When a foreign national wishes to enter the United States, certain permissions must first be obtained. If an individual has not first secured a travel visa, entry into the country may be delayed or denied, even if all other travel documentation is in order. As a result, it is critically important to speak with an attorney experienced in immigration matters as soon as you have made plans to come to the United States. A number of different visa options may be relevant to your situation. An attorney will be able to help you sort out which visa you should apply for.
Once a decision in regard to visa type has been made, a lawyer will be able to help you navigate the process of securing supporting documentation, prepare you for an interview (when applicable), help you fill out other necessary paperwork and generally progress through the visa application process without unnecessary delay. It is generally a good idea to speak with an attorney about your plans as soon as they have been made, as you must submit your visa application within a specific window of time before you intend to travel. If you wait too long to begin preparing, you may not be able to travel during the dates you had originally anticipated. Time-related challenges can be particularly pressing for individuals who intend to visit the U.S. for a short, specific period of time, as opposed to those who hope to stay for much longer and who may be able to be flexible about their date of entry into the country.
Understanding Visitor Visas
The United States government issues numerous distinct visa types on an annual basis. Each specific kind of visa applies to foreign nationals with different travel-related purposes and circumstances. Major visa categories include employment-based visas, student visas, immigration-based visas, business visas, tourism visas and humanitarian visas. It is important to apply for the right kind of visa for your situation, otherwise your travel plans could be denied or otherwise significantly impacted.
One of the most widely issued visa types is commonly referred to as a “visitor visa.” Foreign nationals who wish to travel to the U.S. for a relatively brief period of time in order to obtain medical care, engage in certain business-related activities or enjoy tourist opportunities may be eligible for visitor visas. Business travelers generally apply for B1 visas, while tourists and medical patients apply for B2 visas. When an individual is interested in pursuing a single trip (or, in some cases, multiple trips within a single year) for purposes eligible under both B1 and B2 visas, that person may benefit from applying for a B1B2 visa.
Each visa type is governed by a set of strictly enforced rules and restrictions. Failure to honor these limitations may lead to a denial of one’s visa application, denial of any petitions made for an extension of time one may remain in the country on a B1 Visa, denial of a petition to change one’s visa status and may even result in deportation. For these reasons, it is important to understand the boundaries of any visa type applicable to an individual’s unique situation. And if you are looking to travel to the United States for any reason, it is generally a good idea to discuss these rules and restrictions with your attorney before committing to a specific visa application process. Because even relatively straightforward and innocuous visa types, including B1, B2 and B1B2 visitor visas, are governed by strictly enforced immigration laws. An attorney will be able to advise you in regards to both the application process and compliance with restrictions once a visa has been granted.
B1 Visa Eligibility
While B1 visas allow foreign nationals to enter the U.S. temporarily for the purpose of conducting business, it should be understood at the start of the visa application process that eligible business activities are limited in scope. In general, individuals may travel to the U.S in order to attend conferences and trainings, settle estates, meet with business associates, negotiate contracts and otherwise engage in temporary, limited business pursuits consistent with one’s current employment responsibilities. Under certain circumstances, personal or domestic servants may temporarily enter the U.S. However, representatives of the foreign press cannot enter the U.S. for business purposes with a B1 visa. They must speak with an attorney about obtaining a nonimmigrant media visa.
While in the U.S., business travelers may not engage in certain business endeavors. For example, B1 visa holders are not allowed to accept employment while in the U.S. In addition, they may only engage in “work” in the contexts laid out specifically by the terms of the visa itself. Attending a conference on behalf of one’s permanent foreign employer would be an acceptable pursuit. Being paid to attend a conference as a freelance contractor hired only to work while in the U.S. would likely not be considered an acceptable pursuit. If you have questions about what activities are and are not permitted under the terms of a B1 visa, please clarify your concerns with your attorney.
B2 Visa Eligibility
Much like B1 visa holders, B2 visa holders may only enter the U.S. for a specific and limited period of time. But unlike B1 visa holders, B2 visa holders may not engage in business or work-related activities while on American soil. After being issued a B2 visa, foreign nationals may only engage in tourism, social opportunities, rest and obtain medical treatment. Anyone seeking to perform or participate in an event while in an amateur capacity during his or her stay cannot be paid for that appearance. Similarly, any educational opportunities accessed while in the U.S. must be limited and may not be rewarded with credit towards and educational degree. Individuals wishing to formally study in the U.S. or receive payment for a performance/event participation must obtain an alternative visa.
