B1 and B2 visas (U.S. business/tourism visas)

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B1 and B2 visas (U.S. business/tourism visas)

B1 and B2 visas (U.S. nonimmigrant business/tourism visas)

What are the distinguishing features of B1 and B2 visas?

B1 and B2 visas are generally referred to as “B visas”, and they are the most common types of visa issued for a wide range of uses in the United States. The B1 visa is issued mainly for short-term business trips, while the B2 visa is issued mainly traveling for tourism purposes.
Once a visa is issued after approval of your B1 or B2 visa application to the U.S. government, “B1/B2” is indicated under “Visa Type/Class.” Under this visa indication, the traveler may engage in both short-term business and tourism activities while in the United States.
The most common reasons for applying for B visas are to visit family, relatives, and friends residing in the U.S., and also to engage in short-term business trips in the U.S. for business discussions, negotiations, meetings, and site inspections. However, holders of B visas are prohibited from working and receiving salary or other remuneration in the U.S.
Travelers must apply for an E visa in order to work (including part-time) in the U.S. or to invest in businesses, shops, or other investments in the country.
Those who may be involved in some kind of business activities while in the U.S. are encouraged to check the content of such activities and their period in advance.

The advantages and disadvantages of B-visa

The advantage of B-visa is to be able to obtain it in the short time. The application is simpler, and easy to obtain compare to E-visa, required for expat, and L-visa for transference.
In the United States, the system called VWP (Visa Waiver Program) is established for friendly nations. Citizens of subjected countries under the system are allowed to travel to the U.S. without obtaining visa and are able to stay there for 90 days the longest. They are required to apply for ESTA prior to departure and purpose of their stay is limited to sightseeing or short-term business.
On the other hand, disadvantage of B-visa is that has limitation for the activity in the U.S. The B-1 visa, mainly subjected to business is limited for meeting, inspection, business conversation, and buying since local employment is not allowed. Either nor the B-2 visa subjected to sightseeing is permitted for employment including part time job.
As of January 2022, 39 countries and areas are subjected to VWP, and demand of B-visa is declining in each country accompanied with the increase of ESTA (Electric System for Travel Authorization) application.

Visa Waiver Program (VWP)

The person who comes under nationality listed below is subjected to Visa Waiver Program, and is allowed to stay in the U.S. for 90 days the longest without obtaining visa when traveling for short-term business trip or sightseeing. The ESTA application is required prior to departure when using Visa Waiver Program as well as obtaining a valid passport.

Visa Waiver Program (VWP) Terms of Use

Must obtain valid passport with IC tip
Must complete application for ESTA (Electric System for Travel Authorization) and obtain “Travel Authorization” prior to departure
The purpose of the visit must be sightseeing or short-term business, and its staying period is within 90 days

Visa Waiver Program (VWP) Subjected Countries (as of November 2023)

  • Japan
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • New Zealand
  • Hungary
  • Norway
  • Belgium
  • Brunei
  • Chile
  • Denmark
  • Andorra
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Portugal
  • Lichtenstein
  • South Korea
  • San Marino
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Czech Republic
  • Slovenia
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Monaco
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • United Kingdom
  • Netherlands
  • Poland
  • Croatia
  • Israel
  • (listed in no particular order)

A point to be paid attention related to Visa Waiver Program (VWP)’s terms of use “Within 90 days staying period”

When a citizen subjected to Visa Waiver Program (VWP) is visiting the U.S., the longest staying period of 90days is permitted with only ESTA application. It is possible to visit neighbor countries of Canada and Mexico though it is determined as a condition that must be within the staying period of 90 days. B-visa is required if staying in the U.S. for over 90 days.
ESTA is subjected to the person whose purpose of the visit to the U.S. is sightseeing or short-term business, and to stay in the U.S. is a general condition. Be notified that immigration official of CBP (Customs and Border Protection) may request to show purpose of the visit and proof of staying period when crossing a border.
Also, eTA (electric Travel Authorization) application is required prior to departure if visiting Canada from U.S. via air. It is a travel authorization system similar to ESTA (Electric System for Travel Authorization), and mainly subjected to the person who is entering Canada for sightseeing or short-term business trip. eTa application is not necessary if entering Canada via land or sea.
ESTA is valid for 2 years and multiple visits to the U.S. are allowed when it is up to 90days of staying period.
For more information related to ESTA expiration date, check “ESTA expiration date and re-application”.

