Generally, a citizen of a foreign country who wishes to enter the United States must first obtain a visa, either a nonimmigrant visa for a temporary stay, or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. Visitor visas are nonimmigrant visas for persons who want to enter the United States temporarily for business (visa category B-1), for tourism (visa category B-2), or for a combination of both purposes (B-1/B-2).
To be eligible for a US Tourist visa, the purpose of your visit should be one of the following:
- Have a holiday in the United States.
- Tour various cities in the United States.
- Visit friends or family.
- Participate in social events hosted by various organizations.
- Visit for medical treatment.
- Participate in events or contests related to music or sports, for which you will not receive payment.
- Enroll in short study courses for which you will not receive credit (ex. cooking classes).
If you do not fall into any of the categories above, then you should look into other types of US non-immigrant visas to see for which ones you qualify.
In addition, you will have to prove that you have enough financial means to cover your stay in the United States and that you intend to return to your home country as soon as your visa expires.
On the other hand, the B1 visa allows you to enter the United States with the purpose of business, contract negotiation, or attending conferences and other business-related events.
How to Apply for a US Tourist Visa?
To apply for a US Tourist visa you must go through these simple steps:
- Submit Form DS-160.
- Pay visa fees.
- Schedule your US Tourist Visa interview.
- Compile your B2 Visa document file.
- Attend the visa interview.
Submit Form DS-160
Submit your information as well as details about your purpose of visit. You must fill in the sections for your US Tourist visa and then submit it online. After you submit it, you will get a verification page and code which you need for your documents file.
You can fill the DS-160 form online through:
- the Consular Electronic Application Center, or
- with the help of a visa processing assistant.
Pay the application fees
The application fee for the US Tourist Visa is $160. Depending on your country’s relationship with the US, you might have to pay other fees too. These are called visa issuance fees and they vary from country to country. After making the payments, you need to keep the receipts and attach them to your file of required documents.
Schedule your US Tourist Visa interview
All applicants between 14 and 79 years old must go through an interview at the US Embassy. To attend this interview, you must schedule an appointment with the US Embassy in your country of residence. Due to the high workload that they have, make sure you schedule it as soon as possible. When this procedure is done, you will get an interview confirmation letter which you need to bring to the interview.
Compile your B2 Visa document file
The documents file that you have includes all supporting documents to show the US Embassy that it is safe to give you the visa. You must bring all of the documents to your visa appointment.
Here are the required documents that you need to submit when applying for a B2 visa:
- Valid passport.
- A photograph that complies with the requirements and guidelines.
- Form DS-160 confirmation page and code.
- Receipt of paid visa fees.
- Interview confirmation page.
- A letter which describes the purpose of your trip.
- Proof of financial means. Financial or bank statements to prove you have the finances to stay in the US of at least $266 for each day of your planned stay.
- Ties to your home country. Family, job contract, lease, or property deed, which prove you will return.
- Optional US visitor visa invitation letter from friends or family in the US.
- Criminal records or letters from authorities stating that you do not have prior convictions.
- Documents relevant to your prior visits. This only applies if you visited the US before.
- Transcripts or diplomas. This only applies to students.
- A letter from your employer and payslips for the last three months. If you are a worker
- Photocopies of your relative’s status in the US.
- Letters from doctors on your diagnosis and treatment. If you are visiting for medical purposes.
- Social media details.
- Attend the visa interview
On the date of your interview, a US Embassy official will ask questions about your background and why you want to go to the United States. They will go through your documents to ensure that everything is in order. The interviews do not last long but make sure to disclose all necessary information to avoid problems later on.
How Long is the B2 Visa Processing Time?
The B2 visa may take a few weeks up to a few months to process. Processing times differ from country to country because it largely depends on the workload that the US Embassy where you applied has. If you do not hear from the Embassy, be patient and wait for them to inform you on whether you got the visa or not.
B2 Visa Duration
The maximum duration of stay on a B2 visa is 6 months. During that time, you can travel throughout the US or for any other purpose. However, as soon as your visa expires, you must return to your home country.
B2 Visa Extension
If you want to stay longer, you can apply for B2 visa extension for an additional 6 months. You should do so at least 42 days before the expiration of your I-94 card. Yet, you are not allowed to apply within three months of arrival in the US. You should submit the following documents when applying for a B2 visa extension:
- Completed form I-539.
- Your valid passport.
- A written statement on the reason behind the requested extension.
- Evidence of financial support.
- Payment of the extension fee, which is $370.
- Original or photocopy of I-94 card.
The extension processing time varies on the number of applications USCIS is processing at the time of your application.
Do Tourists Get Access to American Healthcare?
As a foreigner visiting the United States for tourism purposes you will not receive free healthcare. The American healthcare system is the most expensive in the world with the treatment of a broken leg or broken arm that will cost you $2,500, while staying at a US hospital for one night may cost over $10,000, on average.
Therefore, it is advisable to purchase a visitor’s health insurance plan to cover these costs.
Can I Get a Green Card With a US Tourist Visa?
It is very difficult to get permanent residence or a Green Card if you are a tourist in the United States. Since the B2 visa is a temporary visa, you must prove that you will return to your home country after it expires in order to get it. Also, you are not allowed to look for a job or start studying, which means the easiest paths to a Green Card may not be available for you.
Can My Parents Visit Me In USA With a B2 Visa?
If you are living in the US, working or studying, you can invite your parents to visit you. They will need to follow all of the processes explained above in this article. The only thing that may differ a bit, are the required documents:
- Passports. Your parents should have valid passports
- Completed DS-160 Form.
- Bank Verification Letter. You should present proof you are capable of financially supporting your parents while they are in the US.
- Employment Verification You should ask your current employer for this letter.
- Invitation Letter. You should write a letter to your parents inviting them to visit you in the US.
You are responsible for collecting some of the documents for your parents. They will also need to collect some extra in their home country.
It is highly recommended that visiting parents obtain a visitor’s insurance plan that covers their entire stay in the United States.