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B-2 Visa

HOW TO OBTAIN A TOURIST (B-2) VISA

How to get a visa from A U.S. consulate abroad

The B2 tourist visa is the primary method for obtaining entry to the United States to visit family here or simply for tourist reasons.

Citizens of certain developed countries can enter the U.S. without a waiver under the ESTA or visa waiver program. But the visa waiver only allows a foreign national to stay up to three months in the U.S. For those who wish to stay more than 3 months here or for foreign nationals from countries not eligible for ESTA, a B2 visa is the appropriate visa to visit the U.S.

What is a B2 visa for?

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website, the acceptable purposes of a B2 visa are:

• Tourism

• Vacation (holiday)

• Visit with friends or relatives

• Medical treatment

• Participation in social events hosted by fraternal, social, or service organizations

• Participation by amateurs in musical, sports, or similar events or contests, if not being paid for participating

• Enrollment in a short recreational course of study, not for credit toward a degree (for example, a two-day cooking class while on vacation)

What documentation should I present to obtain a B2 visa?

Applications for a B2 tourist visa should be supported by documentation that supports the purpose for the visa. For example:

• If you are coming for a wedding, submit a wedding invitation or at least a statement from the bride or groom.

• If it's medical care you are coming to receive, obtain a doctor's letter stating the special need for medical care in America.

• If you intend to travel throughout the U.S. and visit certain tourist spots, come prepared with itineraries, reservations, hotel bookings in hand.

The documentation should be authentic and substantial.

What financial documentation supports a B2 visa?

The B2 visa applicant must show the consulate proof of their own money or other financial resources to support themselves or a relative who agrees to support them while here.

This should be documented by bank statements or receipts or proof of salary. If it's a relative in the U.S. who is offering support, bring his tax returns or bank statements, or both. It's helpful to have him or her fill out and sign before a notary the Affidavit of Support form (I-134 form).

Be prepared to explain how you will support yourself in the U.S. for the entire length of your visa.

What arguments support a B2 visa?

It is also important to show "ties to the home country" in other words, property, employment or immediate family left behind that would cause you to return.

Bring proof of your house or flat ownership. Bring a letter from your employment or other proof that you are employed. If you have family such as a spouse or children that are not coming to the U.S., bring proof of that such as marriage and birth certificates.

If you have traveled to the U.S. or other Western countries before, it's wise to point that out; it shows a propensity to return home after a visit abroad. Of course, this is only helpful if one returned in accordance with the time limits in their visa.

I find it helpful for the applicant to write a cover letter -- laying out exactly why he or she wants the visa, citing the financial and other ties to the home country, setting forth the basis for his financial support in the U.S. and referencing the documents attached. This gives the consul a summary of the whole package that he or she can read quickly.

B-1 visa alternative.

Finally, I recommend that my clients consider whether a business (B-1) visa may be more appropriate than a visitor (B-2) visa for their particular needs.

If one is coming to meet potential business partners, investors, distributors or suppliers, ask for a B-1 visa. Even if you are coming to consider investment in the U.S., a B-1 visa is the proper visa. Persons coming for professional programs or conventions, to meet colleagues in one’s field or for other professional opportunities, a business visa is more appropriate.

Again, the importance of documenting the business purpose of the trip cannot be overemphasized. Bring to the Consulate proposed contracts, letters with potential business partners, proof of one’s own business activities in your home country, business cards or if possible, letters or statements from the business associates you will be visiting in the U.S. as to the business purpose of your trip.

Representing you in making your B2 Visa Application.

Our office can help you present the strongest possible package to support your B2 visa application to the Consulate. If you’re interested in hiring us for this purpose, please contact our office.

WARNING: The article above is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice. We recommend that you get competent legal advice specific to your case.

More Information:

  • B2 Visas (US Department of State)
  • B-2 Visa Document Checklist (Kerosky, Purves & Bogue LLP)
  • B-2 Visa FAQ (Kerosky, Purves & Bogue LLP)