Visitor visas for the United States
If you are planning to travel to the United States for pleasure or for a short business visit, you may be eligible to enter the US as a visitor with a B-1 or B-2 visa
More information about the process for USA (B-1/B-2 Visa)
In order to be considered eligible as a permitted business visitor (B-1), your activities may include: consulting with business associates; participating in short trainings; business conventions; meetings; and conferences. To be able to enter the US as a permitted visitor (B-2), the purpose of your travel to the US may include tourism, or visiting friends and relatives. Visitors in the US on either a B-1 or B-2 visa cannot engage in any form of work in the US or enter the US labour market in any way.
In order to qualify for this type of visa, your application must demonstrate that you have funds to cover the expenses of the trip, and that you have a permanent residence outside of the US to which you plan to return. You must satisfy a visa officer that you have temporary intent and that your proposed stay in the US is for a specific, short duration. If you are a Canadian citizen, you do not require a visa to enter the US and may be admitted in B-1/B-2 status at a port of entry with your Canadian passport (Canadian permanent residents do require a visa to enter the US). Citizens of countries that are members of the Visa Waiver Program do not require visas either, but are required to register with the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) in order to be eligible to travel to the US as B-1/B-2 visitors. If you are a citizen of another country, you must apply for a valid visitor visa to the US at a consulate abroad before travel.
Frequently asked questions about B1/B2 Visas
1. How long can I stay in the US with this visa?
Generally, you are allowed to stay for up to six months from the date of the stamp in your passport. You may apply to extend your stay as a visitor for a period of up to 6 months, with a maximum total amount permitted of 1 year. If you are travelling with ESTA, you can stay for up to 90 days. However, it is important to indicate to the visa officer your intended length of stay and legitimate purpose of visit. The officers have discretion to deny you entry or grant a shorter period of time than you intend, so it is important to check your passport stamp and or I-94 (see below question for what is an I-94).
2. What is my I-94?
The “I-94” is a record of your entry into the US and documents the permitted duration of stay. Traditionally the I-94 was a cardboard card placed in the passport. It is now often issued electronically, and can be obtained on the official Customs and Border Protection website by clicking “get most recent I-94.”
3. Can I be a business visitor even if I am paid?
It depends. As a business visitor, you may continue to earn your regular salary from your foreign employer or receive reimbursement related to travel and incidental expenses only.
However, you cannot receive salary or remuneration from a US source. Specifically, if you are paid by a US entity for your travel to the US, or a US entity pays your foreign employer and you in turn receive specific payments for the visits, your activities may constitute work or you may be entering the US labor market and you will require work permit.
4. What else can I do as a visitor?
Besides the most common categories, such as tourists and participants in meetings, other permissible visitors can include: certain ministers of religion doing specific activities; certain professional athletes in permitted events receiving no salary or payment; certain personal or domestic employees; airline employees; students taking elective clerkships without remuneration; certain entertainers in sponsored cultural programs performing without pay; and musicians recording in facilities with no US performances or US distribution. However, the above types of applicants must plan to engage in specific, limited, permitted activities in order to fit into these categories. Furthermore, in all cases, very specific requirements must be met in order for the individual to eligible and, if not, a work permit may be required. It is therefore important to understand the legal requirements prior to attempting to enter the US as a visitor.
5. Can I study or work in the US as a visitor?
No. A work or student visa required. However, a visitor in B2 status may partake in certain types of short, recreational studies, as long as the primary purpose of the visit is for tourism and the study is only incidental to the visit. The study activity must not be used towards a degree or academic certification.
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