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If the visiting family member is a citizen of a foreign country, a visa is typically needed before travelling. A B-2 Visitor Visa may be appropriate for a family member that wants to visit friends and family or just wants to visit historic landmarks or attend a major sporting event in the U.S.
However, there are many purposes that are not permitted on visitor visas and the visitor visa carries several requirements that must be met before a visa can be issued. For example, a foreign national cannot use a visitor visa to study in the U.S. or seek employment or with the intent of establishing permanent residence in the U.S.
What You Can and Cannot Do as a Visitor Visa Holder
Activities Permitted for Visitor Visa Holders
Below is a list of things a visitor visa holder can do while present in the U.S.:
- Vacation (holiday)
- Visit with friends or relatives.
- Medical treatment
- Participation in social events hosted by fraternal, social, or service organizations.
- Participation by amateurs in musical, sports, or similar events or contests, if 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)
As you can see, the B-2 visa is intended for those seeking to enter the U.S. temporarily, for a short period of time for pleasure, not business, or medical treatment.
Activities Not Permitted for Visitor Visa Holders
Below is a list of things a visitor visa holder cannot do while present in the U.S:
- Paid performances, or any professional performance before a paying audience
- Arrival as a crewmember on a ship or aircraft
- Work as foreign press, in radio, film, print journalism, or other information media
- Permanent residence in the United States
If any of the above are the reason for coming to the U.S., then another visa category may be appropriate instead of the B-2 visitor visa.
Of note is the additional restriction on “birth tourism.” A B-2 visa will not be issued if the primary purpose of the visit is to give birth in the U.S. to secure U.S. citizenship for the child.
How to Apply for a Visitor Visa
In order to apply for the B-2 visitor visa, you’ll need to fill out and submit the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application (Form DS-160), pay the appropriate application fee, as well as attend an interview. The application fee is $160, while your country of citizenship may require an additional “visa issuance fee” which can vary by county.
Note that interviews are only required for applicants who are between 14 and 79 years of age.
You may also need to provide additional documentation to prove your visa eligibility at your interview. Such documentation can include:
- The purpose of your trip.
- Your intent to depart the United States after your trip.
- Your ability to pay all costs of the trip, or proof that another person will pay all or some of your expenses while in the U.S.
Validity Period of a Visitor Visa
The B-2 visa is valid for 10 years after it is issued. It allows the holder to stay in the U.S. for a maximum of 180 days per entry. Multiple entries are allowed, therefore there is no limit on the number of times you can enter the U.S., as long as you abide by all the rules and time limits discussed above.
Visa Waiver Program (VWP)
If the visiting family member is a citizen or national of one of the participating countries and wishes to visit the U.S. for less than 90 days, they may be eligible to enter without a visa under the Visa Waiver Program. There are certain requirements to be eligible for the VWP, therefore it is best to seek the skilled help of an immigration attorney.
How Can We Help
As you can see, the visitor visa application process has many variables and can get complicated. But you do not have to figure this process out on your own.
Also, since the denial of a visitor visa can disrupt your travel plans or cause you to miss important life events with family and friends, we encourage you to hire a skilled immigration attorney. This will give you the best chance of visitor visa approval and help ensure your travel plans go smoothly.
Our team can meet with you in a variety of locations and if you are located far from our local offices, you can always contact us for a free consultation by phone, email, or even Zoom. The experienced team of immigration lawyers at Sam Shihab & Associates is available to answer all your questions and discuss all the legal options regarding any immigration-related issues