The B-2 visa is one of the most popular visas for U.S. visitors to the United States. With a B-2 visa, you are allowed to temporarily visit the United States for tourism purposes.
The B-2 visa is one of two popular B visas for non-immigrant visits to the United States, with the other one being the B-1 visa. Keep reading to discover everything you need to know about the B-2 visa application process, B-2 visa wait times, and other relevant B-2 visa information.
What is a B-2 Visa?
A B-2 visa is a non-immigrant visa for travel to the United States for tourism purposes. If you are visiting the United States on holiday, for example, you would request a B-2 visa.
Generally, a B-2 visa entitles you to visit the United States for trips up to six months in length. Some B-2 visas allow multiple entry, while others will expire soon after your trip.
Just like the B-1 via (for business travel), the B-2 visa has no cap. There’s no limit to the number of B-2 visas the United States awards every year.
What Can I Do While Visiting the United States with a B-2 Visa?
The B-2 visa entitles you to visit the United States for general travel and tourism purposes, including visiting friends and family in the United States. Some of the things you are allowed to do while visiting the United States with a B-2 visa include:
- Have a holiday in the United States and visit landmarks, cities, and other sights
- Visit friends or family in the country
- Participate in social events hosted by various organizations
- Receive medical treatment
- Participate in events, contests, or activities for which you will not receive payment (including sports and music events)
- Enroll in short study courses that do not count towards credit for a degree or certificate (a cooking class, for example, that is not part of a professional degree program)
If your trip does not involve any of the activities listed above, then you may not qualify for a B-2 visa. Generally, the B-2 visa is used for tourists and travelers visiting the United States for holiday.
What Can I Not Do With a B-2 Visitor Visa?
Certain activities are prohibited in the United States when visiting with a B-2 visitor visa. Those activities include:
- Engage in full-time or part-time studies
- Participate in an art or athletic performance or event and receive payment
- Engage in any type of employment
- Work as a member of the media or as a journalist
- Enter the country as crew on an airline or ship
- Seek to establish permanent residence in the United States
Do I Require a B-2 Visa to Visit the United States?
Not all foreign nationals require a B-2 visa to visit the United States. Depending on your country of citizenship, you may or may not require a B-2 visa.
For example, citizens of Visa Waiver Program countries only require an ESTA – not a B-2 visa – to visit the United States temporarily for tourist purposes. The ESTA can be completed online in minutes and allows you to travel to the United States for up to 90 days for tourism or business-related purposes. Many western European countries are on the Visa Waiver Program list.
To find out if you require a B-2 visa to visit the United States, use our helpful ESTA eligibility checker:
ESTA Eligibility Checker
If your country is not one of 38 countries on the Visa Waiver Program list, then you are not eligible for an ESTA. If you wish to visit the United States, then you need a visa – including, depending on your purpose of travel, a B-2 visa.
Requirements for a B-2 Visa
B-2 visa requirements are similar to other visa requirements. The primary concern of United States border authorities is to protect the United States from security concerns and ensure you intend to leave the United States after your trip is complete.
- Proof that you can support yourself financially while traveling to the United States
- Proof that you are not a security concern to America or American residents
- Proof that you intend to leave the United States once your trip is over
- Proof that you are visiting the United States temporarily for purposes of tourism or to seek medical treatment
If you can verify all of the above requirements, then you should have no trouble visiting the United States on a B-2 visa. Specific document requirements can be found below.
How to Apply for a B-2 Visa
A U.S. B-2 visa application can be completed online through your local U.S. embassy in your country of residence. B-2 visa applicants will need to pay a fee. Applicants between ages 14 and 79 will also need to attend an in-person meeting at the nearest U.S. embassy.
Here are the specific steps you will need to take to apply for a B-2 visa:
Step 1) Submit form DS-160
Step 2) Pay the B-2 visa application fee
Step 3) Schedule your interview
Step 4) Collect required documents
Step 5) Attend the interview
Submit Form DS-160
DS-160 is the standard form required for most non-immigrant visas to the United States. You can find this form on the website of your local U.S. embassy or consulate. Fill out the B-2 visa section of the form. It asks basic information about yourself, your background, your education, and your employer, as well as your reason for visiting the United States. Answer all questions truthfully. Once you’ve completed the information, submit your form and keep the confirmation page for your records.
