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Generally, a citizen of a foreign country who wishes to enter the United States must first obtain a visa, either a non-immigrant visa for temporary stay, or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. Visitor visas are non-immigrant visas for persons who want to enter the United States temporarily for business (visa category B-1), tourism, pleasure or visiting (visa category B-2), or a combination of both purposes (B-1/B-2).


Here are some examples of activities permitted with a visitor visa:

  • ​Tourism

  • Vacation (holiday)

  • Visit with friends or relatives

  • Medical treatment

  • Participation in social events hosted by fraternal, social, or service organizations

  • Participation by amateurs in musical, sports, or similar events or contests, if not being paid for participating

  • Enrollment in a short recreational course of study, not for credit toward a degree (for example, a two-day cooking class while on vacation)


These are some examples of activities that require different categories of visas and cannot be done on while on a visitor visa:

  • Study

  • ​Employment

  • ​Paid performances, or any professional performance before a paying audience

  • ​Arrival as a crewmember on a ship or aircraft

  • ​Work as foreign press, radio, film, journalists, and other information media

  • ​Permanent residence in the U.S.

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