B-2 Visitors for Pleasure and/or Medical Treatment


Visitors for pleasure are admitted to the United States for a limited period of time for the purpose of family visits, tourism, and/or medical treatment. Although most foreign visitors must apply for a B-2 visa at a U.S. Consulate, some can enter the U.S. for up to 90 days in B-2 status without a visa under a Visa Waiver Program (VWP) between the U.S. and certain countries1. Canadians also are visa exempt. Significantly, applicants for admission in B-2 visa status or under the VWP require nonimmigrant intent and strong ties to one’s home country. This memorandum

Permissible B-2 and VWP Activity

Visitors must seek admission only to engage in activities related to pleasure, tourism, and/or medical treatment. Examples of permissible activities include:

  • Recreational activities.
  • Tourism and amusement.
  • Visiting friends and/or relatives.
  • Resting or obtaining medical treatment.
  • Attending social engagements.

Evidence Required to Support Admission in B-2 Visa Status or Under the VWP

Persons intending to apply at a U.S. Consulate for B-2 visas should provide documentation on the purpose of their trip, their intention to return home, and their finances. Specifically, an applicant for B-2 status must have a residence in a foreign country which he/she has no intention of abandoning. Consular officers are required by law to presume that all B-2 visa applicants have intent to permanently immigrate to the U.S., unless demonstrated otherwise. B-2 applicants must affirmatively demonstrate nonimmigrant intent.

  • Applicants for B-2 status should have evidence of ties abroad, which may include employment, business or financial connections, family ties, and social or cultural associations, that will assist in demonstrating intent to return their home country.
  • B-2 visas are more likely to be issued to applicants from financially and political stable countries, and to applicants with substantial financial resources.

B-2 visitors enter the U.S. for a specifically limited duration.

  • Applicants for B-2 status should provide specific and realistic plans, not just vague and uncertain intentions, for the entire period of their contemplated visit.
  • Although the “temporary” period of time required for B-2 visa status is not specifically defined, it does signify a limited period of stay. In practice, the period of time permitted will be defined by the purpose of the visit.
  • Applicants for B-2 status will generally be admitted for 180 days, unless they are admitted under the VWP, which permits admissions of 90 days only. Consular officers and immigration officers must be satisfied that applicants will depart upon completion of the visit.
  • Extensions of stay may be granted for six months at a time if justified, except for persons admitted under the visa waiver program which does not authorize extensions, for any reason, beyond the original 90 day period.
  • An applicant’s proposed length of stay in the U.S. should not be defined by the maximum period allowable under U.S. law, rather, it should be consistent with the time-frame limitations offered by contacts, relatives, or friends, and with other information provided to the consular officer.

Applicants for B-2 status must demonstrate that adequate financial arrangements have been made to enable them to fulfill the purpose of their visit to the U.S., without unlawful employment, and to ensure their departure from the U.S.

VWP applicants for admission to the United States are also required to prove their intent to depart the U.S. The information above regarding documentation to prove nonimmigrant intent applies to VWP applicants too. Additionally, VWP regulations explicitly instruct applicants to provide certain types of evidence. Specifically, VWP applicants who are arriving in the U.S. by air or sea must present a return ticket to a destination outside the U.S., except to Canada or Mexico or to an adjacent island. VWP applicants at land border ports-of-entry must establish their ability to support themselves financially during their visit and a domicile outside the U.S. to which they intend to return. Unlike those visitors in B-2 status, VWP applicants for admission are limited to 90 days in the U.S. and are ineligible for changes or extensions of status.

For B-2 and VWP applicants for admission, evidence, including the following, could be required:

  • A detailed letter from the applicant’s overseas employer is recommended. This letter should confirm the applicant’s continuing employment, his/her salary, position, how long he/she has been employed, and the expected duration of their U.S. visit.
  • Applicants for B-2 status must also be prepared to provide evidence of support of spouse and children, or other dependents, in the country of foreign residence during the period of their stay in the U.S.

An applicant’s prior U.S. immigration history is relevant to the consular officer’s decision whether to issue a B-2 visa. A supervisory consular officer reviews all refusals. Some refused applications may be reactivated by reapplication.

B-2 visa holders would be well advised to bring all documentation previously offered to a consular officer in support of issuance of a B-2 visa for possible examination by an immigration officer upon arrival.

Other Issues

A B-2 visa is automatically invalidated if the visa holder overstays or otherwise violates the terms of his/her nonimmigrant visa status. Such persons must apply for new visa stamps in their home countries, barring extraordinary circumstances. Persons who overstay their admission under the Visa Waiver Program cannot enter without a visa in the future.

If an immigration officer believes that an arriving foreign national is not entitled to be admitted, or has committed a misrepresentation, the immigration officer can order a foreign national summarily “removed.” There is no appeal from that removal order, and the consequence of such an order is inability to enter the United States for five years. A B-2 visa holder confronted with the threat of removal can request that the application for admission be withdrawn, but granting such a request is in the immigration officer’s discretion. The only other alternative, if appropriate, is to request asylum.

A foreign national who has been ordered removed can later apply for a waiver of the removal bar. Also note that foreign nationals who overstay admission for more than 180 days and voluntarily depart cannot reenter the United States for three years, and foreign nationals who overstay admission for one year cannot reenter for 10 years.

If you would like assistance with an application, please contact us

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