Visiting the United States
The “visitor” visa is a nonimmigrant visa for persons desiring to enter the United States temporarily for business, pleasure or medical treatment. The specific purpose of one’s planned travel determines the type of visitor’s visa. A foreign national seeking a visitor visa must demonstrate he/she has a residence and other compelling social and economic ties outside the U.S. which will insure their return abroad as well as their intent to depart at the expiration of the requested stay. The visitor visa applicant must also show the availability of sufficient financial resources to cover their visit, as employment in this category is prohibited.
B-1 Visitor For Business
If the purpose for your planned travel is to consult with business associates; travel for a scientific, educational, professional, or business convention; attend a conference on a specific date; settle an estate; or negotiate a contract, then a business (B-1) visitor visa would be the appropriate type of visa for your travel. This status does not authorize gainful employment in the United States.
B-2 Visitor For Pleasure
If the purpose of your planned travel is recreational in nature, including tourism, amusement, visits with friends or relatives, rest, medical treatment, and activities of a fraternal, social, or service nature, then a B-2 visitor’s visa would be the appropriate type of visa for your travel. B-2 visitors are generally admitted for a period of 6 months which may be extended for of up to 6 additional months.
Visa Waiver Program (VWP)
Citizens of certain countries, traveling for visitor visa purposes for 90 days or less, and who meet all the requirements, can travel to the United States for tourism or business under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Nonimmigrant aliens traveling to the United States under the VWP on or after January 12, 2009 must obtain an approved travel authorization from the Department of Homeland Security’s Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). ESTA is designed to improve the security of the VWP by requiring that nonimmigrant aliens traveling to the United States under the VWP provide biographical information and answer VWP travel eligibility questions before departing for the United States.
Each approved ESTA generally is valid for a period of two years, within which an alien may travel to the United States repeatedly without obtaining another ESTA. However, ESTA travel authorization is not a guarantee of admissibility to the United States at a port of entry. ESTA approval only authorizes a traveler to board a carrier for travel to the U.S. under the VWP. In all cases, CBP officers make admissibility determinations at our ports of entry. In the event that an ESTA applicant is denied authorization to travel to the United States under the VWP, he or she will have to apply for a visa to travel to the United States.
To comply with ESTA, VWP travelers must electronically provide the information currently collected on the I-94W Nonimmigrant Alien Arrival/Departure (Form I-94W) to United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) through the CBP ESTA website and receive authorization to travel before embarking on travel to the United States. Accompanied and unaccompanied children, regardless of age, will be required to obtain an independent ESTA authorization and determination of eligibility. VWP travelers who fail to obtain an ESTA travel authorization after ESTA becomes mandatory may be denied boarding; experience delayed processing; or be denied admission at a U.S. port of entry.
Border Crossing Card (“Laser Visa”)
Mexican citizens and permanent residents wishing to visit the United States generally must have either a B-1/B-2 visa or a Border Crossing Card. The Border Crossing Card, Form DSP-150 is a biometric, machine readable, visitor visa/Border Crossing Card that may be used to enter the U.S. from within the Western Hemisphere.