Obtaining a B1/B2 visa for visiting the USA

If you are not eligible for the programme to apply for an ESTA online travel authorisation then you may still be able to apply for a B1 or B2 type visa to visit the USA for touristic or business reasons. In fact, the B group of visas are part of the wide range of official documents that can be obtained from the American authorities in order to visit this country. In this article we will explain how to apply for a B1 or B2 visa for the United States.  

Apply for Visa
This website is not affiliated to the American Government. You may complete the procedure without supplementary costs on the official website

What are the major differences between the B1, the B2 and the B1/B2 visas to visit the United States:

The B group visas are classified into three types; the B1, B2 and B1/B2 visas. Here we will take the time to explain the differences between these particular visas and detail their principal characteristics.

Let us commence by examining exactly what the B1 visa is. The B1 visa is actually a visa created specifically for business visits. If you wish to visit the USA solely for professional reasons such as for example to meet a client or attend a seminar then you may apply for a B1 visa. Using this visa you can travel to the United States and complete a number of activities and events such as the following:

  • You can notably complete a market study related to the American market.
  • You may also invest in the USA or complete current investments.
  • You may attend meetings with prospective clients, negotiate contracts and represent your company, take orders and complete other similar actions.
  • It is also possible to use this visa for meetings, seminars, conferences, to visit exhibitions or attend a convention.
  • Finally, with this visa, you can meet prospects, clients, partners and associates if you are an employee of an American company subsidiary or partner.

There are however certain limits to the B1 visa that mean that you cannot exercise a professional activity on American territory for example, this requires another type of visa; the H1B work visa. You also cannot receive any payment from an American company during the entirety of your visit to the USA.    

Let us now pass on to the B2 visa which is generally used for touristic visits or medical treatment in the United States. As we have just briefly stated, this type of visa will be useful if you wish to visit the USA for tourism, attending an event or visiting this country for medical reasons.  It can also be useful for those who wish to visit friends or family who reside in the USA. To summarise, with a B2 visa, you can visit the United States for the following reasons:

  • You may of course visit for touristic reasons, to visit towns and cities, natural areas and parks, monuments and historical areas.
  • You may also visit friends or family residing in the USA using this type of visa.
  • You may also apply for a B2 visa to attend certain cultural or sporting events taking place in the USA and even participate in these events at an amateur or professional level.
  • Finally, you can benefit from specific medical care, be hospitalised, or undergo an operation in an American establishment.

Concerning the limits of the B2 visa, you should also be aware that this does not for example authorise you to exercise any professional activity on American territory or receive any payment from an American company during the entirety of your visit. 

Finally let us examine the third type of B visa, the B1/B2, which is, as its name indicates,  a visa that combines the attributes of the B1 and B2 visas in a single visa. It therefore enables visitors to travel to the USA for multiple reasons and objectives thereby combining the advantages of the two major B type visa, the B1 and B2.


The procedure for applying and obtaining the B1, B2 or B1/B2 visa:

Now that you understand the differences between the B1 and B2 visas as well as the B1/B2 visa for visiting the USA, we will now explain more in detail how to obtain this type of travel authorisation.

More precisely, to apply for a B type visa, whether it is for a business trip, tourist visit or for medical treatment, you will need to complete the official application form DS-160. In the past this application could only be completed through an administrative office such as an American Embassy or consulate but recently it has become possible to apply for a visa through the completion of an application form online using a specialised website such as the one we recommend at the bottom of this page.

On this application form you will be asked to provide certain precise details relating to your identity and reasons for your visit to the United States. This information will then be studied by the consular services at the American Embassy in your home country before they decide on whether or not to grant your travel authorisation.  You should therefore take great care when completing this document, answering all questions clearly and honestly.

It should be noted that once this application form has been completed you will need to pass through a second step which consists of a meeting or interview at the American Embassy. During this meeting an American official will check through the answers you gave on your application form and maybe ask you a few extra questions relative to your application or in order to provide further necessary information.


Which documents should you provide in support of your B1 or B2 visa application?

Now that you know how to begin the application procedure for your B1, B2 or B1/B2 visa we will look closely at the documents and items you need to provide proof to support your application.

These supplementary items of proof are requested to enable the American authorities to be sure that you do not intend to immigrate or stay on American territory definitively which would of course be illegal.

Also, and still with the aim of providing proof, it would be judicious to take all documents with you that could demonstrate that you are strongly attached to your home country when you attend this interview. This could be in the form of a marriage certificate, birth certificates, home ownership documents, work contracts or any other documentary proof that you do not plan to leave your home country for too long and certainly not definitively.

