are the conditions you must abide by if granted a B -2 visa?

No Gainful Employment: The most important condition of the B category is that the visitor cannot en­gage in gainful employment (labor for hire) in the U.S.

Obey the State Department’s five broad requirements for issuance of a B visa to a foreign national and you will not have a problem. These establish non-immigrant intent. They are:

  1. The visitor is entering the U.S. for a limited duration.

  2. The visitor intends to depart the U.S. at the expiration of his or her stay.

  3. While in the U.S., the visitor maintains a foreign residence which he or she has no intention of abandoning.

  4. The visitor has adequate financial arrangements to travel to, and visit and depart from the U.S.

  5. The visitor will engage solely in legitimate activities relating to business or pleasure.

The Visitor’s Intent

Of primary concern for the B visitors, is the importance of demonstrating to the consular official that they have bona fide nonimmigrant intent. This means that the visitor is truly a non-immigrant who intends on departing at the end of the authorized stay. The visitor cannot have immigrant intent. With an immigrant intent the visitor does not intend to depart the U.S. but is planning to remain in the U.S. permanently or at least for an extended period of time beyond the period granted.

To demonstrate non-immigrant intent to the consular official:

  1. You plan only a temporary trip to the US

  2. You maintain a residence outside of the U S that they have no intention of abandoning.

  3. The amount of the proof that is required to prove this point depends on the social, economic and employment situation at home as well as the nature of the visitor’s plans in the United States.

  4. Tourists must often make a detailed showing to establish to the Consulates satisfaction that the visitor truly has non-immigrant intent.

What are the arrangements that have been made for this trip. It must be established that the funding for the trip is available. In addition:

You should be able to show a round trip ticket and sufficient to cover the trip. If the visitor is not in the best financial condition there is an alternative. He or she can submit an affidavit of support from a U.S. source, generally the person who the visitor is coming to see. An affidavit of support (Form I-134) is a sworn affidavit from the visitor's U.S. host stating his or her willingness to cover all expenses of the visitor while in the United.

You should be able to show specific arrangements for the trip. These would be confirmed hotel reservations, car rentals, Train or bus reservations, tours, etc.

Establish ties to your country such family ties, steady employment, substantial property or business interests abroad. Owning a business or having a steady job outside the U.S., is one of the best evidence of a strong ties abroad that would assure the consulate that the visitor intends to return to his or her home country. If you are leaving behind one's spouse and children in many countries it would be considered persuasive, however in countries were the overstay is at a high level, this fact alone is enough. You will need the other factors mentioned to solidify your application. Of course, maintenance or owning of a residence is an essential item that proof should be included in you application package.

If you have ties to the United States it can affect the consular decision. The greater the family ties in the U.S. the more the Consular officer may believe that the visitor is not going to return to his home country. Remember much of these requirements depends on what country you come from. If you come from a country that has a very low rate of overstays, such as France, Switzerland or Germany then a bit of proof will suffice. But if you come in from countries notorious for overstays such as Dominican Republic, Columbia or Mexico then the more you provide the better chance you have of the visa being granted.

What are the legitimate activities allowed with a B-2 Visa?

Before a B-2 visa is approved, the consular official determines whether or not the activity contemplated by the visitor falls within those allowed under a B-2 category. The State Department has provided all consular posts a detailed listing of approved activities. If there are any questions or concerns, the consular officers must look to the State Department for guidance. There are a few unclear areas in the listing. In most cases the Consular official resolves these concerns without the need to contact the State Department. If the Consulate were to contact the State Department every time there is a question, there would be a tremendous delay in issuing visas.

Notwithstanding anything you may believe, the B-2 visitor cannot engage in productive employment while in the U.S. Productive employment includes both services for hire on an independent basis (these are known as freelancers or independent contractors) and salaried work for any employer.

What are the approved activities?

Simply enough. The basic activity is tourism. Such as Visitors on shopping trips and persons visiting friends and relatives in the United States. It also includes persons coming to the U.S. for medical help and persons coming to con­ferences or conventions not relating to business. In the case of someone coming in for medical treatment it a letter from the treating physician detailing the infirmity and type and term of treatment should be given to the consular officer. Letters showing that arrangements have been made with hospitals and clinics should also be included. Those intending to visit friends or relatives will usually need to be supported with a letter of invitation from the U.S. host. The purpose of the visit (i.e. tourism, wedding, etc.) and the financial resources of the alien visitor must be appropriate. For example a tourist intending on staying in the U.S. for six months will require more proof of financial ability than one intending to stay only one week. Proof of financial ability can be done by personal resources, as demonstrated by bank statements or affidavits of support, from legal residents of the United States (form I-134).

What about studying on a B-2 Visa?

It is well established that generally a tourist for pleasure cannot attend school. There are a few exceptions to that rule. These are: a tourist in B-2 status can engage in a short course of study that is secondary to the main purpose of his or her trip, e.g., sightseeing or visiting family members. While the type of "short course of study" permissible is not spelled out in Immigration Service rules, it would seem that it should not last more than a few months, and must not include a degree granting program such as a college or university would offer.

How do I tell how much time I am permitted to remain in the U.S.?

When you entered the United States a card labeled I-94 was attached to your passport. An extension of stay can only be granted if the time on the I-94 has NOT expired. It also cannot be granted if the applicant has violated the terms of his visa category. Look carefully at the form I-94 attached to your passport. There is a red stamp on it which has written within it a date. This is the last day you are authorized to stay in the United Sates. Do not confuse this with your visa, which you received at a U.S. consulate abroad. The date on the visa stamp in your passport indicates the last that you may enter the U.S. Each classification of nonimmigrant visa has its own individual maximum stay period.

Who may file for an extension of the B-2 visa?

If you entered as a B-2 tourist for pleasure, you may apply for an extension of stay. You may include your spouse and your unmarried children under age 21 as co-applicants in your application for the same extension of status if you are all in the same status now or they are all in derivative status.

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