B1 B2 Visa – Frequently Asked Questions
Are B1 and B2 visas the same?
Where individuals are not eligible to travel to the US visa-free under the Visa Waiver Program, the B visa category offers nonimmigrant visas to non-US nationals who wish to visit the US on a temporary basis for business-related activity, tourism or medical treatment.
There are two different types of B visa available, catering for different permissible activities while in the US:
- B-1 visa – allowing business-related activities such as consulting with business associates, attending scientific, educational, professional or business conventions/conferences, settling an estate or negotiating contracts.
- B-2 visa – allowing leisure, tourism or medical treatment.
If you have been issued a B1 B2 visa, you may be wondering what this means and how this impacts the type of permissible activities during your stay in the US.
Why does my visa say B1/B2 visa?
You may, for example, have applied for a B-1, but the visa you were issued says ‘B1/B2 visa’. This isn’t an error and shouldn’t be any cause for concern.
The different permissible activities under the respective B-1 and B-2 visas can in practice be rigid for travellers, allowing little flexibility under the visa conditions. If you were to hold a B-1 visa, you would not be permitted to remain in the US beyond your business activity to, say, vacation. Since the leisure activity had not been declared at the time the visa was issued, the B-1 visa would not permit that leisure activity.
Similarly, where you hold a B-2 visa and would like to combine business activity with a vacation, the B-2 visa won’t technically extend to allow the additional business purposes.
This lack of flexibility has resulted in a common practice whereby B visas are generally issued as combined B-1/B-2 visas. Figures show of all B visas issued by US Embassies and Consulates, 97% are combination B1/B2 visas.
Can I use the B1/B2 visa for tourism?
In short, yes. Leisure activities are permissible under the combined visa, including tourism.
How long can I stay in the US on a B1/B2 visa?
B visas are issued for a period of up to six months. It may be possible to apply to extend this for a further six months, up to a maximum of 12 month period.
How do I apply for a B visa?
To apply for your B visa, you will need to complete the form DS-160. As part of the online application, you will be required to upload a photo – note that the US photo requirements differ to European standards. Ensure your image complies with US specifications or application processing will be delayed.
Information required to complete the DS-160 form includes:
- Personal Information: your full name, previous names, sex, marital status, date and place of birth, nationality, any other nationality you have ever held, whether you have ever held permanent residence in a country other than your country of birth, and where applicable, your national identification number, US social security number and US taxpayer ID number
- Address, phone and email information
- Passport Information
- Travel Information: the purpose of your visit to the US – business related? tourism? both? Your travel plans, where you will stay while in the US, and details of the individual or organisation who is funding your visit.
- Travel Companions Information: details of anyone travelling with you, and whether you are travelling as part of a group or organisation
- Previous US Travel Information
- US Point of Contact Information: details of a person in the US who can confirm your identity.
- Family Information
- Work/Education/Training Information
- Additional information such as: Do you belong to a clan or tribe? Have you travelled to any other countries or regions during the last 5 years? Have you belonged to, contributed to, or worked for any professional, social or charitable organisation? Have you any specialised skills or training? Have you ever served in the military? Have you ever served in, been a member of, or been involved with a paramilitary unit, vigilante unit, rebel group, guerrilla group, or insurgent organisation?
- Security and Background Information: Medical and health information, criminal information, security information, e.g. whether you have been involved in terrorist activities, and immigration law violation information.
- Preparer of Application: if someone has helped you to make your application, details of this person.
Once you have completed the online application, print off a copy of the application form confirmation page which you will need to provide at your interview.
Visit the US Visa Information and Appointment Services website to create an account, pay the machine-readable visa (MRV) application fee and arrange your interview.
Visa processing times vary between consular posts, time of year and the complexity of your application.
What happens at the visa interview?
You will need to prepare for your interview by compiling the documents that will support and evidence your application. Documentation will vary according to your circumstances, duration and purpose of your visit (business, tourism or medical treatment), immigration history among many other factors, but should generally include:
- Passport or travel document
- Confirmation page from your DS-160 application form
- Appointment confirmation
- Printed photograph
- Evidence of your status and permanent residence in your home country, your ties to that country and your intention to return there at the end of your visit. This could include a mortgage statement or proof of employment.
- If you have previously been granted a US visa, evidence of this
- Documents relating to your medical condition and intended treatment in the US, where applicable
- Details of any criminal record, including immigration law violations
- Evidence of the purpose of your visit to the US. For a business trip, this could be a letter from your employer. For a tourism trip, this could be travel documents.
- Evidence that you have sufficient finances to cover your expenses during your visit to the US and your return travel to your home country
The visa interview will be held at the US Embassy or Consulate in the country you filed your application. Your biometric information will being taken during the appointment.
The purpose of the interview is to confirm your eligibility for whichever visa you have applied for. The officer will ask you questions on your completed form, your documents and your personal situation.
It is important to prepare well before your interview and ensure that you have all the relevant information to hand. The documents you provide should demonstrate:
- the purpose of the business portion of your trip, including communications from your employer or company, and any business or organisation you plan to visit during your time in the US
- your tourism travel plans, including an itinerary and details of where you will stay in the US
- the timeline of your visit, which must be defined and for a limited period of time
In the majority of cases, you will be given a decision on the day of your interview. If successful, your visa will be added to your passport before it is returned to you.
Tips for making your B visa application
Visa processing may be delayed or your application denied if there are issues with your application. Common application errors to avoid include:
- Insufficient supporting documents and evidence are provided
- The purposes of your visit are not eligible for the category of visa you have applied for. If you intend to carry out gainful employment for example, the B visa would not be suitable.
- You have a criminal record.
- You can’t satisfy the Consular officer that you intend to visit the US for a temporary time only.
- You can’t prove that you have sufficient funds to pay for the visit or maintain yourself during your stay.
- The information supplied is found to be fraudulent.
- You have previously stayed in the US beyond the time period granted to you.
If you have any concerns about your eligibility for a B visa or compiling sufficient documentation, take legal advice.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.