Jon Velie brings you up to date on how to get a visitor’s visa for pleasure or for business purposes.
Valid reasons for entering the U.S. on a visitor’s visa include:
- Attending or presenting at a conference or seminar.
- Attending a legal deposition.
- Attending a specific performance or show.
- Competing in a competition, including competing for prize money (e.g., rugby match, tennis tournament, or chess match).
- Amateur musician entering to perform in the U.S.
Note one key exception that is not valid under either the B-1 or B-2 visa is performances by professional musicians, even if you are playing for free.
How to Apply for a B-1 or B-2 Visitor’s Visa
The first step is to fill out a DS-160 form and submit it to the Department of State. You can do this at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
Set an appointment at the embassy or consulate, but make sure to bring everything you need to support your application.
Remember that U.S. immigration officials’ primary concern is the risk that someone entering the country may not leave when they said they would, and instead try to stay longer than permitted in the country.
One risk factor is if you have an immediate family member (or even a boyfriend/girlfriend) who is already in the U.S. The problem is that you might use your temporary visit to file an immigrant visa, such as a marriage-based green card. This alone could be a reason to get your B-visa application denied (Section 212).
Our Top Tips for Getting B1/B2 Visitor Visas
Ideally, you should be able to present a specific and short-term reason for your visit, such as to attend Conference X, to go to a show by Band Y or to attend a graduation.
Another top tip is to book a hotel room in advance of your trip (which you can always cancel later). This gives the officials more evidence that your visit is temporary. However, do not book non-refundable travel tickets in case your B visa is denied for any reason.
The most critical issue is to be able to prove you still have ties to your home country:
- a job (with appropriate proof plus a covering letter from your employer);
- your own property;
- dependent family members;
- specific events at home that you must attend.