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US Tourist Visa: Do I need a Travel Visa for USA?

All foreign citizens are required to have valid permission, travel authorization or a US tourist visa to legally enter the United States for short term visits. Most applicants know the visa categories under various names.

Current US tourist visa types and names:

  • The US travel visa and USA visitor visa are in the same category (B2 Visa).
  • The business visa (B1 Visa) is also a visitor visa for USA, but the purpose of the trip differs from the B2 visa.
  • Not everyone is required to obtain a regular US tourist visa. Travelers from eligible countries can obtain an ESTA USA instead of a US travel visa.
us tourist visa

Who needs an ESTA tourist visa for the USA?

Citizens from the 39 Visa Waiver countries can apply for an online ESTA travel authorization:

Citizens of countries that are not part of the Visa Waiver are not eligible to apply for an online ESTA tourist visa. Ineligible ESTA nationals that intend to travel to United States for business or tourism, must present a tourist or business visa application at their nearest United States of America Embassy or Consulate and prepare for an interview.There are two main types of short term visas:

  • B2 Tourist visa, issued to applicants travelling for leisure purposes that range from visiting family or friends, engaging in tourist activities to getting short term medical treatment.
  • B1 Business Visa, issued to applicants travelling for business purposes that include attending conferences or business events.

US Visitor visa Requirements

There are two types of USA visitor visas for people who wish to travel to the United States for short term periods of time and cannot obtain the US ESTA.

The B1 visa for USA is a business visitor visa that can be used for the following activities:

  • Consult with business associates
  • Attend a scientific, educational, professional or business convention or conference
  • Settle an estate
  • Negotiate a contract

The B2 visa for USA is a tourism visitor visa that can be used for the following activities:

  • Tourism
  • Vacation
  • Visit friends or family
  • Medical treatment
  • Participation in social events hostel by fraternal, social or service organizations
  • Participation by amateurs in musical, sports, or similar contests or events and does not receive payment for it.
  • Enrollment in a short recreational course of study not for credit toward a degree.

In case you can not apply for the ESTA, contact your nearest consulate or embassy.

How can I get a tourist visa to USA?

As mentioned previously in this page, citizens of 39 eligible countries can obtain a tourist ESTA instead of applying for a tourist visa USA. A US visitor visa is a nonimmigrant visa for people who wish to visit the US for tourism, business or transit, and it must be obtained through a different process than the electronic ESTA.

In order to get a tourist visa to the USA or a B2 visitor visa, the applicant must have a valid passport and should complete the DS-160 form. All people who wish to get a US travel visa will have to get an appointment at their nearest US Embassy or consulate and present the respective documents.

What documents are required to get a tourist visa to the US?

For the countries that can apply for the ESTA:

Citizens who are not applicable to the ESTA, will need to present the following documents to apply for the regular tourist visa to the United States (B1/B2)

  • DS-160 confirmation page
  • The receipt of the paid fee for the US tourist visa application
  • A valid passport and sized photos
  • Copy of appointment letter
  • Current income proof, tax payments, ownership business or property, or assets.
  • Travel itinerary or other additional documents for what you have planned for your trip

Read more about all the documents required for US tourist visa.

In any case, an immigration officer might ask for other documentation. For example, if the purpose of the trip is to seek medical treatment, the traveler might have to provide a medical diagnosis from a local doctor explaining the nature of the illness and why it should be treated in the US.
To apply for the tourist visa to the USA the traveler must complete all of the sections on the form and follow all the guidelines.

The visitor visa or tourist visa will be stamped on one of the pages of your passport, which means that one of the requirements is to have at least 2 empty pages within the passport.
Once in the States, a CBP officer will provide you with an admission stamp or the I-94 paper, which represents your official Arrival/Departure record. You may remain in the US within the dates, indicated on this paper and must leave the country before/on the indicated departure date.

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