There are two types of visitors’ visas – B-1 visa for business visitors and B-2 visa for tourists who come to the U.S. for pleasure. Oftentimes, visitors are granted a B-1/B-2 visa at the U.S. Consulate. The B-1/B-2 visa allows a foreign citizen to travel to the United States port-of entry and request permission to enter the U.S. Depending on the purpose of the foreign citizen, the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer will determine the foreign citizen’s non-immigrant status (whether it is a B-1 or B-2) and period of authorized stay.
Nationals of certain countries may not be required to apply for visitors’ visas under the Visa Waiver Program.
B-1 Business Visitors
The B-1 visa is appropriate for those who must travel to the U.S. to consult with business associates or for certain scientific, educational, professional or business purposes, to attend conferences, settle an estate, or negotiate a contract. The purpose of a B-1 visitor must be for a legitimate professional or commercial purpose. Generally, the B-1 visitor is prohibited from engaging in an activity that would result in deriving income or employment in the U.S.
The typical activities of B-1 visitors include –
- Participating or attending religious missionaries or conventions while being supported by contributions at evangelical meetings.
- Participating in professional activities such as observing the conduct of a business, accompanying a foreign based employer, attending an executive seminar, etc.
- Attending professional conventions or sports tournaments.
- Engaging in commercial transaction not involving gainful employment.
- Setting up a U.S. subsidiary
- “Elective clerkship” for a foreign medical graduate who does not receive compensation
- Installation of equipment
- International hauling between Canada and Mexico that is not equivalent to an activity that qualifies as local labor for hire
The length of stay of a B-1 visitor depends upon the period of time within which the purpose for the trip can be completed. The maximum period allowable is one year, initially, with 6-month extensions.
B-2 Visitors for Pleasure
The B-2 visa is typically granted to individuals who travel temporarily for vacation to visit friends and family members, as well as those who come in for medical treatment. This type of visa is also available to those who will engage in activities that are service-oriented or social in nature, including those who will participate in musical and sports events that will not be remunerated. Attending non-credit short courses, while on a B-2 status, is not prohibited. Employment is not permitted even if the remuneration is just mere allowance and/or free room and board.
Visa Waiver Program
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows nationals of specific countries to travel to the US for tourism or business up to 90 days without obtaining a visa. VWP travelers are required to have a valid authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to travel, are screened at the port of entry into the United States, and are enrolled in the Department of Homeland Security’s US-VISIT program. VWP visitors must exit prior to the expiration of the 90 day period and they are not eligible for change of status, extension of status, or adjustment of status unless it is on the basis of an immediate relative petition.
What happens if a VWP beneficiary overstays the 90 day period of authorized stay prior to departure?
The VWP beneficiary will violate the terms of the program and will not be admitted under VWP again. It would be necessary for the VWP violator to apply for a B-1/B-2 visa in order to visit the US. Any time the VWP remains beyond the 90-day authorized stay will expose him or her to being placed in removal.
Can a VWP national change to another status or apply for the green card once in the US?
VWP beneficiaries are ineligible for change of status, extension of status, or adjustment of status unless it is on the basis of an immediate relative petition.
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