B-1/B-2 Visitor Visas

The B-1 and B-2 visas are for business and pleasure/tourism visitors, respectively.

The Immigration and Nationality Act describes a person who qualifies for B-1/B-2 status as "an alien (other than one coming for the purpose of study or performing skilled or unskilled labor or as a representative of foreign press, radio, film, or other foreign information media coming to engage in such vocation) having a residence in a foreign country which he has no intention of abandoning and who is visiting the United States temporarily for business or temporarily for pleasure."

The Code of Federal Regulations states that the term business refers to "conventions, conferences, consultations and other legitimate activities of a commercial or professional nature. It does not include local employment or labor for hire."

Regulations

Individuals who enter the U.S. for the purpose of Business (B-1 Visa) or Pleasure/Tourism (B-2 Visa) need to be aware of the following regulations, especially if they plan to take a course of study:

  • Individuals holding B-1/B-2 visa status are not allowed to undertake a course of study in the U.S.
  • Individuals holding B-1/B-2 visa status are not eligible to apply for a change in visa status to an F-1 student immediately after entry into the U.S. This is due to change of status (COS) processing restrictions based on the intent to study at the time of entry to the U.S. A change of status is possible after a 60-90 day stay, if it can be clearly shown that the COS applicant did not intend to study at the time of entry.
    • The only exception to the change of status restriction immediately after entry is to apply for a B visa with the purpose of the visit being a “prospective student” as defined in Section 9 FAM 402.5-5(R)(3). This is not recommended unless absolutely necessary, due to the risk of denial at the port of entry, in addition to providing convincing documentation. All required documents supporting student intent and financial ability must be provided to the Consular Officer or CBP Officer (for Canadian citizens). “Prospective student” activities typically include: visiting the schools to which one is interested in applying or visiting schools to which one has been admitted. Individuals admitted with B-1 or B-2 status will not be allowed to begin a program of study until they have been granted F-1 student status. This is accomplished by applying to the USCIS on Form I-539, which may take 2-3 months. Before you apply for a visa or entry to the U.S., see the Foreign Affairs Manual notes at 9 FAM 402.2.
  • Students coming to the U.S. for activity (including classwork) related to their educational programs may be required by a U.S. consular officer to use an F student visa or J (educational exchange) visa. Activity such as research, consultation, or observation which is generally appropriate for B–1 visas may require an F or J visa if the applicant is a student. The consular officer makes the decision.
  • Researchers coming to the U.S. for personal research (B-1 or B-2) must be self-funded with personal or overseas funding sources. United States-based payments may require J or H visa status (except B-1 honoraria).

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How to Apply

The visitor will need to go to a U.S. embassy or consulate to apply for an entry visa stamp. The U.S. Department of State recommends that visa applicants apply at a U.S. consulate in their home country.  

  • If the visitor will receive a payment from the University of Minnesota, they need to bring the University of Minnesota letter of invitation (Sample Letter), proof of funding and/or support, and their passport when applying for the visa. If the entry visa is granted, the visa stamp is then placed in the applicant’s passport.
  • If the visitor will cover their own expenses or be supported by an individual in the U.S., please refer to the Inviting Family Members to the U.S. section below for more information about a different invitation letter and providing proof of financial support.
  • If the visitor is an undergraduate student in their home country (and still will be at time of U.S. visit), and they are coming for the purpose of research/observation, please refer to the undergraduate invitation letter template.  

Canadian citizens do not need to go to a U.S. embassy or consulate to apply for a visa. They can go to the U.S. border and request entry into the U.S. as a visitor for business. The Canadian citizen presents at the U.S. border:

  • Proof of Canadian citizenship (passport—see Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative)
  • Letter of invitation from the University of Minnesota department, if they will receive honoraria payment or incidental expenses from the University of Minnesota

Status in the U.S.

