When it comes to tourism, the United States of America is certainly on top of the list. The country has everything: from delicious cuisines to historical landscapes. After the COVID-19 pandemic, the US government has finally opened their borders for tourism and business trips.
The US is known for its strict policies. The United States of America has different rules for nationals of different countries. In this article, we have provided information about all the visa requirements that you must fulfill to enter the US as a tourist!
US Visa Options for Tourists
While traveling to a foreign country, including the US, the most important thing you need is a travel document. The USA offers different types of travel documents for different countries. If you are visiting the country for tourism, you require US ESTA or a US B-2 Visa.
Alternatively, if you want to enter the country for business purposes, you can apply for a B-1 Visa. Besides these, the country offers a lot of other visa classifications as well. All valid visa categories have their own requirements and visa status. In this article, we will explain the validity period of the US tourist visa and how to apply for one.
When it comes to convenience, getting a US ESTA is undoubtedly the best approach. The United States of America has stated the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). According to this program, more than 30 countries enjoy the US Visa exemption. This means the citizens of these countries can enter the US without applying for a tourist visa.
Still, all foreign nationals are required to have a travel document. For countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program, the US has started the ESTA – an Electronic System of Travel Authorization. An ESTA allows the US to get relevant data about the traveler without a visa.
All citizens of Visa Waiver countries can apply for an ESTA. Once an applicant gets an ESTA, he/she can stay in the country for 90 days. An ESTA is a multiple-entry document that comes with a validity of 2 years. To extend your stay, you can contact the US Citizenship and Immigration Services!
US B-2 Visa
If you do not qualify for an ESTA, you don’t have to give up. In that scenario, you can always apply for a traditional visa. For tourism, the US government provides a B-2 visa. The B-2 visa is valid for:
Visiting relatives or friends
Enrolling in short-term study courses
A visa applicant can get a B-2 visa to enter the United States of America. A B-2 nonimmigrant visa allows the visa holder to stay in the country for up to 180 days. It is also a multiple-entry visa. However, it stays valid for 10 years from the issuance date.
Things You Need to Apply for an ESTA
We recommend getting an ESTA because of one simple reason: it is convenient. Unlike a traditional visa, you don’t have to waste your time visiting the US embassy or consulate in your country. Moreover, you don't even have to schedule an appointment for an interview.
You can get an ESTA from the comfort of your home. There are a handful of required documents to apply for an ESTA, including:
A valid passport
An email address
A debit or credit card
That’s it! All you need to do is fill out the ESTA application form online. In the form, you’ll have to provide your personal details, contact information, and travel details. You will also need to provide passport information, including the passport number and expiry date.
The average processing time for an ESTA is around 2-3 working days. However, due to secondary checks and high demand, you might have to wait a little bit longer.
How to Get a US B-2 Visa
If, for some reason, you are not eligible for an ESTA, you can always apply for a B-2 visa. To get B-2 non-immigrant visas, you’ll need to visa the nearest US mission. At the embassy, you will:
Fill out the visa application form
Pay the visa processing fee
Submit your application
Schedule a visa interview
Once approved, you’ll get your B-2 via email. Afterward, you can pick up your passport from the US embassy and pack your bag. On average, the processing time for a US B-2 visa is around 15-25 days.
US Visa Option for Business Trips
If you want to visit the US for professional and commercial activities, you can use the ESTA. An ESTA is valid for tourism, business, medical, transit, and short-term study purposes. However, if you are required to get a visa, you can get a B-1 visa.
Just like the B-2 visa, the B-1 visa is also valid for 10 years. This multiple-entry visa allows visa holders to stay in the country for 180 days per entry. You can apply for a B-1 visa to:
Attend a business meeting
Sign a contract
Meet with business associates
Enroll in a training program