Your Guide to B-1 and B-2 Visas

Holding a fight ticket for a business travel

Individuals wishing to visit the United States temporarily for business or pleasure can apply for B-1 or B-2 visas. B-1 visas allow people to visit for a short period to conduct business, while B-2 visas are generally issued to people who are traveling for pleasure or obtaining medical treatment.

Because of potential processing delays due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it is recommended to apply for these visas well in advance of the anticipated travel date.

B-1 Temporary Visa for Business Visitors

People who plan to visit the United States to conduct business activities may qualify for a B-1 Temporary Business Visitor Visa. This allows entry for individuals who are consulting with business associates and those who are attending business conventions or educational conferences. Individuals negotiating business contracts, conducting research, or settling estates qualify, as do people undergoing short-term training. Additionally, B-1 visas allow individuals to transit through the United States, such as aircrew deadheading from airport to airport.

Applicants must establish that the purpose of the trip is to conduct business of a legitimate nature, that their trip is for a limited duration, and that they have sufficient funds to cover their expenses while in the country. Further, individuals must provide evidence that they have a permanent residence outside of the United States that they intend to return to following their trip. 

B-1 visas are valid for periods ranging from one to six months. However, individuals may be able to extend their stay for up to one year. Family members of individuals seeking a B-1 visa are not eligible for a dependent visa. However, family members may secure a B-2 visa and travel with the B-1 visa holder.

Further, some B-1 activities will require employment authorization. This includes servants accompanying or joining their employer and employees of foreign airlines. Domestic servants/personal servants will also need to include documentation establishing that they have at least one year of experience working as a personal or domestic servant. 

There are certain activities that individuals cannot do while in the US on a B-1 visa. This includes running a business, seeking gainful employment, participating in entertainment activities or professional sporting events. Holders of B visas may also not receive payment from an organization in the US.

B-1 and B-2 Visa Waiver Program

The B-1 Business Visitor Visa and B-2 Visitor for Pleasure Visa waiver program allows citizens of certain countries to visit the United States for up to 90 days without the need for a visa. While these travelers still need to apply online through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, this waiver program makes it easier for many people to visit the United States for business or tourism.

There are currently 39 nations eligible for visa waivers. These include most of Europe, Taiwan, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea. International travelers who enter the US on the waiver program are still bound by the same rules and restrictions as those who hold B-1 and B-2 visas. Additionally, people who plan to arrive in the US via private aircraft are not eligible to participate in the waiver program and must secure a B-1 or B-2 visa prior to their arrival.

FAQ’s About B-1 and B-2 Visas

What if a traveler holds an Indefinite B-1/B-2 Visa? 

The US stopped issuing indefinite visas in the 1990s. Individuals who previously held indefinite B-1 or B-2 visas will need to reapply for a new visa prior to their arrival.

What if the visa is in an old, expired passport?

The US Embassy will not transfer a valid visa from an expired passport into the new passport. However, the old visa remains valid, and the traveler can present it along with their current passport at the time of their arrival in the US.

Are Return Tickets Required?

International travelers entering the US on a B-1 or B-2 visa are not required to have a return ticket when they arrive. However, they must show they have sufficient funds to support themselves as well as a reason to depart the US before their visa expires.

Are B-1 and B-2 Visas Multi-Entry?

B-1 and B-2 visas allow individuals to make multiple entries/exits for as long as the visa is valid. There is no need to secure separate visas for each trip to the United States. 

How Long Does it Take to Process a Visa?

This is highly dependent on where the visa applicant lives. In some cities, processing times can be as short as a day. In others, visa processing is currently on an emergency basis.