Types of USA Visitor Visas

Posted on Feb 08, 2016 | Tags: usa visas, usa tourist visa, usa business visa, mixed purpose visa

Visitor's Visas - Introduction

If you are not a citizen of the United States, you will need to get a visa waiver (if eligible) or a visa before you will be permitted to enter the country. If you are hoping to move to the US, you need to get an immigrant visa. If you are only planning on being here for a short time, a visitor's visa, or non-immigrant visa, will suit your purposes in most situations.

There are three kinds of visitor visas, one of which you will require depending on why you are seeking to enter the country. If you are coming to the United States on business, then you will need a B-1 visa. If you are coming for pleasure, either to see some tourist sites or visit friends or family, you will need a B-2 visa. If you are hoping to combine business and pleasure on your trip, then you need a combination of both visas which is called a B-1/B-2. This article will give you an idea of what each visa allows you to do.

Business Visa, B-1

A business visa to the US does not allow you to gain local employment. In order to get a visa, you must show that you are going to be in the country for a definite period of time, at the end of which you have permission to enter another country. The purpose of a business visa is to allow you temporary access to the United States in order to accomplish a specific goal. 

If you plan to work in the United States for a local employer or to sell merchandise that is produced in the United States, you will need a temporary work permit (H-2). If, however, you are coming into the country to be part of an exhibition, display samples, or take orders for a product that is designed in another country, then a B-1 visa is appropriate.

Similarly, a business visa will get you into the country to install, service, or repair any machinery or equipment that is not produced in the United States. Speakers or lecturers may enter the US on a B-1 visa provided specific conditions are met. You may enter the country on a B-1 visa to negotiate a business contract, however you cannot stay in the country to manage a business with one.

Professional athletes, musicians, and other performers are required to have a B-1 visa to enter the country for a game, competition, performance or any other setting in which they are receiving payment for their activities. A domestic employee who is accompanying their employer to the US as part of their duties can also travel on a B-1 visa. 

Tourism Visa, B-2

A tourism visa, or a holiday visa as it is may be called in your country, covers a wide variety of activities other than tourism. In addition to taking vacations or visiting family, a B-2 visa permits entry into the country for the following people. 

Those seeking medical treatment in the US may enter on a B-2 visa. In order to obtain this visa, you need a letter from a physician in your home country explaining why treatment in the US is necessary. You also need documentation from the physician in the US that has agreed to treat you. In addition, you will also need to prove that your medical expenses incurred while in the US will be paid for.

Amateur athletes and entertainers may use a B-2 visa to visit the US for a competition or performance provided that are receiving no payment for their activity. If you're incidental expenses for the trip are being covered by another party, you may still use a B-2 visa, provided there is no profit made on the trip. If you are performing in a venue that is charging an admittance fee, a B-2 visa is still permissible as long as the money is used to defray the cost of hosting the event. Any profit made from the event must be donated to a charitable cause, or else a B-1 visa will be required.

Visitors to the US who are planning on taking a short course while they are in the country may travel on a B-2 visa. Certain conditions must be met in order to qualify for a B-2 visa. The main purpose of your visit must be tourism, with the class taking up less than 18 hours a week. Recreational classes, such as cooking classes, are also eligible for a B-2 visa. If your class earns you credits toward a degree, then you are not eligible for a B-2 visa.

If you are traveling to the United States to attend a conference related to your employment, then you will need a B-1 visa. If you are a member of a fraternal, social, or service organization that is hosting a social event in the United States, then you are permitted to enter the country on a B-2 visa. If your organization is coming to do charitable work in the United States, you need a B-1 visa, unless you are planning on soliciting money or selling merchandise, in which case you will need either a J-1 or H-2B visa.

Mixed Purpose, B-1/B-2 Visa

If you are planning in engaging in activities covered until both B-1 and B-2 visas, you can apply for a combination visa. For example, if you are planning on taking a painting class while also attending a business conference, you need a B-1/B-2 visa. Or if you are planning on seeking medical treatment after completing negotiations with a business partner, a B-1/B-2 visa will cover you. 


  1. US Embassy in the UK (https://uk.usembassy.gov/visas/tourism-visitor/how-to-apply/)
  2. US Department of State (https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/visit/visitor.html)