If you plan to visit the United States but do not intend to live within the county permanently, you will still need documentation authorizing your presence in the country. A visa is a type of authorization that grants nonimmigrant travelers the ability to remain in the United States for a brief period. Visas do not give legal residence status or citizenship to visitors. However, they provide travelers many of the same opportunities as U.S. citizens to experience the United States.
Types Of Visas For Nonimmigrants
There are several types of visas for nonimmigrants, two of which include B-1 and B-2 visas. Both visas allow travelers to lawfully remain for up to six months in the United States.
B-1 Visas For Temporary Business Visitors
As the name suggests, B-1 visas are used for foreign visitors who need to address business activities in the United States. “Business activities” can include:
- Meeting with business associates;
- Traveling for a convention or conference on specific dates;
- Settling an estate;
- Contract negotiations;
- Participating in training activities for work; and
- Transiting or deadheading through the United States.
Although “business activities” can seem like a broad category, you will still be obligated to apply and prove that you plan to enter the United States for business and ultimately intend to leave. A B-1 visa application requires proof of the following information:
- Your trip must be for business activity;
- The business activity must be legitimate (legal);
- You have enough money to cover the costs of the trip;
- A home outside the United States and ties to a community; and
- There is no other reason preventing you from entering the United States.
Suppose you are a California employer in the Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange, Ventura, or San Bernadino counties and are looking to host a foreign employee. In that case, the employee may meet the qualifications for a B-1 visa. The immigration attorneys at The Justice Firm can work with you and answer questions about the visa application process.
B-2 Visas For Tourism And Medical Treatment
Every year, the United States welcomes millions of visitors. Some visit for school, work, and business, but others travel simply to enjoy tourism. Individuals from other countries travel to the United States for medical care in other situations. In addition to seeking medical care and tourism, B-2 visas are required for activities including:
- Vacations (holidays);
- Visits with family and friends;
- Social events for service organizations, fraternities, or other social groups;
- Unpaid participation in performances or contests; and
- Participation in short recreational classes.
You must also provide proof that you have the financial ability to pay for your trip and intend to leave after your visa expires. B-2 visas cannot be used to take classes for credit at universities, colleges, or trade schools.
Combination B-1/B-2 Visas
If you are traveling for business, especially for an extended period, you will likely want to do more with your time than just business. Even if you are traveling for a few days, you may wish to visit as many sites as you can while in a specific region of the United States. The visitor visa application includes both B-1 and B-2 options. If you wish to apply for both simultaneously, the application allows you to do that.
Length Of Stay And Extension Requests
Once you receive your visa, it is valid for ten years. However, this does not mean you can remain in the United States for ten years. Although your initial visa term can only last six months, you can apply for an extension using Form I-539. If your application is approved, you can remain in the United States for six more months. After one year, you must leave the United States. You can return to the United States within ten years, so long as you do not remain longer than six months without requesting an extension.
In addition to filing form I-539, an application for an extension requires that meet the following requirements:
- Your current visa has not expired;
- Avoidance of criminal activity that impacts eligibility;
- Avoidance of violated conditions of your stay; and
- Your nonimmigrant visa status remains the same.
If you would like to extend your stay but picked up criminal charges or have had poor experiences with immigration officials, please contact the Justice Firm locally at (310) 914-2444 or our Toll-Free number at (866) 695-6714, or visit us at our website.
The fee to apply for an extension for visitor visas is $370. Additionally, an extension will likely require you to complete a biometric screening for an additional cost. A biometric screening keeps track of all persons in the United States with visitors. Screenings include fingerprinting, taking your photograph, and a security check. If you are traveling with a spouse or children who want to extend their visas, they may also need to complete biometric screenings.
Considerations Before You Apply
Where To Apply
You must apply for a United States visitor visa in your home country. Because each country has its own procedure, you must contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country for your application’s exact steps and deadlines. Regardless of where you live, a visitor’s visa requires an application, Form DS-160, to be filed online. After you complete the application, you may be required to complete an interview, depending on your age. If you are between 14-79, you will likely need to complete an interview. Individuals between ages 13 and younger and 80 and older typically do not have to complete an interview. After submitting your online application form, print it and have a physical copy available at your interview.