Individuals wishing to enter the U.S. for both business and pleasure or business and medical treatment may apply for a B1B2 visa. Under certain circumstances, a B1B2 visa will allow an applicant to make multiple trips consistent with the terms of the combination visa during a single year.
Applying for a B1 or B1B2 Visa
It is important to understand that in order to successfully apply for a B1 or B1B2 visa that your intentions in obtaining the visa must be consistent with its purpose. If you wish to study, work or live in the U.S. please apply for an alternative, relevant visa.
The U.S. government presumes that individuals seeking to enter the U.S. by way of visitor visas intend to become immigrants. It is ultimately up to applicants to overcome that presumption. Successfully negating the presumption requires applicants to demonstrate that they do indeed intend to enter the U.S. for a limited period of time and intend to honor the restrictions of the B1 or B1B2 visa each has applied for. In addition, they will need to prove that they have access to enough resources to pay for their trip and that they have a residence (as well as additional binding ties, such as family and/or a job) outside the U.S. that they intend to return to.
Documentation and Interview Expectations
Visitor visa applicants overcome this burden and otherwise prove themselves to be eligible and worthy of visa approval through the documentation they submit during the application process and during the interviews they schedule and attend before traveling to the U.S. Not every visitor visa applicant will be required to submit to an interview, but it is generally a good idea to expect that one will take place and to prepare accordingly. Every visa applicant is required to submit certain documentation. If you decide to apply for a visitor visa, an experienced attorney can help you to prepare for your interview and complete your B1 Visa documentation requirements accurately, fully and within the appropriate time period for submission.
Once an individual has decided to apply for a visitor visa and consulted with an attorney, the first significant step one must generally take is completing the online DS-160 form, which serves as the nonimmigrant visa application for the U.S. At this time, you will also need to pay a non-refundable application fee. When this documentation is complete and paid for, it is important to print a copy for your records and to print a copy to bring along to your interview. Unless an exception or extraordinary circumstances apply, you will need to schedule your interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country. It is worth emphasizing that the processing time for visa applications may vary significantly, so it is important to work with an attorney as soon as you begin planning your trip to the U.S. and have travel dates in mind.
Usually at the time of your interview, you will be required to submit an ink-free, digital fingerprint. If you are not required to submit to an interview, this fingerprint will be requested at another point in time. When you submit your initial application, you will also need to upload a photograph subject to strict specifications. Please ensure that you are following directions exactly before you have a visa photo taken. You will also need to make sure that your passport will remain valid for at least six months after the date you plan to return from the United States. Some individuals (depending on their home country) will need to pay a visa issuance fee if they are approved for their B1 or B1B2 visa.
It is important to prepare for your interview in advance. Your attorney will likely provide you with a list of questions and topics to practice answering in advance. Because you do not want to seem uninformed or overly nervous during your interview, preparation is key. Most of the questions you will need to be prepared to answer focus on your ties to your home country, the logistics and purposes of your travel to the United States (including dates of return and financing your trip) and your intention to honor all restrictions associated with your visitor visa.
Visa Waiver Program
It is worth noting that a small number of foreign nationals are eligible to travel to the U.S. temporarily for business, pleasure or medical treatment without first securing a visa. However, the parameters of this exception are extraordinarily narrow. In order to travel without a visa, an individual must be a citizen of a specific, eligible country. In addition, that individual will not be allowed to stay longer than 90 days in the U.S. without a visa. If you are a citizen of Bermuda, a citizen of Canada or a permanent Canadian resident, you may wish to speak with your attorney about whether or not you qualify for a visa waiver exception. An additional 36 countries participate in the visa waiver program under certain circumstances. Please speak with your attorney if you believe you may be eligible for a waiver.
Visa Application Assistance Is Available
If you are interested in traveling to the United States for a brief visit related to business, pleasure and/or medical treatment, please consider connecting with an immigration attorney today. As soon as you have a sense of your travel dates, it is a good idea to seek legal guidance in order to ensure that your visa application is properly filled out and is filed without unnecessary delay.
Working with an attorney experienced in matters involving international travel is beneficial for a host of reasons. Lawyers who specialize in this area of international law know what to expect from the visa application process and can navigate it efficiently and effectively. Failing to consult an attorney early in the process of planning to visit the U.S. could result in an inability to secure legal permissions to travel at the time you originally anticipated. Fortunately, the immigration team at LawTrades is highly experienced and focused in our approach. We purposely keep our rates reasonable and aim to make the process of securing a visa as accessible as possible. Once you begin planning your trip to the U.S., please consider reaching out to the team at LawTrades for guidance. We look forward to speaking with you.