Phoenix Immigration LawyerTourist Visa Attorney in Phoenix, AZ

Nonimmigrant Tourist Visa

If you are planning to come to the United States as a nonimmigrant tourist or for a brief business visit, you may need to apply for a visa. Both tourist visas and business visas were affected in response to COVID-19, but the process of allowing the continuation of routine visas began again in early 2021. Absent further restrictions based upon the pandemic, there are a number of issues that need to be addressed to determine whether you actually require a tourist visa, and, if so, what steps you need to take in order to have the visa properly issued.

Do I Need A Visa to Enter the US as a Tourist?

The visa process can be confusing and time-consuming. So before you begin the process, the first question you need to address is whether you actually need a visa to enter the country as a tourist or for a brief business visit.

The US has a waiver program applicable to some international travelers who are planning to visit the United States as a nonimmigrant tourist or business traveler. In order to be exempt from the visa requirement, you must be a citizen of one of 40 countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program.

Having said that this is a “waiver” program, we do not mean to imply that there are no requirements before entering the US as a tourist or for a short business visit. You also need:

  • A passport with a “machine-readable” zone on the bio page.
  • An electronic passport (“e-Passport”).
  • A passport that contains a digital photograph on the data page, except for certain narrow exceptions.

If you cannot meet these requirements, you will need a visa in order to enter the US as a tourist or on business.

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What Kind of Visa Will I Need?

Assuming you are not exempt from the visa requirement under the waiver program, there are two primary visa applications that may apply to your particular situation.

  • B-1 Visa. This is a visa applicable to those individuals who seek to enter the US for business purposes, including consulting with business associates, attending conferences, negotiation of a contract, or settling an estate.
  • B-2 Visa. This applies to tourists who are visiting the US on vacation, as well as those who come to participate in a social event, to obtain medical treatment, and to participate in amateur sporting events.

There are additional circumstances where a visa may be required for a person on vacation. They are called “Transit Visas,” and include people stopping in the US briefly on their way to another foreign destination, and members of sea vessel and international airline crews who stop in the United States.

Tourist Visa Limitations and Prohibitions

If you have successfully applied for and received a tourist visa, there are limitations on what you may and may not do while you are in the United States. Obviously, it is perfectly acceptable to use the visa for tourism, that is, visiting the United States for the purpose of vacationing and visiting places of interest. People also use tourist visas to enter the country for events with family and friends, such as baby showers, weddings, seeing relatives, graduation, shopping, and similar activities. On the other hand, there are activities that are prohibited while in the country on a tourist visa.

The following are just some of the activities that are not permitted while in the country on a tourist visa:

  • You may not work, even if you are not getting paid.
  • Journalists (radio, film, etc.) in the US on a tourist visa may not engage in their vocation while here. This includes those who travel using the visa waiver program. To do so, you must enter using a nonimmigrant media visa.
  • Future Students. You are not permitted to enter the country on a tourist visa, and then switch to a student visa after you have settled on a school to attend. On the other hand, it is perfectly legal to enter on a tourist visa to visit institutions of higher learning (colleges, universities, graduate schools) to plan for future studies.

These are just a few of the more common prohibitions and limitations on what you may and may not do while in the US on a tourist visa.

Phoenix Tourist Visa Attorney

The visa process can be complex, and the laws governing visas, including student visas, are often confusing. Mistakes can cost you the ability to enter the United States. If you have questions or concerns about a tourist visa (or a business visa), or regarding any immigration matter, feel free to contact Castañeda Immigration Law at 602-560-3131.

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