Activities permitted under a B1 visa

Those traveling to the U.S. for short-term business purposes on a B1 visa or with prior ESTA authorization under the Visa Waiver Program may engage in the following activities while in the U.S.

  • Business-related contractual negotiations
  • Business discussions, conferences, meetings, etc. with trading partners
  • Attendance in specialized business-related meetings, conferences, etc.
  • Research, tours, inspections, etc. for business purposes
  • Buying products, materials, etc.
  • Testifying in U.S. courts of law

Activities permitted under a B2 visa

Those traveling to the U.S. mainly for tourism purposes on a B2 visa or with prior ESTA authorization under the Visa Waiver Program may engage in the following activities while in the U.S.

  • Tourism and related activities in the U.S. and U.S. islands
  • Staying in the homes of family, relatives, friends, or acquaintances in the U.S.
  • Undergoing examination, treatment, surgery, etc. at medical institutions in the U.S.
  • Participating in trade shows, exhibitions, and other events in the U.S.
  • Participating in meetings, exchange programs, etc. in the U.S. organized by social organizations, friendly organizations, etc.

How long can a traveler stay on a B1/B2 visa?

The period of validity of a visa indicates the period during which the visa holder may undergo immigration screening to enter the U.S., not the period for which he or she may stay in the U.S. Accordingly, travelers should note that the period of validity indicated on the visa does not mean the period they can stay in the U.S.
The period for which a traveler may stay in the U.S. is determined by the immigration officer at the port of entry, depending on the purpose of the traveler, the officer will make a judgment for an appropriate period of stay. In general, travelers are not permitted to stay for longer than six months on a single visit. However, in the case of a B1 visa a traveler may be permitted to stay for one year if immigration determines that such a period is necessary for business reasons. If the traveler desires to stay even longer, he or she may apply for an extension while in the United States. If approved, the period of stay generally will be renewed for six months, although applications for extension may be rejected in some cases. In addition, a visa does not guarantee the right to enter the U.S. Rather, it merely indicates that a U.S. consulate has judged that the bearer is eligible to enter the U.S. for the specific purpose of the visa.
As in the case of ESTA authorization, the final judgment on admission to the U.S. is made by immigration officers at the airport. Travelers should understand in advance that the period they will be permitted to stay in the U.S. is not uniform but is on a case-by-case basis, determined by immigration officers at the port of entry.

Can a traveler visit the U.S. many times under a B2 visa, as long as it is in the period of validity of the visa?

You may travel to the U.S. as many times as you like during the period of validity of the visa. There is no restriction on the number of times you may visit. However, if you travel to the U.S. frequently and stay there for a long period of time, you may need to prove to immigration officers that you do not intend to immigrate to the United States.
It is important to demonstrate that you intend to return to your home country or to a residence outside the U.S. after your stay. If you do not prove to the immigration officer that you are indeed a traveler and have no intention to immigrate to the U.S., then you might be refused entry to the U.S. during immigration screening. Also, travelers who visit the U.S. frequently may be asked to explain the reason for their visit each time, even if it is for tourism purposes. Travelers who plan to visit the U.S. frequently are encouraged to choose the appropriate visa based on comprehensive consideration of matters such as their purpose of visit, planned length of stay, and future relation to the United States.

How to apply for B1 and B2 visas

Here are the details of B1/B2 visa applications required for U.S. visit. Start apply by following the steps.
Please check “Visitor Visa” by U.S. Department of State for summary and who is eligible to B1/B2 visas.

