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

A US tourist visa is one of several forms of travel authorization for the United States of America. It permits holders to legally enter the country for short-term visits. There are a number of types of USA travel visas available.

Current non-immigrant USA visa and travel authorization types include the following:

  • B1 Visa: a short-term business visa for the USA.
  • B2 Visa: a US visitor visa that permits entry for tourism and leisure purposes.
  • B1/B2 Visa: a combined US tourist visa and business visa.
  • ESTA USA: allows travelers from certain authorized countries to travel to the US for tourism, business, and transit.

Before beginning an application process, travelers are advised to double check which visa they need and familiarize themselves with the documents required for a tourist visa for the USA.

Who Needs an ESTA Tourist Visa for the USA?

Citizens from over 30 US visa waiver countries can apply for an online ESTA travel authorization:

Citizens of countries that are not part of the Visa Waiver Program are not eligible to apply for an online ESTA for tourism. Instead, they must obtain a USA visit visa from their nearest US Embassy or Consulate.

Types of Travel Visa for the USA

There are 3 types of USA visitor visas for people who wish to travel to the United States for short 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 visit visa that can be used for the following activities:

  • Tourism.
  • Vacation.
  • Visit friends or family.
  • Medical treatment.
  • Participation in social events hosted by fraternal, social or service organizations.
  • Participation by amateurs in musical, sports, or similar contests or events for which payment is not received.
  • Enrollment in a short recreational course of study (not for credit toward a degree).

Additionally, those who wish to travel to the US for combined tourism and business purposes can apply for another one of the USA travel docs, the B1/B2 Visa type.

What Documents Are Required for a US Tourist Visa?

US visa requirements state that visitors from countries that can apply for the ESTA must submit the following documents as part of their application:

Citizens who are not eligible for the ESTA will need to present several USA visitor visa documents to apply for the regular tourist visa to the United States (B1/B2).

The mandatory visitor visa US travel docs are as follows:

  • A valid passport and 2 passport-sized photos.
  • DS-160 confirmation page.
  • Copy of appointment letter.
  • Receipt of the paid fee for the US tourist visa application – once the interview fee has been paid, the applicant must take the confirmation with them to an embassy.
  • Evidence of purpose of the trip (such as evidence of family ties in the US, or a travel itinerary).
  • Proof of intent to leave the States after the journey.
  • Financial proof of the traveler’s ability to cover their expenses while in the United States.

If any of the documents required for US tourist visas are not originally in English, the applicant will be required to make sure they provide a certified English translation of each one.

How Can I Get a Tourist Visa to the USA?

To get a B2 American tourist visa, the applicant must have a valid passport and should complete the DS-160 form (Nonimmigrant Visa Application) and prepare the supporting documents they will need.

B2 US tourist visa requirements state that it is necessary to schedule an appointment to apply in person at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. This should be done as soon as the traveler starts planning their trip, to allow for sufficient processing time.

In order for the visiting visa for the USA to be successfully approved, all the sections of the DS-160 form need to be fully completed with truthful and accurate information. Therefore, applicants are advised to double-check there are no errors before submitting the application.

Once approved, the travel visa for the USA will be stamped on one of the pages of your passport. For this reason, applicants are advised to have at least 2 empty pages within their 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.

The US visitors visa gives its holders the right to travel freely to the United States for travel and tourism purposes. Nevertheless, always bear in mind that it is not possible to work or study long-term on a B2 US visit visa when in the States.

How Can I Get an ESTA Tourist Visa Waiver for the US?

Eligible travelers can gain authorization to enter the US by completing the ESTA application form online.

This involves submitting the following information:

  • Basic personal data (full name, date of birth, etc.).
  • Passport details (document number, expiry date, etc.).
  • Contact information (email address, telephone number, etc.).

Applicants must also answer a few quick security questions.

It takes a matter of minutes to complete the form. Travelers are advised to double-check all their answers before submitting the application for the American visa waiver, since small errors can lead to delays or even rejection of applications.

The vast majority of ESTA applications are approved within 72 hours.

General US Visitor Visa Requirements

In order to obtain authorization to visit the US, international travelers must comply with US visa requirements.

All travelers are required to:

  • Have a valid passport.
  • Submit an application form.
  • Pay the visa processing fee.

In order to obtain any of the US travel docs, whether the ESTA, or B1 or B2 visa, a number of supporting documents must be submitted along with the application.

US tourist visa requirements, business visa requirements, and ESTA requirements all differ slightly.

Applicants for the ESTA document must be a citizen of one of the countries in the Visa Waiver Program.

Additionally, while it is not a mandatory requirement, all foreign citizens planning to visit the United States for tourism are advised to obtain travel insurance for the USA.

Such insurance will cover the costs of unexpected events like flight cancelation, loss of luggage, accidents, trip cancelation, theft and medical expenses.

A medical emergency in the USA can be very expensive, for instance an emergency evacuation can cost up to $100,000. Therefore, it is important to carefully select your insurance plan to make sure it will cover all of your needs.

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