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For vacation and business trips as well as longer stays in the USA there is a special visa category: the Visitor Visa B-1 / B-2 (Temporary Visitor for Business & Pleasure). What exactly is behind the visitor visa for the USA and who can apply for the popular travel visa, we explain below. If you need help with the B-1 / B-2 visa application for the USA, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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What are B-1 / B-2 visas for the USA?

As the name implies, holders of a visitor visa "visit" the United States and travel to the US on B-1 / B-2 visas for business (e.g. meetings with clients) or for personal purposes (e.g. vacation).

B-1 / B-2 visas are by far the most frequently applied for of all US visa categories. At the US consulates in Germany, this category accounts for more than 21% of all visa applications.

TIP: Persons of certain nationalities who wish to travel to the US on a limited business or tourist basis should check in advance whether they have the alternative of visa-free entry with ESTA under the Visa Waiver Program. This is because an ESTA application is faster and cheaper than applying for than a B visa while allowing the same purposes of stay for a shorter period of time (i.e. for 90 days instead of 180 days).

Bild von einem B-1 / B-2 Visum für die USA

Visitor visa categories

B-1 Visa (Temporary Visitor for Business)

For business related entries

FURTHER INFORMATION

B-2 Visa (Temporary Visitor for Pleasure)

For tourist entries

FURTHER INFORMATION

What is the difference between a B-1 and B-2 visa?

In the case of B status, a basic distinction is made between business travel (B-1) and vacation (B-2).

But: When issuing the B visa, in practice often no subdivision into B-1 and B-2 Visa made. The B-1 / B-2 business and tourist visa (Business / Tourist) is often issued by the US consulates as a combined visa. The reason for this is that business and tourist trips to the U.S. are not infrequently combined. Many visas therefore contain the notation "B-1 / B-2", which allows tourist and business entry at the same time.

The following groups of people can apply for B-1 / B-2 visas for the USA:

Business travelers (B-1)

Business travel is for the purpose of furthering trade or professional interests abroad, but excludes employment or payment in the United States. Typical reasons for entry on a B-1 visa include meetings, conferences, trade show visits, and after-sales service.

Tourists (B-2)

Persons who wish to make a short trip to the USA for tourist or private purposes can apply for a B-2 visa. This applies primarily to the classic tourist vacation, visits to relatives or medical stays.

How much does a visa for the USA cost?

How high the costs for US visas are depends on which visa is applied for. Generally speaking, the more application steps are required and the more US authorities are involved, the more expensive the visa application will be. The application fees for US visas can therefore vary greatly.

Anyone applying for a visa for the USA at a US consulate or embassy must pay the following fees:

  • Consular application fee
    General application fee that must be paid by all applicants. The amount varies depending on the visa category.
  • Additional consular fees, if applicable
    There are additional fees that only apply to some visa categories or are only relevant for certain applicants.
  • Costs for passport delivery, if applicable
    The postal delivery of passports is subject to a fee, passport collection is free of charge.
Bild von einer USA Kreditkarte für Visa-Gebühren

Additional costs are incurred for application procedures via the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), such as applications for US work visas.

  • USCIS standard fee
    General application fee that must be paid by all applicants. The amount varies depending on the visa category.
  • Additional USCIS fees, if applicable
    Accelerated application processing, for example, is subject to a fee.

You can find more information about the different visa fees, other possible costs and the current payment methods on our fees page.

Go to the cost overview

Requirements for the application

B visas, also known as visitor visas, are issued for temporary business or tourist travel to the United States.
The exact requirements may vary depending on the visa type and individual situation, but here are the basic requirements for B visa holder:s:

B-1 visa (Business Travel)

Business purpose:
Travelers on a B-1 visa must have a specific business purpose, such as business negotiations, attending conferences or training, participating in scientific, educational or professional activities, research purposes or investments.

No remuneration:
The activities associated with a B-1 visa performed may not be compensated, except in limited circumstances where certain allowances or reimbursements for expenses may be permitted.

B-2 Visa (Tourist / Private Travel)

Tourist purpose:
The B-2 visa is intended for individuals who wish to visit the U.S. for tourism purposes, such as vacation, medical treatment, social activities, or leisure.

Intention to return:
Applicants must demonstrate that they have a firm intention to leave the US at the end of their stay and return to their home country.

Sufficient financial resources:
Applicants must demonstrate that they have sufficient financial resources to cover their living expenses in the US without working there illegally or claiming welfare.

Return binding:
Applicants:must have sufficient ties to their home country to ensure that they will return there at the end of their stay in the United States.

Travel plans:
Applicant:s must provide clear and traceable travel plans and activities in the United States.