Of course, you may also be requested to bring proof related to the reasons for your visit such as professional documents or medical papers, or residential proof if you are visiting friends or family that you plan to stay with when you are in the USA. Due to precautions and in order to avoid any disappointment take anything you can think of that may support your visa application or act as proof for this interview.

We will now turn our attention more particularly to the photograph that you will need to supply with your application. When you complete a B1, B2 or B1-B2 visa application online you have the opportunity to directly upload a photograph of yourself without the requirement to send a paper one. However, if you are unable to upload a digital photograph online then you will still be able to complete your visa application as you can simply skip over this step. Although a photograph is still necessary for your application file you may take one to the interview with you. It should be noted that this photograph must comply with certain conditions regarding the size and head position and it is imperative that you fulfil the criteria relating to this photograph or your visa application will be refused.


What is the procedure for the interview relating to a type B visa application and how to prepare?

Many visitors that wish to obtain a type B visa to visit the USA ask questions relating to the individual interview that is required to obtain this travel authorisation document. Here is some information that will assist you in your understanding and preparation for this interview procedure that is a necessary part of your visa application.

Do not forget that the first stage to follow to obtain a visa is to request one through the completion of an official online visa application form. As long as this form has not been submitted you cannot request an appointment for the meeting. Making an appointment for this interview is also undertaken online but can also be completed by telephone. The appointment will be made for a date and time in accordance with your availability.

When you attend this interview do not forget to take certain items with you that will complete and support your application. This file can include, as noted above, certain documents such as a bank statement, work contract, your last three pay slips, pension documents or other documents related to your income  or even documents concerning financial and travel details such as your travel insurance. Other less important documents can complete this list such as property title deeds or rental payment slips.

Apart from this documentary proof that you may be required to provide at this meeting, or that will at least support your application, you should also think about taking other types of document such as your passport.  This should of course be valid at the time of your application and for the entire time you plan to stay in the United States.  You should also take a self addressed envelope with you, preferably registered post, as well as the printed confirmation of your completed visa application form and proof of payment of the associated costs and fees that you have paid online.

It is pointless to feel stressed or worried about this meeting which is basically just a formality to confirm the answers you have already provided in your online application form. However, it is important that you arrive on time for this interview as it would be difficult to arrange another meeting soon after which may cause a disappointing or difficult delay in your departure plans.

Once the meeting has concluded you will generally receive a response to your application just a few days later, or a few weeks at the most.


What is the difference between an ESTA and a B2 visa:

As you undoubtedly already know, there is another type of travel authorisation that enables you to visit the United States for tourism or business meetings. This is the ESTA issued through the Visa Waiver Programme.  The procedure to obtain this electronic travel authorisation is in fact faster than that for a classic visa but this travel authorisation only applies to certain specific cases and the applicant must fulfil certain conditions as follows:  

  • Firstly you must be a resident of one of the member countries of the Visa Waiver Programme to be able to benefit such as the United Kingdom or Ireland. This means that you need to be a permanent resident there with your primary residence in this country as well as hold a passport issued by that country.
  • A biometric or electronic passport will also be necessary to benefit from this type of digital travel authorisation for the USA. It is therefore important to confirm that your passport is applicable.
  • Another important point if you wish to travel to the United States using an ESTA relates to the length of your stay in this country. This type of travel authorisation is only valid for visits of up to 90 days in length. Any visit longer than this will require you to hold a traditional visa such as a B1/B2.
  • The reason for your visit is also important as the ESTA authorisation does not allow you to work in the United States, study there or even visit for medical reasons.

An ESTA application is completed entirely online and the response is given digitally, to your email address. Here there is no need for any documentary proof to support your application. You will simply receive an email indicating if you have been granted an ESTA travel authorisation or not. If the response is positive then your ESTA authorisation is immediately and electronically or digitally linked to your passport. There is no physical document attached to your passport or sent to you, when an agent scans your biometric or electronic passport then the ESTA authorisation will appear automatically on their monitor.

Another major difference between an ESTA and a B1/B2 visa relates to the validity period of this travel authorisation document.  Whereas a B1, B2 or B1/B2 visa can be for a period of between 1 to 10 years depending on the situation, an ESTA is only valid for a two year period from its date of issue and on the condition that no information given on the initial application changes in the meantime.

To summarise, if you do not fulfil the conditions to support your application to obtain an ESTA, whether this is due to your home country, the reason for your visit or the length of your stay then a B1, B2 or B1/B2 visa may enable you to visit the United States legally and without difficulty.


Apply for a B1, B2 or B1/B2 visa:

If you wish to rapidly obtain a B1, B2 or B1/B2 type visa to visit the United States then you can complete the application immediately by visiting our partner’s website.

Apply for Visa