There are multiple options for foreign nationals wishing to visit the United States as nonimmigrants. The correct visitor status for you depends on the purpose of your trip and how long you intend to stay in the country.

The United States offers business opportunities and educational options. It is also a popular tourist destination. The visitor status you choose will depend on your goals for visiting the U.S.

When deciding which option is right for you, work with an attorney who can help. Contact American Immigration Law Group at 314-416-8000 or use our online form to reach out to our lawyers.

I’m a Nonimmigrant — What Status Is Right for Me?

Foreign nationals who enter the United States temporarily must have a nonimmigrant visa. A “visitor visa” is one of the most common options for these individuals. This type of visa allows you to enter the country only for visiting purposes.

Some of the most common nonimmigrant visitor visas include:

  • B1 Visa – This allows foreign nationals to do business with a U.S.-based company.
  • B2 Visa – This allows foreign nationals to enter the U.S. for tourism, pleasure, or to visit friends and family.

Another type of nonimmigrant visa might be right for you. The Department of State publishes a detailed list of visas to help you choose which to apply for.

What Is the Purpose of Your Visit?

Foreign nationals have many reasons to visit the United States. Your visit’s purpose will determine the visa type you need to obtain.


The B1 visa allows foreign nationals to enter the United States for business purposes. With a B1 visa, you can:

  • Consult with U.S.-based business associates
  • Conduct business activities
  • Attend business, professional, and educational conferences and conventions
  • Settle an estate

This is just a short list of the business-related activities you can perform with a B1 visa. If you have a specific activity you want to complete, you should consult a visa lawyer who can help you determine if the B1 visa is right for you.


The B2 visa allows foreign nationals to visit the United States temporarily for purposes such as:

  • Tourism
  • Vacation
  • Holiday
  • Medical treatment
  • Visiting friends or relatives
  • Participating in unpaid sports or musical events
  • Participating in social events

It is important to note that while you can travel to the United States to obtain medical treatment, the B2 visa does not allow for “birth tourism.” That involves giving birth in the United States solely to obtain U.S. citizenship for a child.

Study, Employment, and More

You can enter the United States for recreational study with a B2 visa. However, if you want to study within the country and obtain a degree, you will need a different type of visa. Academic students and their dependents need a visa in the F category. Vocational students and their dependents need a visa in the M category. These are not considered simple “visitor visas.”

Workers who plan to earn money in the U.S. need a different visa. Several categories apply to workers, but most are in the H category. For example, temporary skilled and unskilled workers and trainees should have an H-1B, H-2A, H-2B, or H-3 visa.

With a visitor visa, you can participate in unpaid sporting events and musical concerts. However, if you are a paid athlete or entertainer, you need a P-1, P-2, or P-3 visa.

An experienced immigration lawyer can also help you understand which visa category you need, even if you are a nonimmigrant.

How to Apply for the Correct Visitor Status

You need to take several steps to apply for the correct visitor status.

First, gather and collect necessary items, including the following:

  • Form DS-160 (Nonimmigrant Visa Application)
  • Required fees for visa application and visa issuance
  • USCIS Form I-134 (Affidavit of Support)
  • Your passport (which must be valid for at least six months)
  • One passport-style photograph
  • Proof of the purpose of your trip (such as an itinerary, travel tickets, or hotel arrangements)
  • Proof that you plan on returning to your country (such as ownership of real estate or an employment letter showing you haven’t quit your job)
  • Proof of ability to pay for your travel (such as evidence of income or bank statements)

Other documents may be necessary depending on the purpose of your trip. For example, if you are coming to the United States for business purposes, you will need a letter from your foreign employer describing what you’ll be doing during your trip. If you are coming to the United States for medical treatment, you’ll need a doctor’s letter describing why you need to come to this country.

Requirements and Fees

A visitor visa has a few requirements: you must gather necessary documents and fees and take them to the U.S. consulate closest to you.

The visitor visa fee is currently $185, but that amount may vary depending on your nationality. These fees can be paid during the application process or in-person interviews.

Can You Switch to Another Nonimmigrant Status?

If you come to the United States with one purpose and your situation changes, you may be able to change your nonimmigrant visa status.

You may apply for a change in visa status if:

  • You entered the country legally as a nonimmigrant
  • You have not committed any act that would make you ineligible to receive an immigration benefit
  • There are no factors that require you to leave the U.S. prior to making reentry
  • You submit an application for change of status by mail or online before the expiration of your current visa
  • Your passport is valid for the entire requested period of stay in the new nonimmigrant classification

The USCIS offers information about which visa categories are eligible for status change and which are not.

What if Your Current Status Has Expired?

If your visa status has expired or you violated the purpose of your visa (by working for income, for example), then you are considered “out of status.” You cannot change your status except in very limited circumstances beyond your control.

It’s important to know that if you become out of status, it may affect your ability to obtain a visitor visa in the future. The USCIS recommends that you leave the United States immediately and return to the country later.

Process for Changing Your Visitor Status

The application procedure to change your visitor status depends on which visa you want to switch to. You must complete new forms, pay fees, and complete an in-person interview.

If you want to change your status to an employment-based category, then you need Form I-129 (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker). Your prospective employer will fill out the form and submit it on your behalf. Do not begin work in the United Stats until your status change is approved.

If you want to change your status to most other nonimmigrant categories, then you need to complete Form I-539. Dependents who wish to remain in the country should complete the same form. This form can be filed by mail.

Get Help with Your Nonimmigrant Visa

Whether you are trying to get a visitor visa as a nonimmigrant, you are out of status, or you want to change your status, it’s best to work directly with an attorney who can help. The process can be complicated, and if you miss any steps, you risk delaying your visa.

Call American Immigration Law Group today at 314-416-8000 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.