Inviting Visitors from Abroad: The B-2 visitor visa
If you would like to invite your family or friends to visit you in the US for vacation, for graduation, or any other reason, your visitors will likely need a B-2 visitor visa.
Letters for your visitors’ visa appointments
As a student inviting someone to visit, YOU will need to provide a letter of invitation to your visitors. UMBC does not provide letters of invitation. ISSS can provide a supplemental letter to students with F or J immigration status that your visitor can carry along with your letter and the other requirements to their Embassy appointment.
Students with F or J immigration status can request a supplemental letter from ISSS.
Students that are not in one of these immigration categories can request a letter of student status or a letter of graduation from the UMBC Registrar’s Office.
Please read on to learn more about the B-2 visitor visa.
Who needs a B-2 Visitor Visa to visit the US?
- Does your visitor already have some kind of American visa? If not, is their only purpose in the US to visit you? (Visitors with other goals may need a different visa type, such as for studying or short-term work). The B-2 visa is the visa type for a visitor for pleasure or medical attention
- If B-2 is the appropriate category for your visitor, is your visitor eligible for a Visa Waiver? You can find a list of requirements and participating countries here.
- If your visitor is NOT eligible for a visa waiver, please review the detailed information on applying for a visitor visa below.
Applying for a B-2 Visitor Visa
If your visitor will need a B-2 visa, the visitor is responsible for proving that they do NOT intend to stay in the US! This intention is determined by consular officer at the time of your visitor’s visa appointment. As with any visa appointment, the consular officer will be trying to answer the questions:
- Who are you?
- What do you want to do in the US?
- Do you have the funds to cover what you are asking to do?
- What are your plans after you complete your “approved activity” (in this case, a visit)?
The visitor must prove the following during the visa appointment:
- The purpose of their trip is to enter the US for pleasure or medical treatment;
- That they plan to remain for a specific, limited period;
- Evidence of funds to cover expenses in the US;
- Evidence of compelling social and economic ties abroad (at home, outside of the US); and
- That they have a residence outside the US as well as other binding ties that will insure their return abroad at the end of the visit.
Specific Steps to Apply:
- Plan ahead! It can sometimes takes a long time to get a visa interview. Look up average waiting times at different US Embassies here.
- Gather the commonly required documents to apply (see below)
- Complete the online visa application (DS-160) and make a visa appointment for the interview. These steps will have specific directions on the website of the Embassy where your visitor will apply. The complete list of US Embassies can be found here.
- Children 13 or younger do not usually need to apply, but check the Embassy website to make sure.
- Fingerprints are often taken during the interview
Commonly Required Documents:
- DS-160 visa application form, completed online, and visa fee receipt (US$160 fee paid online, often at time of application though this varies by Embassy)
- Valid passport
- Passport photos (for details on specifications, please click here). Some Embassies will require these to be uploaded in advance of the appointment, and some will take their own photos as part of the appointment.
- “Evidence which shows the purpose of the trip, intent to depart the United States, and arrangements made to cover the costs of the trip. It is impossible to specify the exact form the documentation should take since applicants’ circumstances vary greatly.” (examples – original bank statements; travel itineraries)
- “Those applicants who do not have sufficient funds to support themselves while in the U.S. must present convincing evidence that an interested person will provide support.” (Provide a letter and bank statement)
- *Letter of Invitation from Student
– include, as much as possible, the following in your letter:
- Why you are inviting them to visit (for example, graduation, summer vacation, celebrate an occasion with you, like a birthday, etc.)
- Dates (or approximate dates) of visit
- Where the visitor will be staying (for example, with you, in a nearby hotel, with other family in the US, with friends, etc.)
- How the visitor’s expenses will be covered (for example, by you, on their own, etc)
- Students in F or J immigration status can also choose request a supplemental letter from IES office, confirming that you are a student here and in good immigration and academic status, though this is not required. Please find directions on requesting a letter here.
- “Depending on individual circumstances, applicants may provide other documentation substantiating the trip’s purpose and specifying the nature of binding obligations, such as family ties or employment, which would compel their return abroad.” (for example, the deed to a property, car, business or other major purchase; letter from employer proving employment and how long they have been employed there, etc.)
- Check specific US Embassy website for any additional requirements!
Travel Reminders for your Visitors
- Please help your family be aware of what NOT to bring – for example, most fresh food/produce/meat or agricultural products; weapons or firearms; and large sums of money are prohibited. A complete list can be found here.
- Entering the US: Explain to your family that they will have an I-94 record that they can look up here. Unlike your F-1 I-94, your visitors’ I-94 will have a specific date by which time they must leave the US.
- Remind your family to carry their passport and visa with them when travelling, and not to pack their travel documents in their checked luggage, so they can access these items when entering the US (before they have access to their luggage)
US State Department B-2 Visitor Visa information: http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/visit/visitor.html
Planning Travel and Tourism in the US: http://www.visittheusa.com/