For both types of B visas, applicants must go through a thorough application review process, which includes an interview appointment at a US Embassy or a U.S. consulate.

During the interview, they must meet the above requirements and provide convincing evidence of their intended travel and return commitment. It is important to note that the exact requirements and application process may vary from country to country, as they are determined by the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in each country. Prior to the Request of a B visa, travelers should carefully review the current policies and requirements of the respective U.S. embassy or consulate.

B visa vs. ESTA

For international travelers wishing to travel to the United States, both the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) as well as the B visa are important entry options. Both allow you to stay in the USA for identical purposes, but also have significant differences.

The choice between the two options depends on the individual travel destinations, the planned length of stay and other specific requirements. Before traveling to the USA, it is advisable to inform yourself thoroughly about the respective requirements and restrictions in order to ensure a smooth and legally correct trip.

Simmilarities:

  • Purpose of stay: Both ESTA and B-1 / B-2 visas allow foreign nationals to travel to the USA and stay there temporarily for tourism or limited business activities. This includes vacations, visits to relatives, participation in trade fairs / conferences and business negotiations.
  • No work permit: Foreign nationals are not permitted to work in the USA or be paid from the USA with either ESTA or a B visa. Only limited business activities such as business meetings, customer or trade fair visits are permitted. Business activities also extend to after sales services, assembly work and training of US personnel (B-1 After Sales), project assignments (B-1 in lieu of H-1B) and in-house training (B-1 in lieu of H-3). Theoretically, these activities are possible with both the B visa and ESTA, but in practice it is often advisable to apply for a B visa.
  • Time limit: Both ESTA authorizations and B visas have time limits for stays in the US. With ESTA you can generally stay in the US for up to 90 days per visit, while B visas can allow a longer stay of up to 180 days per entry into the USA, depending on the type.

Differences:

  • Application procedure: The ESTA application is online-based and only requires the completion of an electronic application form including the answering of security questions. Ideally, you should apply for ESTA as soon as you plan your trip to the USA, but no later than 72 hours before departure. B visas, on the other hand, require a more complex application process including the completion of a comprehensive online application form (DS-160). In addition, B applicants between 14 and 79 years of age must usually appear in person at a US embassy or US consulate.
  • Flexibility: ESTA is quick to obtain and is more suitable for short-term trips to the USA, while B visas are more complicated to apply for and can enable longer stays in the USA.
  • Authorization countries: ESTA is only valid for citizens of countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program (including Germany, Austria and Switzerland). B visas, on the other hand, are available to citizens of all countries and can be applied for worldwide.
  • B visa types: B visas comprise different categories, including B-1 (for business travel) and B-2 (for tourist / private purposes). These categories can be applied for separately or in combination, depending on the individual travel destinations.
We advise you comprehensively on your visa options for the USA Get in touch with our experts now!
The most frequently asked questions about B visas

No. The B-1 visa is a visitor visa, with which you are not allowed to work in the U.S. under any circumstances. For this you need a work visa or immigrant visa.

There is no simplified process for extending a B-1 visa. When the visa expires, it must be applied for in a completely new application process. The exact expiration date is noted on your visa.

Family members of B-1 visa holders who wish to travel to the United States require their own visa. If your family members are not participating in the planned business activities, they may be eligible for a B-2 tourist visa.

There are many reasons why a visa application can be refused. Sometimes even minor errors in the application can lead to a rejection. Avoid this risk and contact us before you apply for your U.S. visa.

When a B visa is issued, a combined B-1 / B-2 visa is usually issued, which means that you can also travel to the United States as a tourist. We have compiled further information on this topic on our overview page for U.S. visitor visas.

The fees for applying for a visa vary considerably depending on the category and may regularly increase or decrease, also as a result of exchange rate fluctuations. Therefore, every applicant should inform himself about the current fees before applying.

An application for a B-1 / B-2 visa always consists of two steps:

  1. Filling out the online application (DS-160) and
  2. the subsequent payment of the visa fee including making an appointment at the U.S. consulate.

The B visa application can be submitted online at any time using the DS-160 form. However, a visa application is only processed at the U.S. consulate after the personal visa interview. You can view the respective appointment availability of the individual consulates online after paying the visa fee. Due to the current situation, capacities are probably still very limited.

You can find more detailed information on visa application on the website of the visa service provider or on the websites of the U.S. consulates worldwide.

Tip: Check whether visa-free entry with ESTA is an alternative, as the application for ESTA approval is possible without restrictions.

Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 will be issued a derived J-2 visa for the same period as the principal applicant and may travel to the United States on that visa.

