U.S. Visitor Visa

A U.S. Visitor Visa is for temporary stays.  Visitor visas are mainly applicable for tourism or business purposes. Vacations, visiting friends or family, medical treatment, and non-credit study all fall under the tourism category. This is called a B-2 visa.

Things to know about B-1 or B-2 Visa

Visitor visas can also be issued to individuals traveling for business affairs like settling an estate, attending a conference, training purposes, or negotiating a business contract. This is called a B-1 visa. Though an individual may travel under a B-1 visitor visa to conduct business or to attend an educational conference, they cannot use this type of visa for study, employment, or to begin the process of naturalization.

Obtaining a B-1/B-2 visitor visa into the United States will require an interview for most individuals between 14 and 79. These interviews must be scheduled through the U.S. Embassy or Consulate and are generally conducted in the applicant’s home country. There are guidelines about when a visa applicant can apply in a country other than his or her own, as a “third country national.” Approved visitor visas are valid for different time periods depending upon reciprocity agreements in effect between the U.S. and the foreign nationals’ countries.

Foreign nationals that are citizens of certain designated countries can choose to skip the B-1/B-2 visitor visa application process and the Embassy or Consulate interview. Citizens of those countries may visit the United States for up to 90 days at a time without having to apply for a visa. This is known as the visa waiver program or ESTA. The permitted activities under ESTA in the United States are the same as for the B-1 visitor for business and for the B-2 visitor for pleasure that are described above.

U.S. Visitor Visa for Citizens of Mexico

Citizens of Mexico can apply for what is called a “laser visa.” A laser visa is a combination B-1/B-2 visa and border-crossing card. The laser visa is only issued to applicants who are citizens and residents of Mexico. As with all the visitor categories described above, even under ESTA, applicants must demonstrate that they have ties to their home country that will compel them to return to it after a temporary stay in the United States.

Border Crossing Permission (BCC)

The border crossing permission (BCC) that is part of this combination laser visa is for visitors to the U.S. who makes short trips to border areas within the U.S. As of June 2013, the 25-mile border zone in New Mexico was extended to 55 miles, allowing BCC cardholders that enter at a land port of entry in the U.S. to travel to the cities of Deming and Las Cruces, New Mexico. The border zone limit in Arizona currently is 75 miles. The border zone limit in Texas and California is 25 miles.

BCC cardholders may stay within the designated the border zone in the U.S. for up to 30 days at a time. BCC cardholders who want to stay in the U.S. longer than that or travel farther than the border zone limits must apply to the U.S. government for permission to do so.

The border-crossing card is usually issued for 10 years. Border crossing cards for children also remain valid for 10 years. However, the card will no longer be valid after the child turns 15, even if it is within the 10-year period. As with other visitors to the U.S., BCC cardholders are not eligible to work in the United States.

Mexican citizens that enter the U.S. from Mexico by land or by pleasure vessel or ferry can present their border crossing cards to U.S. immigration authorities without being required to also present a valid passport. Mexican citizens that travel to the U.S. by air or from other designations must have both their border crossing card and their valid passport to enter the United States.

San Diego shares a border region with Mexico, so every year many Mexican citizens use their border crossing cards to come to the San Diego area to visit. BCC cardholders visit relatives and friends that live in San Diego and they engage in other tourist-related activities such as shopping and going to restaurants, within the 25-mile zone for up to 30 days per trip.