USA and the UK
US Visitor Visas
If you wish to travel temporarily to the U.S. for either leisure and business purposes, you can apply for a Visitor Visa. These are nonimmigrant visas that allow you to enter the US for six months.
The validity of the visa ranges from one and ten years and can be used multiple times. However, applicants may not remain in the country longer than 180 days in any single year.
To apply, you must submit a number of documents and attend an interview with a consulate officer.
There are three main categories of Visitor Visa:
- B-1 Business Visitor Visa. You can use this permit to attend business conventions, negotiate a contract or consult with your associates
- B2 Visa Pleasure Visitor Visa. This permit allows you to visit your friends or relatives in the U.S. or to seek medical treatment. You can also participate in social events, amateur contests, or enroll in short recreational courses of study
- B-1/B-2 Visa, for a combination of both these purposes
It is worth noting that travelers entering the U.S. for less than 90 days who come from eligible countries may be able to visit without a visa. Currently, 38 countries participate in the Visa Waiver Program. To be eligible, you must be a national of one of them.
You can apply for a B-2 Visa if you wish to seek medical treatment. You must demonstrate that you do not intend to rely on the U.S. welfare and that the treatment is not available in your country. You also need a written statement from a U.S.-based doctor who accepts you as a patient.
Types of US Visitor Visa
As mentioned above, the two main types of Visitor Visa are the B1 Business Visitor Visa and the B2 Pleasure Visitor Visa.
In order to be granted entry to the U.S., you must agree to abide by strict conditions and not breach any immigration rules. There are only a small number of permitted activities that you can undertake on either visa.
B1 Business Visitor Visa permitted activities
Some of the permitted activities on this visa include the following:
- Consulting with business associates
- Travel for the purpose of scientific, educational, professional, or business conventions or conferences
- Settling an estate
- Negotiating contracts
- Undertaking short-term training course
- Transiting through the US
It is essential to demonstrate that you meet the eligibility criteria:
- You have a legitimate reason to enter the United States
- You intend to stay for just a limited period
- You have sufficient funds to support yourself for the duration of your stay
- You have strong ties to your country of origin and have firm plans to return home
- You fulfil all other eligibility criteria
B2 Tourist Visa permitted activities
When applying to visit the US, you must be able to demonstrate that you intend to undertake one of the following activities:
- Vacation (holiday)
- Visit with friends and relatives
- Medical treatment
- Participation in social events hosted by eligible organizations
- Participation by amateurs in musical, sports, or similar events (unpaid)
- Enrolling on a short recreational course of study (non-degree)
You will not be permitted to study on a degree course or become employed by a US business on this visa.
It is possible to travel to the US for the purposes of medical treatment. Applicants must be able to provide evidence of the following:
- Medical diagnosis from a licensed physician outlining the need for treatment in the US
- Letter from a physician or medical facility outlining their willingness to treat you, including the length and cost of the treatment
- Proof that your transportation, medical, and living expenses can be paid for the duration of the treatment
What is the ESTA Tourist Visa?
Not everyone who wishes to travel to the United States on a Tourist Visa will need to apply for the B1 or B2 Visas.
The ESTA Tourist Visa is not technically a visa but is part of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) that allows eligible nationals of certain countries to travel to the US for 90 days or less without needing to apply for a visa.
Before traveling to the US, visitors must hold a valid Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) approval.
It is possible to apply for a B visa instead of the ESTA approval if desired.
Citizens of participating countries from the following countries are eligible for the VWP:
Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom
Each traveler must hold a valid ESTA and their own passport prior to traveling to the United States.
For most applicants, the ESTA is eligible for two years and can be used for return visits to the US. However, if you receive a new passport, change your name, gender, country of citizenship, or your answers on the application, you must apply for a new ESTA.
How to apply for a US Visitor Visa
The application process for this visa is relatively straightforward, but it requires careful planning and preparation of key documents to maximize your chance of a successful application.
