There are two general categories of visas: IMMIGRANT and NON-IMMIGRANT visas. The immigrant visas allow people to immigrate into the United States. The non-immigrant visas allow people to do many other activities including travel, work, study, etc.
Non-work, Non-immigrant Visas
The most popular visa of this type is the B-2 "visitor for pleasure" visa. By the way, this is the most popular visa for people to come into the United States. Usually this visa is acquired through an American embassy overseas and immigration lawyers do not get involved with the application. Consequently when the visitor arrives in the US he/she may wind up doing something which he/she is not authorized to do, or not be aware what he/she can do with the B-2 visa.
Immigration lawyers are concerned with their clients maintaining legal status. I believe, if possible, that people should work with an immigration lawyer at this is stage so it can be determined if the purpose of their intended use is satisfied by the B-2 visa.
The B-2 visa is issued to an alien, other than a student, or a skilled or unskilled laborer. The "B" classification is not meant to be a catch-all category for everyone who wants to come to the United States.
Students cannot use a "B" visa to enter.
I have people ask me to help them get relatives into the US for a visit. One of my clients is about ready to have a baby and she and her husband want her mother to visit from a near-East country. This visa is very deceptive, and, if it is not approved by the officer at the embassy, there may be no formal appeal. It is a good decision to work with an immigration lawyer.
The B-2 visa is applied for at a United States Embassy on a form OF-156.
An interview process usually takes place at the embassy. The embassy officer, usually a non-immigrant officer, interviews (questions) the alien to make sure that the alien has a residence in a country other than the United States and that the alien has no intention of abandoning that residence. The officer wants to make sure the B-2 visa will be used mainly for pleasure travel.
The visa can get an initial admission for a one year maximum, with six months extensions.
When the alien enters the US, he/she reaches an Immigration and Naturalization Service check point where an INS officer issues an I-94 card. This card restricts or limits the duration of the stay. It is, or course, possible to increase the stay while in the United States. My office would be happy to help you with this if you have questions about the process. Click "B-2 visa" to contact my office regarding obtaining a B-2 visa or to extend your stay while in the United States,.
Since the Visa Waiver Pilot Program was instituted in 1987, it has become difficult for aliens from participating countries* to obtain a B-2 visa. People from these qualifying countries have a waiver and are allowed to come in for a period of time, but not in excess of 90 days. Applicants for B-2 visas from these countries usually have to show that they have enough money to stay in the United States and show their itinerary of travel. It would be helpful to contact my office to assist you in gathering the proper documentation.
*Participating countries: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, San Marino, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.K.