What is the most common visa category for obtaining a tourist visa to enter the United States?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Feb 6, 2012

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The B-2 pleasure visitor visa and B-1 business visitor visa are commonly used for non-immigrant visitors. This B visa category is the way most foreigners enter the United States each year. The purpose or purposes of your visit will determine which tourist visa you obtain. 

The B-1 Business Visitor Visa

The B-1 visa authorizes a foreigner to enter the United States for a business-related purpose. This could include business meetings, attending a seminar, or negotiating a contract. The B-1 temporary visa should not be confused with a work permit or employment authorization document. The B-1 temporary visa authorizes you to enter the U.S. to address business related issues, but it does not authorize you to work and receive compensation for those services from a U.S. company or organization. If you intend to pursue employment opportunities and receive compensation, you will need to apply for a separate type of employment-based visa. 

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The B-2 Pleasure Visitor Visa

The B-2 temporary visa authorizes an individual to enter for more pleasure-related purposes. Permissible purposes include visiting family members, sight-seeing and receiving medical treatment. You can use the B-2 visa to take a class as long as you do not receive college credit. If you want to enter the U.S. to take classes where you receive college credit, you will need to obtain a student visa.

The Combination B-1/B-2 Visa

If the purposes of your trip overlap from business to pleasure, you can apply for a B-1/B-2 combination visa. Because every visa is purpose specific and exceeding the scope of your visit can result in revocation of your visa, you should make sure you identify and obtain authorization for all of the activities you intend to pursue.

Both the B-1 and B-2 visa are temporary in nature. Generally, initial entry is authorized for a period of 6 months. You can apply for an extension of an additional 6 months. Extensions are not generally granted after a period of one year. When you near the expiration of your authorized time period, you will need to either make departure plans to leave the United States or begin the application process for a conversion of your status for a visa program that permits you to remain for a longer period of time.

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