B-2 Visa Roadmap

The B-2 visa classification allows foreign nationals to temporarily visit the United States for pleasure. This typically encompasses tourism, amusement, rest, visits with friends or relatives, activities of a fraternal, social, or service nature, or even medical treatment. Other examples of individuals qualifying for B-2 status include: participants in artistic or athletic amateur competitions; individuals accompanying U.S. Armed Forces personnel as dependents; children entering to become U.S. citizens; individuals coming to the U.S. to get engaged or to make arrangements for a marriage; individuals planning to return abroad after marrying a U.S. citizen; individuals planning to apply for derivative status after marrying a nonimmigrant currently in the U.S.; or non-spouse partners or other household or extended family members who accompany a principal who is in valid nonimmigrant status (e.g. E, H, L, F, J, M, A, G, or NATO).

B-2 visitors for pleasure are not allowed to engage in employment or hands-on work while in the U.S., even if the compensation is limited to room, board, or pocket change. In addition, B-2 visitors are generally prohibited from attending school for credit – but may engage in study that is avocational or recreational in nature, such as summer programs for high school and college-aged students, short-term cooking classes, or language courses involving less than 18 hours per week.

B-2 Requirements

The main requirements for obtaining a B-2 visa are:

  • A residence abroad and no intention of abandoning that residence;
  • The visit will be temporary and for pleasure;
  • Intent to depart the U.S. at the expiration of the requested stay;
  • Permission to enter the home country at the end of the U.S. visit; and
  • Sufficient funds to cover all expenses while in the U.S.


B-2 applicants should be prepared to provide the following documents during the visa application process:

  • Passport (valid for at least six months beyond the desired period of stay).
  • Interview appointment letter.
  • Confirmation page for completed DS-160 Nonimmigrant Visa Application (filed online).
  • Receipt for payment of visa application fees.
  • Current passport-style photo.
  • Documentation regarding the trip’s purpose, the applicant’s ability to cover all expenses of the trip, and the applicant’s intent to depart the U.S. after the temporary trip, including but not limited to:
    • A round-trip ticket showing definitive dates of entry and exit to the U.S.
    • Evidence of residence abroad, such as deed or lease.
    • Bank account statements, credit card statements, cell phone bills, automobile registration, and insurance certificates.
    • Evidence of employment abroad, such as recent tax documents or pay stubs.
      • For extended stays (more than 4 weeks): an employer letter confirming a temporary leave of absence.
      • For B-2 applicants who do not work: an employer letter confirming the spouse’s employment, incl. current position, employment dates, salary, etc., along with proof of marriage.
    • Evidence of ability to pay for the trip, such as bank account statements, traveler’s checks, cash, credit cards, etc.
    • Evidence of the trip’s reason, such as invitation letters or emails, itineraries, schedules, brochures, etc.


B-2 visitors are typically admitted for a duration of six months. Extensions of B-2 status are generally granted in six-month increments and filed from within the U.S. on Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. The same form is used for B-2 visitors who wish to change status to another nonimmigrant category, e.g. F-1, L-1, or E-1/E-2 status while in the U.S.



Each individual wishing to accompany or join the B-2 visitor in the U.S. must apply for his or her own B-2 tourist visa. Minor children may be allowed to attend school while in B-2 status if they are accompanying a parent and the schooling would be incidental to the reason for the parent traveling to the U.S.



Medical Treatment

Foreign nationals wishing to undergo medical treatment in the U.S. can do so while in B-2 visitor status. However, they must be able to show that a medical practitioner in the U.S. has agreed to treat them and that they are able to cover the costs of not only the projected treatment and care but also of any other expenses related to their stay in the U.S. To this end, applicants should be prepared to present the following documentation:

  • Medical diagnosis from a physician in the home country, explaining why treatment in the U.S. is being sought.
  • A letter from a physician or medical facility in the U.S. confirming their willingness to treat the individual and outlining the treatment’s projected length and cost.
  • Proof of the individual’s ability to cover all related expenses such as bank or other statements of income or savings, income tax returns, and other financial documents of either the individual or any third party agreeing to cover the costs.


Non-Spouse Partners (of Either Sex), Extended Family Members, and Other Household Members Accompanying a Nonimmigrant Principal

The spouse and dependent children of a nonimmigrant worker typically qualify for derivative status in the same nonimmigrant visa category as the “principal” (e.g. F-1 and F-2, L-1 and L-2, H-1B and H-4). However, this option is not available to cohabitating partners, common-law spouses, extended family (such as parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.), or other household members (wards or foster children) wishing to accompany a nonimmigrant principal to the U.S. In these cases, the B-2 might be the best solution.

While the requirements are generally the same as for any other B-2 visitor, some additional evidence will be required, including but not limited to:

  • Proof of the principal’s nonimmigrant status in the U.S., such as copies of their biographical passport page, visa stamp, and/or Form I-797 Approval Notice.
  • Evidence of the B-2 applicant’s relationship with the principal (e.g. registration of common-law marriage, civil union, or domestic partnership along with proof of cohabitation, such as property titles, lease or mortgage contracts, utility bills, comingling of financial resources; etc.; birth or adoption certificate; proof of physical and legal custody).
  • Especially in the case of elderly family members: evidence of long-term residence in the principal’s household; evidence of financial dependence upon the principal; evidence of why the family member may not remain in the home country during the principal’s stay in the U.S., such as documentation of medical conditions that require close supervision and care that would be unavailable or cost-prohibitive at home.
  • Pay stubs or an employment confirmation letter from the principal’s U.S. employer as proof of the B-2 visitor’s guaranteed financial support.

Note that, even if the principal’s nonimmigrant status is valid for several years, the accompanying partner or family/household member will likely be granted admission in B-2 status for a much shorter period (typically six months at a time). This means that the B-2 visitor will regularly have to either depart the U.S. and seek readmission or apply for extensions of status with USCIS, with all the travel and/or application costs this entails.

B-2 vs Visa Waiver Program (VWP)

Citizens of countries which participate in the Visa Waiver Program (WVP) have the option to forego obtaining a B-2 visa and instead apply online through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) if they plan to visit the U.S. for no more than 90 days. Each applicant will need a valid machine-readable passport.

Visitors under the VWP are not able to extend their stay beyond those initial 90 days, nor are they permitted to apply for a change of status while in the U.S. However, an exception is generally made for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens (i.e., spouses, parents, or unmarried children under the age of 21) who may apply for adjustment of status to that of a lawful permanent resident if they otherwise qualify.


Legal and policy sources:


Immigration policies and regulations are complex and frequently subject to change. The information contained in this roadmap is intended to provide you with a general overview and may not address your particular circumstances and needs. Serotte Law will assist you with the

Need help right away? Let's get started.

With offices in Buffalo, New York, Silicon Valley and Toronto, Serotte Law is strategically located to support employers who want to live and prosper in the U.S. Our experienced team has seen it all when working to keep people in the country. We focus on making it happen for our clients so you can focus on what you came to this country to do, grow your business.