Generally, a citizen of a foreign country who wishes to enter the United States must first obtain a visa, either a non-immigrant visa for temporary stay, or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. The visa application is submitted online through the DS-160.
The visa allows a foreign citizen, to travel to the United States port-of entry and request permission of the U.S. immigration inspector (a CBP officer) to enter the U.S. There are some exceptions, which allow certain, restricted visa-free travel for Citizens of Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and participating nations of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP/ ESTA)
The “visitor” visa is a non-immigrant visa for persons desiring to enter the United States temporarily for business (B-1), for pleasure or medical treatment (B-2), or combination of both (B-1/B-2) purposes. The following is a list of sample types of activities which are permitted: (others may also apply)
- consult with business associates, make presentations to potential customers/ clients/ business partners, etc.
- attend a scientific, educational, professional, or business convention or conference, trade-show, industry-expo, etc.
- attend short-term training (you may not be paid by any source in the U.S. with the exception of expenses incidental to your stay)
- enter into negotiations for a contract (to provide products/services in the future), enter into business/ trade relationships, etc.
Tourism or Visiting (B-2):
- tourism, travelling for pleasure / recreation
- vacation (holiday)
- visit with friends or relatives
- seek and undergo medical treatment
- participation in social events hosted by fraternal, social, or service organizations
- participation by amateurs in musical, sports, or similar events or contests, as long as not being paid for participating
- enrollment in a short recreational course of study, not for credit toward a degree (for example, a two-day cooking class while on vacation)
Travel Purposes Generally Not Permitted on Visa Waiver Program or under B1/B2 Visa – Examples:
- study, for credit (language courses are generally permitted)
- work as foreign press, radio, film, journalists, or other information media
- ongoing residence in the United States
Business Visitor Visas (B-1) – For example, if the purpose for your planned travel is to consult with business associates, travel for a scientific, educational, professional or business convention, or conference on specific dates, settle an estate, or negotiate a contract, then a business visitor visa (B-1) would be the appropriate type of visa for your travel.
Personal or Domestic Employees: Under immigration law, visitor visas are limited to the following circumstances, for personal or domestic employee purposes of travel to the U.S. A visitor (B-1) visa is appropriate when all eligibility requirements are met, for a personal or domestic employee who accompanies or follow to join: 1) A U.S. citizen employer having a permanent home or is stationed in a foreign country, who is visiting or is assigned to the United States temporarily; OR 2) A foreign citizen employer in the United States in certain types non-immigrant visa status.
Pleasure, Tourism, Medical Treatment – Visitor Visas (B-2) – As examples, if the purpose of your planned travel is recreational in nature, including tourism, vacation (holiday), amusement, visits with friends or relatives, rest, medical treatment, activities of a fraternal, social, or service nature, and participation by amateurs, who will receive no remuneration, in musical, sports and similar events or contests, then a visitor visa (B-2) would be the appropriate type of visa for your travel. If you are going to the U.S. primarily for tourism, but want to take a short course of study which is recreational (and not for credit towards a degree), and the course is less than 18 hours per week, this is permitted on a visitor visa. As an example, if you are taking a vacation to the U.S., and during this vacation you would like to take a two-day cooking class for your enjoyment, and there is no credit earned, then this would be permitted on a visitor visa. A consular officer will determine the visa category you will need based on the purpose of your travel, and your supporting documentation.