STEP1:File “DS-160” application form online

“DS-160” is an application to pre-screen qualification of issuing nonimmigrant visa to stay in the U.S.
All non-immigrant visa applicants at U.S. Embassy/U.S. Consulate General are required to submit the “DS-160” application form in advance. Fill out “DS-160 online application form”.

10-digit application ID and barcode on “DS-160” confirmation screen are required at the interview with consular officer. You should memo application ID on your note and print out the barcode prior to the interview. Check “Example of filling out Form DS-160” for details.

STEP2:Visa Application Fee

After “DS-160” is filed, screen will move to the visa application payment page. There, you can see the list of variety of visas, and application fees in each countries’ currency such as dollars. Choose the payment as credit card, and pay for the fee of visa you applied.
If you are applicant of student/exchange visitor visa (F,M,J-visa), additional $220 for SEVIS (I-901) are required other than visa application fee.

STEP3:Schedule your interview

If you apply U.S. visa for the first time, it is required to create your profile online. Access to the online page of U.S. embassy where you are nationals (and of its areas), then fill out the form as required. A receipt of 12-digit “interview confirmation number” are shown after completing the profile. The number will be required for the interview. Select interview date and make note of interview confirmation number for yourself.

Following information are required when making an appointment for the interview.

  • Valid passport (all information on identification page)
  • 10-digit application ID and barcode on ”DS-160” confirmation page
  • 12-digit interview confirmation number shown on the page when you completed the profile

Fill out all information above, then make sure to check types of visa you applied, personal information you entered, amount of visa application fee, and interview date.

STEP4:Prepare required documents for interview

Please bring all following documents on interview date at the U.S. Embassy/Counsel General

  1. Valid passport
  2. The passport issued in last 10 years
  3. 10-digit application ID and barcode on ”DS-160” confirmation page (in writing)
  4. 12-digit interview conformation number shown on the page when you completed the profile (in writing)
  5. Identification photo taken in 6 months 1 x (50mm × 50mm)

※Identification photo must be in color, white background, no glasses only. Attach the photo to #3’s left top, no tapes must cover the face.

STEP5:Interview with Consular officer

Attend your visa interview with consular officer at U.S. Embassy/Consulate General on your appointment date. You may want to arrive there at least one hour prior to the interview since submission of required documents, security check, and collection of fingerprinting will be processed before the interview.
Under the influence of COVID-19 (coronavirus disease) infection spread, U.S. Embassy/Consulate General suggest to make an early interview appointment. When you apply B1/B2 visa, you should make interview appointment at least 3 months prior to your planned visiting date to the U.S.

STEP6:Check your visa attached passport

After the interview, a visa attached passport will be mailed to your registered address. After receiving passport, check thoroughly to make sure there is no mistake on visa. It takes about 10 days to 2 weeks after the interview till the visa issuance. Those who need visa in a hurry for some reasons may have interview after their return from the U.S. depending on the decision of consular officer. For details of those cases, please contact U.S. Embassy/Consulate General nearby.

For Citizens of United Kingdom

Under the rules of government of United Kingdom, visa issuance is prioritized to those who have specific reasons or for emergency cases. Under the influence of COVID-19 infection spread, regular visa services have not been back completely as of today. Please be notified it will take longer than usual for visa issuance since interview appointment spots are very limited.

If your ESTA application is rejected, apply for a B visa

If you plan to stay in the U.S. for no longer than 90 days for purposes of tourism or a short-term business trip, applying for ESTA enables smoother and quicker entry procedures than applying for a visa. But if you are unable to receive ESTA authorization for any reasons, applying for a B1/B2 visa.
After preparing the required documents in order to apply for and receive a visa, make an appointment for an interview with your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate general through the U.S. visa application website. Make arrangements to apply for a visa with enough time to spare, by making sure to check your travel schedule.

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UPDATE : 2024/05/31