Individuals entering the U.S. for the purpose of business (B-1) or pleasure (B-2) will be limited in terms of the length of time they will be allowed to stay. The U.S. inspecting officer will determine the length of time allowed a B-1 business visitor based on what is "fair and reasonable for the completion of the purpose of the visit." Individuals should provide documentation when possible that verifies the purpose of their visit and the time period desired/needed for their stay in the U.S. A B-1 visitor getting an honorarium is limited to 9 days per visit (5 visits every 6 months). A B-2 visitor for pleasure is admitted for 6 months unless limited by a supervisory inspector.

A B-1 or B-2 visa holder may file an extension request on Form I-539 with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). An I-539 application must include evidence documenting the need for the extension, evidence of financial resources to continue the temporary stay, and documentary evidence that the applicant is maintaining residence status abroad. Please read the instructions carefully.

Connecting With Your Host Department

In order to receive payment from the University of Minnesota, visitors must meet certain criteria. This information can be found at: Payment for B/WB (Visa) Status.

If the criteria will be met, visitors must follow the procedures below when entering the U.S. on a B-1/B-2 visa (Canadian citizens, see above information):

  1. Visitor needs to receive a letter of invitation from the University of Minnesota department. The letter of invitation needs to include: statement of invitation, exact dates of visit, purpose of the trip, activities during visit, if funding is provided, if no funding is provided what is the funding (i.e. personal funds, etc.) See Sample Letter.
    • Visitor goes to the U.S. Embassy (outside the U.S.) to apply for the B–1/B–2 visa.
  2. Visitor needs to present to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer:
    • Passport and B–1/B–2 entry visa
    • University of Minnesota Letter of Invitation
    • Proof of funding and/or support
  3. After arrival in the U.S., the visitor and the hosting department need to complete documentation for the payment to occur. Instructions and forms can be found at: Payment for B/WB (Visa) Status

Inviting Family Members to the U.S.

Family members (other than your spouse or children) wishing to visit the U.S. must enter either on WB/WT status under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) or with a visitor visa (B-1/B-2). Spouses and children can enter the U.S. as visitors for a short stay. However, for a longer stay, they should enter on dependent visas. See the bottom of this page for more details on dependent visas.

Citizens of certain countries are eligible to enter the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

  • If your family members are eligible to enter under the VWP, they do not need to apply for a visitor visa (B-1/B-2) at a U.S. embassy.
  • If your family members are not eligible to enter under the VWP, they must apply for a visitor (B-1/B-2) visa at the U.S. embassy in their home countries.

The U.S. State Department/Bureau of Consular Affairs has additional information about applying for a visitor visa. In addition, many individual consulates will have more specific information on their websites about inviting family members to the U.S. Visit the U.S. Department of State for links to U.S. consulates around the world.

There is no documentation available from ISSS for visitor visa (B-1/B-2) applications.

Ensure that your family members have the following evidence, which will be helpful during the visa application process for B-1/B-2 visas:

  • Invitation letter from you: Write a letter of invitation that includes the following: your name and your reason for living in the U.S., the names of your family members who wish to visit, the purpose and approximate length of the visit, and whether you will provide room and board or any other financial assistance for the visit. ISSS does not have a sample letter and will not write a letter for you.
  • Evidence of Funding: If you will provide room and board or any other specific expenses for their trip (such as airfare), you should supply evidence of your funding such as a bank statement or employment letter. There is no minimum dollar amount that you must reflect, but you should indicate an amount that is reasonable for the level of support you are providing.
  • Evidence of Funding: If your family members intend to cover their own expenses, they should provide a bank statement, employment verification or other evidence of their own funding.
  • Evidence of your visa status in the US: Provide your family members with a copy of your visa status documents (do NOT send the originals) and other documents verifying your status in the U.S. It is not necessary for you to get new visa documents when inviting family members as visitors.
  • Evidence of intent to return home: Your family members must prove that they will return home after visiting the U.S. Documents showing employment, property ownership, or enrollment in school (in the home country) are considered good evidence of intent to return home.

If you are inviting your spouse or children under the age of 21 to the U.S. on a dependent visa (F-2, J-2, H-4), please see the web pages that correspond to your current visa status: F-1J-1H-1B.

Last updated: June 23, 2021