The B-2 visa allows applicants to stay in the USA for private or tourist purposes. In particular, the B-2 visa is suitable for persons who, due to their citizenship, are not eligible for the Visa Waiver Program (visa-free entry) can use. Often this visa category is called combination visa B-1 / B-2 issued.

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What is the B-2 visa?

The B-2 visa is a U.S. nonimmigrant visa for visitors, individuals and tourists. With a B-2 tourist visa, the holder can stay in the United States for a limited period of time as a vacationer. The official name of the visa category is B-2 Temporary Visitor for Pleasure.

Under tourist/private purposes fall mainly

  • Vacation stays,
  • Visiting family and friends,
  • medical treatments or else
  • participation in social and sporting events.

In contrast to the visa waiver program, holders of the B-2 visa may stay in the U.S. not only for 90 days, but up to a maximum of 180 days per entry. The exact duration of the stay is at the discretion of the responsible border officials.

Attention: The B-2 visa does not include permission to work, i.e. with a B visa you are not allowed to work in the USA. School or university visits and internships are also excluded.

Requirements for the B-2 visa

B-2 Applicants must continue to have a permanent residence outside the U.S. and intend to reside in the U.S. only temporarily. In addition, evidence of permanent ties to the place of residence or intention to return must be provided. Sufficient funds must also be available to finance the entire stay in the United States.

B-2 visa application

B-2 applicants must usually appear in person at an interview appointment at one of the appropriate U.S. consulates. Basically, the application includes the Online form DS-160and the proof of intention to return as well as the financial means for the stay in the USA. The application is usually made at the U.S. consulate of the country in which the applicant has his or her center of life.

Validity of the B-2 visa

As a rule, the B-2 visa is issued for up to ten years. However, the visa can also be limited to a shorter period. This depends in particular on the nationality of the applicant. Officially, the B-2 visa allows a maximum stay of 180 days per entry, but the exact length of stay is determined individually by the border officials for each entry.
This is valid until the visa expires. After that, the B-2 visa must be reapplied for through the consular process.

Caution: Longer stays and high entry frequencies under the B-2 visa can lead to difficulties at the border, especially if U.S. border officials question the visa holder's strong ties to the home country.

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B-2 visa application

B-2 Application procedure

B-2 Applicants must generally appear in person at an interview appointment at one of the appropriate U.S. consulates. In principle, the application includes theOnline form DS-160and the proof of intention to return as well as the financial means for the stay in the USA. The application is usually made at the U.S. consulate of the country in which the applicant has his or her center of life.

The following documents should be submitted first to apply for the B2 visa and as a first step to fill in the onlineDS-160 Formshave ready:

  • Valid passport
  • Personal information such as marital status, address
  • Dates of the last five entries into the USA
  • Curriculum vitae to include current and previous employers
  • Information on school career as well as travel behavior
  • Security issues
  • Digital, biometric passport photo (in the format 5 x 5 cm)

The following documents must be prepared for the appointment at the embassy:

  • Appointment confirmation
  • Barcode sheet of the online submitted form DS-160 incl. proof of payment of the consular application fee.
  • Cover letter for the purpose of entry
  • If applicable, other documents such as: financial evidence, employment contract, lease agreement, resume, etc.

Visa costs and other consular fees

The application fees for US work visas vary widely. The more application steps required and the more US agencies involved, the more expensive the visa application becomes.

A list of the different visa fees and other possible costs can be found under Visa Application.

Go to the cost overview

Application period for the B-2 visa

In most cases, the processing of a B2 visa with a thorough preparation and subsequent examination takes 8-16 weeks.

After you have selected the DS-160 form submitted, you have the option, online to schedule an embassy appointment. The waiting time for an on-site personal interview depends greatly on the number of applications to be processed at the U.S. Embassy.

After a thorough review of your B2 visa application and, in the best case, approval, your passport will be withheld for about 1-2 weeks. Afterwards, the passport will be sent to you by registered mail together with the visa usually within a week. In rare cases, there may be a so-called administrative procedure (security check), which can take several months.

B-Visa vs. ESTA

For international travelers who wish to travel to the United States, both the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) and the B visa are important entry options. Both allow residence in the country for specific purposes, but also have significant differences.

Overall, both ESTA and B-Visa provide travelers with the ability to travel to the US and engage in certain activities. The choice between the two options depends on individual travel destinations, planned length of stay, and other specific requirements. Before traveling, it is advisable to thoroughly research the respective requirements and restrictions to ensure a smooth and legally correct trip.


  • Purpose of stay: Both ESTA and B visas allow foreign nationals to travel and temporarily reside in the United States. However, the exact purposes may vary.
  • Time Limit: Both ESTA authorizations and B visas have time limits on stay. ESTA authorizations usually allow a stay of up to 90 days per visit, while B visas can allow a longer stay of up to 180 days per entry, depending on the type.
  • Tourism and business travel: Both ESTA and certain types of B visas (e.g. B-1 visas) allow travel for tourism and business purposes, including sightseeing, conferences and business negotiations. Active business activities are not possible.


  • B visa types: B visas include several 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 individual travel destinations.
  • Application Procedure: The ESTA process is online-based and requires completion of an electronic application form and answers to security questions. B visas, on the other hand, usually require an application process at a U.S. embassy or consulate, which includes an in-person interview and more extensive screening.
  • Work Permit: While holders of certain B-1 visas (B-1 After Sales, B-1 in lieu of H-1B, B-1 in lieu of H-3) are allowed to engage in limited business activities, ESTA prohibits any form of active work activity in the United States.
  • Flexibility: ESTA is more suitable for short-term stays, while B visas can allow longer stays, depending on the category.
  • Entitlement Countries: ESTA applies mainly to citizens of countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program. B visas, on the other hand, are available for citizens of all countries.
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The most frequently asked questions about B-1/B-2 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.


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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