B status distinguishes between business travel (B-1) and tourist stay (B-2). Business travel is for the purpose of furthering trade or professional interests abroad, but excludes employment or payment in the United States. It is important to emphasize that the B-1 visa is not a work visa. Typical reasons for entry under B-1 status include meetings, conferences, trade show visits, after-sales service in the form of assembly work, installations, etc., or company formation, contract negotiations, customer support, etc.
In individual cases, it may be difficult for travelers to determine whether entry is still within the scope of the Visa Waiver Program can take place or whether a B-1 visa or even a work visa must already be applied for. Please note that such an assessment must be discussed individually based on entry frequency, nationality, age, company affiliation, purpose of entry, etc. Of course, we will be happy to advise you on which visa is appropriate and, if desired, take over the complete processing!

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Persons who wish to make a short trip to the USA for tourist or private purposes can apply for a B-2 visa. This applies primarily to the classic tourist vacation, visits to relatives or medical stays. Under B-2 status you are not allowed to work, do an internship or study. Each visa category allows only a certain catalog of activities.
Incidentally, when issuing the B visa, often no subdivision into B-1 and B-2 visa is made. Therefore, many visas contain the remark "B-1/B-2", which allows tourist and business entry at the same time.

Applications for a B-1 or B-2 visa are usually filed at a U.S. consulate in the country where you currently reside. In some cases, however, it may be necessary to apply in the country where one has the "strongest ties", be it the country of birth or other.
If your center of residence is in Germany, you can apply at the U.S. Consulate in Berlin, Frankfurt/Main, or Munich, regardless of the state in which you live. In Austria, the Consulate General in Vienna is responsible for B-1/B-2 applications, in Switzerland the US Consulate in Bern. You can find more information about the application process here.

The review of the application by the U.S. consulate
Please prepare your application carefully, as applications are quite strictly reviewed. As a matter of principle, at the interview appointment applicants mustDS-160The applicant must carry the confirmation page and the "Appointment Confirmation" with him/her and provide evidence of his/her firm professional and private ties to the home country as well as his/her intention to return to the home country. In addition, evidence of the specific purpose of the stay (e.g. tourist travel plans, business trip, etc.) should be enclosed.
If the consular officer has reason to believe that, for example, you have an immigration intention or you would like to take up (illegal) work in the USA, your application will certainly not be granted. Especially in the case of foreign citizens who have not lived in German-speaking countries for a long time or very young applicants, an application is examined very critically. Incidentally, a rejection does not have to be justified in detail. Once this has happened, a new visa can usually only be successfully applied for after several months or even years. In addition, a rejection of an application for a non-immigrant visa can Visa-free entry to the USA (ESTA)complicate or make it impossible.

After the visa interview
Please note that your passport will be retained at the U.S. Consulate on the day of the interview and will be delivered by registered mail to a German address after a processing time of approximately one to two weeks. A personal pickup of the visa or an issuance on the same day are not possible!

Extensions of residency status are required upon entry with a B-1 or B-2 visa by another maximum 180 days possible (i.e. to a maximum of 365 days). The application is filed locally in the U.S. at the responsible service center of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (USCIS). The application must be submitted in good time before the expiry of the current B status, recommended by the US authorities at the latest 45 days before the expiry of the status.
In addition to Form I-539 and a processing fee, you must include a letter of justification with the application and other supporting documents related to your extension. Unfortunately, extension requests under B-1/B-2 status are very often denied and only granted in urgent cases (e.g., for medical reasons).
Some travelers to the USA try to extend their stay by leaving and re-entering the country. If the maximum period of stay of 180 days has already been exhausted, the exit and re-entry can become a problematic undertaking. This is because the U.S. border officials also decide whether and for how long a re-entry is approved. Under certain circumstances, this can result in the B visa holder being denied re-entry. Consequently, the frequency and duration of entry should not be overstressed.
We will be happy to advise you on any questions you may have and, of course, take care of the entire application process for you or your company. Let us know how we can help you.

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As a rule, applicants find out on the day of their interview whether the visa will be granted or not.
In certain cases, the visa applicant receives a letter of refusal from the consulate after a certain processing time. Incidentally, no reasons need to be given for a refusal. The reasons for this can be manifold and range - depending on the visa category - from the assumption of an immigration intention, to the presumption of illegal employment, to insufficient application documentation.
Once this has happened, a new visa can usually only be (successfully) applied for after several months or even years. Theoretically, there is no waiting period for the applicant until the next submission. However, experience shows that without a blatant improvement in the requirements of the respective visa category (e.g. proof of the intention to return to the home country, financial means, proof of specialized professional knowledge, etc.), a new application does not appear to make much sense.

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