The majority of non-immigrant visitors to the United States enter on a B1/B2 visa, also referred to as a visitor’s visa. This visa is granted to those who have business of a limited term within the country, and can be valid for anywhere from a single entry to unlimited entry during 10 years, depending on the facts of the case and the nationality of the person applying.
However, an interesting issue has appeared in recent years: more and more people have been misusing B1/B2 visas, either by overstaying their accepted length or by trying to conduct business in the country that is not consistent with their visa type. Many of these mistakes are unintentional. If you are in the U.S. on a visitor visa, you must have a clear understanding of the types of activities in which you are allowed to engage.
Accepted Uses for B1 Visas
B1/B2 visas are for business and tourism, respectively. (The categories are almost always issued concurrently, because of how often the purposes for traveling can blur—for example, businessmen may conduct a meeting or two on a trip that is primarily vacation.) The main difference between B1 visitors and B2 visitors are that while tourist visa holders may not obtain any type of employment (even unpaid), business visitors not only must work on behalf of their employer, they are indeed required to do so as a condition of their visa.
U.S. law states that B1 visa holders must have the intent, in coming to the United States, to engage in a “definite and specific activity.” In other words, you must have a defined purpose in making the trip—you cannot simply enter the country with no plans to do anything tangible on behalf of your business or employer. You must also be able to show that you have plans to return to your home country, due to ties you have established there—for example, a residence you own, family members, a job, bank accounts, et cetera. United States immigration law presumes that anyone is an intended immigrant unless it is proved otherwise; therefore, the burden of proof is on you to show that you do not intend to stay.
B2 Visas: Tourism and Medical Treatment
By comparison, tourist or B2 visa holders may not accept employment. No exceptions are made. They must be able to show that they have sufficient funds to support themselves in the U.S. when applying for the visa; it is not permitted to simply go to the U.S. and work for one’s keep on a tourist visa.
A tourist visa may only be used for two possible purposes: amusement (defined in U.S. law as “any legitimate activity of a recreational character”), and medical treatment. So, activities like visits with family, tourism, or activities with a fraternal or social organization (for example, the American Legion or the Elks) would be acceptable under a B2 visa, though conferences of a less social nature (such as professional or educational conferences related to one’s job) would fall under the rubric of a B1.
Tourism visas may, despite misinformation bruited to the contrary, be used by those seeking medical treatment in the United States. You must fulfill the same requirements as those seeking tourist visas—proof of funds, substantial ties to your home country that you have no intention of abandoning—but also a few others. They include:
An Attorney Can Help
If you are confused about requirements, or have gotten into trouble with authorities, hiring an experienced immigration attorney can help prevent future consequences. The dedicated DuPage County immigration lawyers at Mevorah Law Offices LLC understand that mistakes happen, and know that getting the record straight is one of the most important factors in making such a big decision. Call us today to discuss your options.
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