Generally, a citizen of a foreign country who wishes to enter the United States must first obtain either a non immigrant visa for temporary stay or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. The visitor visa is a non immigrant visa for persons desiring to enter the United States temporarily for business (B-1) or for pleasure or medical treatment (B-2). Persons planning to travel to the U.S. for a different purpose, such as students, temporary workers, crewmen, journalists, etc., must apply for a different visa in the appropriate category. Travelers from certain eligible countries may also be able to visit the U.S. without a visa, through the Visa Waiver Program.

Qualifying for a B-1/B-2 Visa

Applicants for visitor visas must show that they qualify under provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The presumption in the law is that every visitor visa applicant is an intending immigrant. Therefore, applicants for visitor visas must overcome this presumption by demonstrating that:

  • The purpose of their trip is to enter the U.S. for business, pleasure, or medical treatment;
  • They plan to remain for a specific, limited period; and
  • They have a residence outside the U.S. as well as other binding ties, which will insure their return abroad at the end of the visit.

Alien truck drivers may qualify for admission as B-1 visitors for business to pick-up or deliver cargo traveling in the stream of international commerce.

Passing through a U.S. Port of Entry

Applicants should be aware that a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) at the port of entry have authority to deny admission. Also, the period for which the bearer of a visitor visa is authorized to remain in the United States is determined by the CBP, not the Department of State Consular Officer.

Visitors who wish to stay beyond the time indicated on their Form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record) must file Form I-539 with USCIS, to request extension of their status before the expiration of their original status. The decision to grant or deny a request for extension of stay is made solely by the USCIS.