You are likely to be required to attend an in-person interview with an immigration official in an embassy or consulate as part of the process if you are aged between 14 and 79 years.
Below is the application process for a Visitor Visa:
- Complete the online application form (Form DS-160) and print the confirmation page for your interview
- Upload your passport-style photograph when prompted
- Pay the appropriate application fee and print the receipt for your interview
- Schedule your visa interview at a US consulate or embassy in your country of residence
- Attend the visa interview with the required documents and demonstrate to your interviewing official how you meet the eligibility criteria
- Provide your biometric information when requested at a visa application center (facial photograph and fingerprints)
- Await the decision on your application
Depending on your individual circumstances, the immigration official may request further information regarding your travel intentions in the United States.
Costs and waiting time
The cost for a Visitor Visa is $160. However, there are additional costs involved in the process, including the cost of gathering the required documents, passport photos, and arranging appointments to visit the visa application center and embassy/ consulate.
It is important to note that this fee is non-refundable. Further, you may be required to pay a visa issuance fee, depending on your nationality.
The length of time it takes to receive a decision on your application varies depending on where you have submitted your application.
The time it takes to receive an appointment will depend on how busy your local embassy or consulate is and how many appointment slots are available.
The Department of State’s website outlines the approximate time you may be waiting for an appointment.
What documents do I need?
Like all visas, there are a number of documents you must submit in order to demonstrate how you meet the eligibility criteria.
The documents required for a B Visitor Visa include the following:
- Form DS-160 (the non-immigrant visa application)
- Valid passport that is in date for at least six months
- A passport-style photo
- Documents outlining the purpose of your trip (e.g., itinerary, hotel bookings, transport arrangements, etc.)
- Evidence that you have firm commitments to your country of origin and intend to return home following the end of your trip (e.g., property ownership documents, letters showing close relationships with family members, letters from your employer, etc.)
- Proof that you can cover your expenses and support yourself during your trip
Depending on your individual circumstances, you may be required to submit further information where requested.
You may be required to bring some or all of these documents to your in-person visa interview.
Visitor Visa refused
When you apply for a US Visitor Visa, of course you hope that your application will be accepted and you will be allowed entry to the United States for your purpose of travel.
However, there are a number of reasons why your visa application may be refused or denied. Below are some of the most common reasons for a refusal:
- Fraud (e.g., evidence that you have submitted false or misleading information on an immigration application)
- Criminal record (i.e., you have some criminal, espionage, or terrorist history)
- Previous immigration breaches (where an applicant has overstayed their visa or committed an immigration offence
- Another form of inadmissibility (e.g., where an applicant has a transmissible illness such as tuberculosis, or is a person who abuses drugs)
- Incomplete application (if you have not submitted all the required information as part of your visa)
If the office in the consulate decides not to grant your visa, you do not have the right to appeal. However, you are entitled to reapply for the visa if your circumstances change or you believe that you can convince the officials that your application should be accepted.
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You can stay in the US for 180 days (six months) if you are granted a B Visitor Visa. You are not permitted to work or study in the US during this period.
If you wish to apply for a Work Visa, you should ensure you meet the eligibility criteria. Alternatively, if you qualify for a family-based visa, you may be able to come to the US to join a family member.
If you are aged between 14 and 79 years old, you are likely to be required to attend an in-person interview in your country’s consulate or embassy.
The types of question you will be asked will vary depending on the official you speak with, but you can expect some of the following questions:
- What is the nature of your visit to the United States?
- Have you ever been granted a US visa in the past?
- Have you got family or friends living in the US?
- What plans have you made for traveling?
- Who will be traveling with you?
- Have you made bookings?
- How much will your visit cost?
- What is your job?
- How much money do you make?
- How will you be paying for your trip?
- What family do you have in your country?
- Who will be looking after your family during your visit?
- Will you leave the US when your trip is over?
- What assurances can you give me that you do not intend to overstay?