Overview

Generally, a citizen of a foreign country who wishes to enter the United States must first obtain a visa, either a nonimmigrant visa for temporary stay, or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. Visitor visas are nonimmigrant visas for persons who want to enter the United States temporarily for business (visa category B-1), tourism, pleasure or visiting (visa category B-2), or a combination of both purposes (B-1/B-2).

Here are some examples of activities permitted with a visitor visa:

  • consult with business associates
  • attend a scientific, educational, professional, or business convention or conference
  • settle an estate
  • negotiate a contract

Learn more about Business Travel to the United States (PDF – 362 KB)  on a visitor visa.

  • tourism
  • vacation (holiday)
  • visit with friends or relatives
  • medical treatment
  • participation in social events hosted by fraternal, social, or service organizations
  • participation by amateurs in musical, sports, or similar events or contests, if not being paid for participating
  • enrollment in a short recreational course of study, not for credit toward a degree (for example, a two-day cooking class while on vacation)

Learn more about Visitor Visas – Business and Pleasure (PDF – 1020 KB).

If you are seeking medical treatment in the United States, the consular officer may ask for further documents at your visa interview, which may include:

  • Medical diagnosis from a local physician, explaining the nature of the ailment and the reason you need treatment in the United States.
  • Letter from a physician or medical facility in the United States, stating they are willing to treat your specific ailment and detailing the projected length and cost of treatment (including doctors’ fees, hospitalization fees, and all medical-related expenses).
  • Proof that your transportation, medical, and living expenses in the United States will be paid. This may be in the form of bank or other statements of income/savings or certified copies of income tax returns (either yours or the person or organization paying for your treatment).

You may apply for a B-1 visitor visa to work in the United States as a personal or domestic employee for your employer in limited situations. You may work in the United States on a visitor visa if your employer is:

  • A U.S. citizen who has a permanent home or is stationed in a foreign country, but is visiting or is assigned to the United States temporarily; or
  • A foreign citizen who is in the United States on one of the following nonimmigrant visa categories:  B, E, F, H, I, J, L, M, O, P, or Q.

Learn more about your rights in the United States and protection available to you by reading the Legal Rights and Protectionspamphlet.

These are some examples of activities that require different categories of visas and cannot be done while on a visitor visa:

  • study
  • employment
  • paid performances, or any professional performance before a paying audience
  • arrival as a crewmember on a ship or aircraft
  • work as foreign press, radio, film, journalists, and other information media
  • permanent residence in the United States