Generally, a citizen of a foreign country who wishes to enter the United States must first obtain a visa, either a nonimmigrant visa for a temporary stay, or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. Visitor visas are nonimmigrant visas for persons who want to enter the United States temporarily for business (visa category B-1), for tourism (visa category B-2), or for a combination of both purposes (B-1/B-2).
Here are some examples of activities permitted with a visitor visa:
- Consult with business associates
- Attend a scientific, educational, professional, or business convention or conference
- Settle an estate
- Negotiate a contract
- Vacation (holiday)
- Visit with friends or relatives
- Medical treatment
- Participation in social events hosted by fraternal, social, or service organizations
- Participation by amateurs in musical, sports, or similar events or contests, if not being paid for participating
- Enrollment in a short recreational course of study, not for credit toward a degree (for example, a two-day cooking class while on vacation)
Travel Purposes Not Permitted On Visitor Visas
These are some examples of activities that require different categories of visas and cannot be done while on a visitor visa:
- Paid performances, or any professional performance before a paying audience
- Arrival as a crewmember on a ship or aircraft
- Work as foreign press, in radio, film, print journalism, or other information media
- Permanent residence in the United States
Visitor visas will also not be issued for birth tourism (travel for the primary purpose of giving birth in the United States to obtain U.S. citizenship for their child).
How to Apply
There are several steps to apply for a visa. The order of these steps and how you complete them may vary by U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Please consult the instructions on the U.S. Embassy or Consulate website.
Complete the Online Visa Application
- Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160 – Learn more about completing the DS-160. You must: 1) complete the online visa application and 2) print the application form confirmation page to bring to your interview.
- Photo – You will upload your photo while completing the online Form DS-160. Your photo must be in the format explained in the Photograph Requirements.
Schedule an Interview
Interviews are generally required for visa applicants with certain limited exceptions below. Consular officers may require an interview of any visa applicant.
|If you are age:||Then an interview is:|
|13 and younger||Generally not required|
|14-79||Required (some exceptions for renewals)|
|80 and older||Generally not required|
You should schedule an appointment for your visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country where you live. You may schedule your interview at another U.S. Embassy or Consulate, but be aware that it may be more difficult to qualify for a visa outside of the country where you live.
Wait times for interview appointments vary by location, season, and visa category, so you should apply for your visa early. Review the interview wait time for the location where you will apply:
Appointment Wait Time
Check the estimated wait time for a nonimmigrant visa interview appointment at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.