The most common nonimmigrant visa is the B visa. It was created expressly for foreign visitors to the United States, and covers individuals visiting for business (B-1), for tourism (B-2), or for a combination of both purposes (B-1/B-2).
B-1 Business visa holders must be performing work in the U.S. on behalf of a foreign employer and paid for by the foreign employer. They cannot engage in productive employment in the US either for a US employer or on an independent basis. B-1 entry may be granted for up to a year, but most B-1 admissions are approved for just the period necessary to conduct business.
The B-2 Visitor category is available to persons coming to the U.S. to engage in the following activities: tourism; vacation; visiting friends or relatives; medical treatment; participation in conferences; participation in arts or entertainment events (if not being paid for participating); and enrollment in a short recreational course of study. B-2 is normally granted for six months, but may be extended in certain circumstances.
To apply for a B1/B2 visa, one must complete the online nonimmigrant visa application (Form DS-160) and then schedule a visa interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate. At this interview, applicants for a B1/B2 visa must demonstrate that they have no intention of abandoning their residence abroad and that their visit to the US is only temporary. Consular officers will look at the individual’s financial arrangements for the trip, specificity of trip plans, ties to the alien’s home country and ties to the US. An applicant’s chances for getting a visa will be improved if the planned trip is short, the itinerary is clearly listed, the applicant can easily prove he or she has the money to pay for the trip, and the applicant has a job at home and can show that the time away has been approved by the employer.