Tourist visas remain an important part of travel for tourists who visit the USA. If you are excluded from the Visa Waiver Program, you must apply for a visa prior to entering the country. Visas are granted under a variety of different circumstances, each requiring a unique visa type. Additionally, you must follow all of the rules specified under your visa while in the United States. This short mini-guide will help you to better understand American tourist visas.
The B1-B2, or Just the B2?
The US Visitor Visa is typically referred to as the B1-B2. However, depending on who you speak to about the visa itself, you may also hear it referred to as a B2 visa for the USA. You should be aware that these are the same thing. Many people hear these terms and assume that they need to apply for two different visas;that’s just not the case.
Your tourist visa is always subject to approval. Don’t ever assume that you will be accepted. Apply well in advance, and be prepared in the event that more information is requested. Your passport must be stamped with your visa information prior to leaving your home country.
Your tourist visa is only acceptable when it is used for a specific purpose – tourism. If you land in the United States and decide to stay as a student or landed immigrant, you must apply for a new visa. The same is true if you decide to create a business or work within the United States. It is better to go back to your home country, apply for the correct visa, and then return than to risk the chance that your additional visa will not be accepted. You should not be involved in any of these activities if you decide to travel on a tourist visa.
There are a few additional situations for which a tourist visa is suitable. Your tourist visa can also cover you for any of the following situatons:
- Brief holidays
- Visits with friends or relatives
- Medical treatments, whether emergency or otherwise
- Social events with the exception of business-related events
- Active participation in competitive sports, musical performances, or other performance art. Note that this is negated in the moment that you are paid for your performance. Once you are paid, you will need to file for a business visa. This includes sponsored athletes and performers.
- Very short or temporary studies, i.e. a short course on making wine while visiting Martha’s Vineyard in Rhode Island. Courses must not be for credit and must be informal.
A tourist visa is good for approximately six months or less. However, certain circumstances can reduce or extend this time frame. The tourism visa can be extended to a maximum of six months, but cannot be extended any further than this. This is done by submitting a visitor visa extension application while still within the country. Additionally, certain circumstances and changing policies can reduce this time frame to 90 days; always verify visa requirements before applying.