B1 and B2 visas come under the US visitor visa classification. With a B1 B2 visa, you are permitted entry into the US on a temporary basis for a range of permissible activities.
Restrictions do however apply, and B1 B2 visa applicants should familiarise themselves with the limitations on the type of activities permitted under the tourist visa to avoid violating the terms of their visa.
B visas may also be the most appropriate option for travellers who are not eligible for visa-free ESTA travel to the US.
B1 B2 visa allowed activities
The B1 visa is issued for short-term business trips, while the B2 visa is issued mainly for tourism purposes.
B1 visa for short term business-related activity
The following are allowed under the B1 visitor visa:
- Conducting business-related contractual negotiations
- Attendance at specialized business-related meetings, conferences
- Participating in trade shows, exhibitions, and other events
- Research, tours, inspections, etc. for business purposes
- Buying products, materials, etc. for business
Importantly – holders of B visas are expressly prohibited from working or undertaking gainful employment and receiving salary or other remuneration in the US.
If you are intending to travel to the US to work and earn, you will need to apply for the relevant US work or business visa.
Taking advice in advance of your application will ensure your intended activities and plans fall within permissible activities under the B classification.
B2 visa for tourism
The following are allowed under the B2 visitor visa:
- Tourism and related activities in the US and US islands
- Visiting family, relatives, friends, or acquaintances
- Undergoing medical treatment, examination, surgery, etc
- Participating in meetings, exchange programs, etc in the U.S. organized by non-business related organizations
An approved B 1 B2 visa allows the holder to engage in both short-term business and tourism activities while in the United States.
Making a B visa application
To apply, you will need to complete the DS 160 form and pay the relevant application fee(s). The next step is to compile the required documents and to make an appointment for an interview with your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate general through the U.S. visa application website.
B1 B2 visa interview questions
As part of the B visa application, you should expect to attend an interview at the US consular post where you filed the petition.
Ahead of the interview, it is advisable to prepare to be questioned by the adjudicating officer on your application, your immigration history and travel plans.
Examples of commonly asked questions include:
- What is the purpose of your visit?
- Have you travelled to the US before?
- When do you plan to travel?
- Have you booked tickets, including for return?
- Have you been denied a visa earlier?
- Which state(s) will you be visiting?
- Do you have any relatives in the US?
- Who will be your contact/sponsor while in the US? What
- Where will you be staying?
- Who will you be travelling with?
- How long will you be in the US for?
- Can you prove you show continued ties to your country of residence?
- What do you do for a living?
- What is your annual income?
- Will you be working while in the US?
You may also be asked general questions relating to your health and personal and financial circumstances.
You are allowed to take supporting documents with you to help you answer the questions, such as recent bank statements, payslips, mortgage statements.
B visa length of stay
B1 and B2 visa holders are allowed to stay in the US for up to 6 months at a time.
Each visa application will be assessed on its own merit, and the adjudicating officer may grant a stay of less than 6 months – this is the maximum period for an initial stay under the B classification.
Note that there is a difference between visa validity and visa duration.
Visa duration relates to the amount of time the visitor can remain in the US to carry out their intended activities.
Visa validity refers to the period of time the visa has been issued for, and determines the amount of time in which you can use the visa to travel to the US. If the B1 B2 visa is issued for ten years, you can during this period travel to the US for eligible B visa purposes by relying on the B visa, but you can only stay in the US for up to 6 months each time.
B visas can be extended through an application process, but the total stay cannot exceed 12 months.
Extending the B1 B2 visa
In theory, it possible to apply to extend a B1 B2 visa from the initial period for up to a maximum stay of 12 months. It requires an application to be made to US immigration authorities, providing solid reasoning for the extension; it has to be more than just wanting to stay on. The decision will fall to consular discretion.
It may be possible to apply to transfer status from the B classification to another visa in response to a change in your circumstances while you are in the US under the B visa. You will however need to satisfy the adjudicator that this reason was not apparent when you entered the US under the B visa and that your intention when entering the US had been short term visiting. Transfer of status is a complex process, requiring careful handling, and professional advice is best sought to support with the petition.
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