Interviews are completed at U.S. embassies and consulates. The wait time can vary depending on the country. Ideally, the embassy or consulate in your home country will complete your interview. Otherwise, scheduling an interview in a different country can cause delays. Regardless of where you live, apply and schedule your interview as early as possible to avoid frustrating delays.
Although immigration attorneys in the United States cannot attend interviews in foreign countries, the attorneys at The Justice Firm can prepare documents and communicate with the embassy or consulate in your home country.
Traveling With Family
If you are traveling to the United States for business, especially for a more extended period, it is understandable that you might want to bring your spouse and children. Each family member must file a separate B-2 visa application if this is the case. Unlike other forms of immigration, you cannot add your spouse or children as dependents on your application.
Perhaps you have a trip planned to the United States, and your family wants to join you at a later time. There is no requirement that your family travels with you. As long as each person applies separately, your family members can use their visas to visit at any time. Of course, they are still limited to a six-month stay unless they receive an extension.
Limitations For Visitor Visas
Although visiting the United States for tourism and business offers unique opportunities, they have a few limitations. If you hold a B-1 or B-2 visa, you cannot participate in these activities:
- Take classes or study;
- Work or find employment;
- Be paid for a professional performance;
- Work as a foreign journalist or other foreign media;
- Seek permanent residence; or
- Arrive as a crew member on a ship or aircraft.
Additionally, it is not allowed to seek a visitor visa purely to give birth and attain U.S. citizenship for the baby.
For information on obtaining student visas, employment visas, or permanent residence, please contact The Justice Firm locally at (310) 914-2444 or at our Toll-Free number at (866) 695-6714, or visit us on our website.
Passport Expiration Date
If your passport expires during your visa’s 10-year period, you do not necessarily need to apply for a new visa. Generally, you can travel with your old and new passports if you renew your passport. The visa attached to your old passport can connect to your new passport. The country that issued the old passport should be the same country that issued the new passport.
Some countries will allow you to transfer a visa from an expired passport to a new visa. Because not all countries do this, it is best to think about expiration dates well in advance to avoid frustrations with your travel plans.
If you know that your passport will expire while in the United States, it is best to know how long it will take you to obtain a new passport. Because you cannot reside in the United States after your visa expires, traveling back to your home country with an expired visa and expired passport would likely create significant problems for your current and future travels. Thinking ahead will probably save you months of frustration.
Overstaying Your Visa
The consequences of remaining in the United States after your visa has expired can be severe. If you overstay your visa, it is unlikely that you can extend your stay, and your visa can be revoked. Additionally, an expired visa can significantly harm your ability to change from “nonimmigrant” status to “immigrant” status. If you had long-term plans to become a U.S. citizen, an expired visa would likely make that more difficult.
Visa Waiver Program
The United States allows 40 countries’ citizens to travel to the United States for business and tourism activities without a visa. In the Visa Waiver Program, most citizens and nationals of these countries can remain in the United States for up to 90 days. In exchange, American citizens can travel to those countries for business and tourism for a similar length of time. The waiver program does not apply to individuals visiting California or the United States to work or student at a college or university.
Avoid Immigration Scams
Unfortunately, people and illegitimate businesses prevent individuals from safely and legally obtaining visas. These “scammers” often promote their fake businesses online and offer promises and guarantees for visas. Online scammers typically require payment of a fee and your personal information. The potential consequences can be disastrous, including identifying theft and losing money for the fake fee.
Online or even in-person sources who make promises, guarantees, or claim to have connections to government officials are unlikely to be legitimate or trustworthy. The truth is that only the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) can admit or deny your application. No individual or website source can obtain a visa quickly once you apply.
When looking for guidance on applying for a visa, it is essential to use reputable sources. Government organization websites like USCIS, the Department of State, and qualified immigration attorneys can answer your questions about the application process and give you advice about obtaining a visa.
Hiring A California Immigration Attorney
If you are ready to apply for a visitor visa or are an employer trying to help an employee obtain a visa, please contact The Justice Firm locally at (310) 914-2444 or at our Toll-Free number at (866) 695-6714, or visit us at our website. Our immigration attorneys serve clients in Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange, Ventura, and San Bernadino counties.
Learn more about immigration law and how The Justice Firm’s immigration lawyers can help you.