Visitor Visas for the United States

Information about tourist and business visas to the USA

Other Tourist Visas for the United States

ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) is another easy to use online permit to enter the United States. ESTA operates under the US Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The VWP enables the citizens of 38 countries to enter the United States for tourism or business purposes. ESTA is valid for 2 consecutive years. However, the maximum length of stay per trip is 90 consecutive days.

A single ESTA application usually takes 15 minutes per applicant to complete. Once completed, the applicant will receive a confirmation email, containing the electronic ESTA travel authorization to enter the States. Confirmation is typically sent within 72 hours of making the application.

How long is ESTA valid for?

ESTA is a visa waiver, which means that its holder does not need to apply for a typical visa to travel to and enter the United States. The ESTA is a multiple-entry visa waiver valid for a period of 2 consecutive years. However, ESTA holders can only remain in the U.S. for up to 90 consecutive days per trip. Exceeding the 90-day limit may cause problems when attempting to re-enter the U.S. or in some cases, the ESTA may be revoked.

Note: ESTA is linked electronically to the holder's passport. Thereforе, an ESTA is valid for 2 consecutive years or until the passport it is linked to expires, whichever comes first. Should the passport expire before the 2-year validity period of the ESTA, it will render it void, and its holder will be required to apply for a new passport, before applying for a new ESTA.

ESTA countries: a full list

Following is the full ESTA countries list. All foreign nationals who hold a passport from any of the countries listed below are eligible to apply for ESTA.

Andorra Australia Austria Belgium Brunei
Chile Czech Republic Denmark Estonia Finland
France Germany Greece Hungary Iceland
Ireland Italy Japan Latvia Liechtenstein
Lithuania Luxembourg Malta Mónaco Netherlands
New Zealand Norway Portugal San Marino Singapore
Slovakia Slovenia South Korea Spain Sweden
Switzerland Taiwan United Kingdom

Information about US Tourist Visas

Foreign nationals planning a short-term visit to the United States for business or touristic purposes must first apply for a nonimmigrant visa to enter the country. The class of Visa you are eligible to depend on the purpose of your trip, nationality, employment status, and the level of education.

There are 2 types of temporary nonimmigrant U.S. Visa classes: B1 Business Visitor Visa and B2 Tourism Visitor Visa. Following is a detailed description of the B1 and B2 Temporary Visitor Visas to the United States.

B2 Tourist Visitor Visa for the US

A B2 Temporary Visitor Visa is issued to applicants who wish to travel to the United States for one of the following purposes: pleasure; tourism; medical treatment. This is a short-term nonimmigrant visa, usually valid for 6 months. Similar to the B1 Visa category, B2 Visa holders can apply for an extension of stay.

Following are the types of activities B2 visa holders are allowed to do during their stay in the US:

  • Tourism
  • Visit friends or relatives
  • Vacation
  • Receive medical treatment
  • Engage in activities of social or fraternal nature
  • Amateur participation in sports, musical or similar events, without any remuneration

To study in the United States or engage in temporary paid work, applicants will need to apply for a different visa category.

Duration of stay on a B1 or a B2 Visa category

The standard length of stay for B1 Business Visa as well as B2 Tourist Visa is 6 months. However, the maximum length of stay on a B1/B2 Visa is 1 year. Those who were issued a 6-month B1/B2 Visa can apply for a 6-month extension of stay, as long as the “visitor” status remains the same. This implies that the applicant will not engage in any paid activities, while in the United States.

Note: Applicants will be required to provide evidence and the reason for requesting an extension of stay. Additionally, they also may be necessary to provide official proof of their financial statements and the ability to cover all expenses, while on U.S. soil.

It is possible also to apply to change the visitor status in addition to the duration extension. However, applicants must inform their local U.S. Consulate or Embassy when applying for the standard B1/B2 Visitor Visa.

If a visa holder decides to change their status while in the U.S., without previously having notified the competent authorities of this intention, the U.S. might decline the application altogether, by false or misleading information provided during the B1/B2 Visa application.

B1 Visa for the US: Temporary Business Visitor

The Business Visitor Visa (B1) is issued to foreign nationals, who wish to travel to the United States with a business-related purpose; such as: consulting with business associates, attend educational, scientific or business conferences, negotiations or meeting and more.

Applicants must meet certain eligibility requirements to apply successfully and receive a B1 Visa to the United States. A Temporary Business B1 Visa is issued for those who travel to the United States business purposes. However, these activities are restricted to those of a commercial or professional nature.

While on a B1 Business Visa, foreign nationals can participate in the following activities:

  • Settle an estate
  • Negotiate a contract
  • Participate in an event as a lecturer or a speaker
  • Consult and meet business associates
  • Take part in short-term training
  • Travel to attend specific conferences or conventions for scientific, business, educational or professional reasons
  • Solicit investment or sales
  • Interview and hire staff members
  • Conduct research
  • Attend a conference, meeting, business events, a conference or a trade show

The activities mentioned above restrict the visitor from engaging in any paid activity during their short-term stay in the US. To be able to work in the U.S. and receive payment for it would require a different Visa: Work Visa. The class of a Work Visa varies and depends on the candidate’s skills, nationality, educational level, and nature of the type of work in which they would engage.

Following are some of the activities that would require foreign citizens to apply for a nonimmigrant Work Visa:

  • Running a business
  • Receive payments by a U.S. organization
  • Paid professional sport or entertainment fields
  • Be involved in any paid employment, competition, event, etc.