US Visitor Visas
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U.S. Visitor Visas - Business and Pleasure

From Jennifer Leavitt-Wipf,
Your Guide to Immigration Issues.
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An Overview

Many foreigners planning to visit the United States must first obtain a U.S. visitor's visa, either a B-1 for business, or a B-2 for personal reasons or medical care.

Travelers from Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, or the United Kingdom do not need U.S. visitor visas for trips shorter than 6 months.

Applicants for U.S. visitor visas must convince their American consulate that:

  • The purpose of their trip is to enter the United States for business, pleasure, or medical treatment;

  • That they plan to remain for a specific, limited period; and,

  • That they have a residence outside the States as well as other binding ties which will insure their return abroad at the end of the trip.
  • Applying for U.S. Visitor Visas

    Applicants for U.S. visitor visas should generally apply at the American Embassy or Consulate with jurisdiction over their place of permanent residence. Although visa applicants may apply at any American consular office abroad, it may be more difficult to qualify from outside the country of permanent residence.

    Required Documentation

    Applicants for U.S. visitor visas must submit:

    1) An application Form DS-156, completed and signed. Blank forms are available without charge at all American consular offices;

    2) A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant's intended period of stay. If more than one person is included in the passport, everyone traveling to the States must apply for U.S. Visitor Visas;

    3) Two photographs 1 and 1/2 inches square (37x37 mm) for each applicant, showing full face, without head covering, against a light background.

    Optional Documentation

    Applicants must demonstrate that they are properly classifiable as visitors under United States law. Evidence which shows the purpose of the trip, intent to depart the United States, and arrangements made to cover the costs of the trip may help applicants get approval for U.S. Visitor Visas.

    It is impossible to specify the exact form the evidence should take since applicant circumstances vary greatly. However, evidence of the following, within applicant's home country, can help:

  • Close family members not traveling with applicant;

  • A full-time job or business ownership;

  • Other local affiliations (e.g. church, school, politics);

  • Car, home, boat, land or other property ownership;

  • Property leases and security deposits;

  • Official future commitments (e.g. wedding, public speech, graduation);
  • A bank account with $1,000 USD or preferably more.
  • Those coming from countries with high rates of illegal immigration to the States will usually face much more scrutiny.

    People traveling to the United States on business can present a letter from the American business firm indicating the purpose of the trip, the bearer's intended length of stay and the firm's intent to defray travel costs.

    Persons traveling for pleasure may use letters from relatives or friends in the States whom the applicant plans to visit or confirmation of participation in a planned tour.

    Those traveling to the United States for medical treatment should have a statement from a doctor or institution concerning proposed medical care.

    Applicants who do not have sufficient funds to support themselves while in the United States must present convincing evidence that an interested person will provide support. Travelers are not permitted to accept employment during their stay in the States.

    Travelers with previously issued U.S. visitor visas in their passports should inquire about special expedited procedures available at most consular offices for re-issuance.

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