Pay the B-2 Visa Application Fee
When you submit your DS-160 form, you will also need to pay your visa application fee. This fee is $160 USD for a standard B-2 visa. Citizens of some countries may have to pay more, depending on your reciprocity agreement with the United States. Generally, however, the fee is $160. Once your fee has been processed, save the receipt and add it to the list of documents you need to bring to the embassy.
Schedule your Interview
Once you have your visa application fee receipt, you can schedule the interview with a local U.S. embassy or consulate. Depending on the workload of that location, your interview date may be anywhere from several weeks to several months away.
All B-2 visa applicants between ages 14 and 79 are required to attend an in-person interview at a nearby U.S. embassy or consulate.
Prepare your Documents
During the interview, you may be required to provide documents supporting various statements on your B-2 visa application. Typical documents you may wish to bring for a B-2 visa application interview include:
- Your valid passport
- DS-160 confirmation page and barcode
- Receipt confirming you paid the visa application fee
- Scheduled interview confirmation page
- Financial or bank statements proving you can support yourself while traveling through the United States for your intended period of time
- Ties to your home country proving that you intend to return home at the conclusion of your visa
- Letter describing the purpose of your trip
- Invitation or support letter from friends or family in the United States (if you’re visiting friends and family or if your friends or family are supporting you financially during your trip)
- Passports and visas from previous trips to the U.S. (if applicable)
- Letter from a doctor describing your medical treatment and why it cannot be performed in your home country (if traveling to the U.S. for medical treatment)
- Document from the police proving that you have no criminal record, convictions, or arrests
Attend the Visa Interview
Arrive at the U.S. embassy or consulate early to ensure you are not late for your interview. You will have to pass through a security checkpoint. You may have to leave your bags and other possessions in an off-site storage locker (or leave them at home).
Prior to the B-2 visa application interview, your fingerprints may be taken by a member of the embassy staff. Then, you will need to wait for a consular officer to begin the interview. The interview will take anywhere from several minutes to one hour. You will be asked various questions about your trip to the United States. The consular officer may check your documents.
How Long Does It Take to Process the B-2 Visa?
The B-2 visa can take 3 to 5 days to process in some U.S. embassies and several months to process in other embassies. It depends on the workload at the U.S. embassy in your home country. Generally, however, you will receive notice within 3 to 5 weeks that your B-2 visa has been processed and approved or denied, at which point your visa will be returned to you via courier service.
How Long Does My B-2 Visa Last?
The B-2 tourist visa lasts anywhere from 6 months to 10 years, depending on your application. Some people receive a 10-year B-2 visa that grants them easy access to the United States throughout the term of that visa. Other people receive a six month visa.
Your visa (the one in your passport) will clearly state the length of your B-2 visa. The visa is valid until its expiry date or until your passport expires (whichever comes first).
In certain circumstances, you can extend the length of your B-2 visa stay. Typically, the visa covers trips of 6 months. However, you may be able to request a B-2 visa extension by filing Form I-539 with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. USCIS recommends completing this form at least 45 days before your authorized stay in the United States expires.
Can I Get a Green Card With a B-2 Visa?
Generally, you cannot get a green card (i.e. lawful permanent resident status) with a B-2 visa. The B-2 visa temporarily grants you entry to the United States for tourism or business purposes.
However, if certain unexpected situations arise while in the United States, it’s possible to change your immigration status. If you get married on a B-2 visitor visa, for example, then you can apply to change your status from a non-immigrant to an immigrant. You cannot visit the United States on a B-2 visa, however, with the intent to change your application status.
Some employees may be able to find an employer willing to sponsor them for an H-1B visa while in the United States on a B-2 visa. However, you are not permitted to perform work-related activities or seek out work while visiting on a B-2 visa.
Can I Bring My Dependents to the United States With Me on a U.S. B-2 Tourist Visa?
The B-2 visa, like all B visas, does not have any dependencies. It does not entitle you to bring anyone else to the United States with you on your trip.
If you wish to bring your children, spouse, friends, or anyone else with you on your trip, then these people will need to apply for a U.S. visa separately. Everyone needs a B-2 visa to enter the United States for tourism purposes (unless you’re eligible for an ESTA).