Frequently Asked Questions About B-1/B-2 Visitor Visas
By Scott M. Borene*
1. What is a B visa?
The B visitor visa is a nonimmigrant visa granted to an individual seeking admission to the United States who plans to remain in the U.S. only temporarily for business or pleasure. It is the most commonly issued temporary visa in the U.S. immigration system.
2. What is the difference between a B-1 and a B-2 visa?
An individual who enters the U.S. temporarily for business purposes may be granted a B-1 visitor visa. The B-2 visitor visa is for individuals entering the U.S. temporarily for the purpose of pleasure or for medical treatment.
3. What legal requirements must someone satisfy to be eligible to use a B visitor visa?
The general presumption under U.S. law is that all individuals seeking admission to the United States are “intending immigrants”. An “intending immigrant” is a person who intends to stay permanently or indefinitely in the U.S. Therefore, all applicants for the B visitor visa must prove that they are not intending immigrants by demonstrating that they seek admission to the U.S. for only a limited duration. This is accomplished by demonstrating that one has strong ties abroad such as a permanent residence, family, and permanent employment.
4. Where should one apply for a B visa?
Generally, one should apply for a B visitor visa at the U.S. consulate in their home country or in their country of current residence.
5. What is the difference between a status and a visa?
A visa represents only permission to seek entry to the U.S. It does not guarantee admission to the U.S. Visas are available only from the U.S. consulates and embassies outside the U.S. The written evidence of a visa is a visa stamp or visa page including a photo placed in a passport by a U.S. consular official. A visa may still be valid even though the passport it is stamped into has expired. A visa only allows a person permission to come to the U.S. to try to get a “status” from U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials at the border or arrival airport.
A status is an official immigration category assigned by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to a non-citizen who is present in the U.S. A status is available only from the DHS inside the U.S. or at one of the small number of pre-flight inspection offices outside the U.S. (e.g. Toronto, Canada). The written evidence of a status usually appears on a small white card called an “I-94 Arrival/Departure Record” that is usually endorsed by a CBP official at the border or arrival airport at the time a non-citizen comes into the U.S. Sometimes the I-94 is issued by mail if a person is approved for a change of status or extension of stay.
6. How long is a B visa valid?
Generally, B visitor visas are initially issued for a period of up to ten years. Many are valid for multiple entries during that time. Some are limited to one or two entries only.
7. How long may a person stay in the U.S. in a B visitor status?
Initial periods of B visitor status are usually limited to six months. However, an immigration officer has the discretion to issue a B visitor status for a shorter period of time.
8. How long does it take to get a B visa?
The actual processing time varies among consulates; however, at many consular offices a B visitor visa is issued the same day or within one or two days after the application has been filed with the consulate. However, since 9/11, security clearances have delayed some applications for 3 weeks or longer.
9. For what reasons can someone be denied a B visitor visa?
A consular officer has the discretion to deny someone a B visitor visa to enter the U.S. when that individual has not proven sufficient ties abroad, fails to show an intent to remain temporarily in the U.S., or fails to provide proof of sufficient funds to support himself or herself while in the U.S. Even if a B visa is issued, the U.S. immigration service can refuse admission to a person if the immigration officer at the airport does not believe the person meets the requirements to qualify as a B visitor.
10. Can someone in the U.S. in B status extend his or her stay?
An individual who is currently in the U.S. in B visitor status may apply to extend his or her status for an additional period of up to six months provided that the individual can show that the nature of the visit remains temporary and he or she has sufficient means to support the costs of the additional stay. In addition, an individual may need to show the intended means of departure (e.g. a return plane ticket to the home country). Generally, a request for an extension of B visitor status must be made to the USCIS before the date of expiration of the current authorized period of stay. In rare cases, late applications are possible.
11. How many times can someone request an extension of B visitor status?
There is currently no limit on the number of times that someone can request an extension of B visitor status. However, given the temporary nature and purpose of this classification, it is not likely that someone will be granted multiple extensions of this status.
12. Can a B visitor’s spouse and children also come to the U.S.?
Yes, spouses and children can come to the U.S. as B visitors, however, they must each apply for their own separate B visa. There is no derivative B visitor visa category for spouses and children as is the case with other nonimmigrant categories.
13. Can someone change status from B visitor status to another nonimmigrant category while in the U.S.?
Yes. An individual in the U.S. in B visitor status may apply to change to another nonimmigrant status if the person has maintained full compliance with all immigration rules since entry to the U.S. and if the person fully meets all of the eligibility requirements for the new category. An issue arises when an individual in B visitor status wants to adjust to permanent resident status while in the U.S. because this may suggest that the individual’s original intent upon entry to the U.S. was to remain permanently and not temporarily. Also, it is generally inappropriate to enter the U.S. in the B category and quickly apply to change to another status such as the F student category.
14. Can someone who enters the U.S. on a B visitor visa work while in the U.S.?
Generally, persons admitted to the U.S. as B-1 or B-2 visitors may not accept or engage in employment while in the U.S. Individuals who are admitted to the U.S. on a B-1 visitor visa may engage in certain limited business activities while in the U.S. This means that a foreign national in B-1 visitor status in the U.S. may engage in certain professional or commercial activities such as attending professional or educational conferences, participating in negotiations, and attending meetings.
15. What is the role of the immigration attorney in the B visitor visa process?
Most individuals do not seek the assistance of an immigration attorney in applying for a B visitor visa abroad. However, individuals are more likely to seek the assistance of an attorney in applying for an extension of B visitor status once they are in the U.S. An attorney can assist in preparing and organizing the application documents and provide legal advice regarding an individual’s specific situation, which can be very helpful if there are any issues with an individual’s immigration history. Also, any person who has ever been refused a U.S. visa or has ever violated U.S. immigration rules would be wise to seek assistance from an experienced immigration lawyer before applying for a visa or attempting to reenter the U.S.
*Scott M. Borene is the Founder and Managing Attorney of Borene Law Firm, P. A. The immigration lawyers now with Borene Law Firm have more than 70 years of combined professional experience helping clients with U.S. and global visa and immigration projects. Scott Borene was selected by other lawyers as 2018 Lawyer of the Year in Immigration Law as noted by The Best Lawyers in America and Minnesota Monthly magazine. He has been repeatedly recognized as one of the Top 20 Lawyers in the World “most highly regarded by other lawyers” in corporate immigration law. He is listed in the Best Lawyers in America and acknowledged as an Immigration Law Super Lawyer. He is often called upon to act as an “expert’s expert” to advise other experienced immigration lawyers on complex immigration matters. Scott Borene is a past Director and a past Member of the Board of Governors of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), the world’s largest professional organization of immigration lawyers. In 2002, he was the founder and Conference Chair of AILA’s Global Immigration Summit in New York City, the world’s largest conference of global immigration lawyers. He has written many articles on immigration law and is a frequently invited expert speaker on immigration topics at AILA National Conferences and other major national and international legal conferences. He is the Editor-in-Chief of many leading professional reference books for immigration lawyers including The Global Immigration Guide: A Country-by-Country Survey and The Global Immigration Guide: Crossing Borders for Business, AILA’s most comprehensive books on Global Immigration. He served as Editor-in-Chief of Immigration Options for Academics and Researchers (2005), AILA’s leading Expert Occupational Handbook on immigration issues in higher education. He is the author of Dr. Yes – Some Practical Strategies for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Immigrant Visa Cases of Health Care Professionals. Scott Borene attended Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts as a National Merit Scholar. After graduation from Harvard, he attended William Mitchell Law School in Minnesota. Scott Borene has more than 30 years of experience helping employers obtain work visas for key international talent. Scott Borene can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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