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Does the B2 Visa Require an Invitation Letter?

The short answer to this question is no, a letter of invitation is not required.
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The B2 visa is a traditional Embassy visa (also known as a “stamp visa” or “sticker visa”) issued for temporary visits to the United States for purposes of tourism. The definition of “tourism” when it comes to visas also includes visits to family and friends, and for that reason, many travelers wish to know whether a letter of invitation is required in order to obtain a B2 visa.

The short answer to this question is no, a letter of invitation is not required. This article explains why, and also lists the documentation that is required while applying for a B2 visa.

In this article, we’ll discuss:

1.    Does the B2 visa require an invitation letter?
2.    The B2 application process: What documents are required?
3.    The interview process
4.    Who doesn’t require a B2 visa?
5.    What is ESTA, and how is it different from B2?

1. Does the B2 visa require an invitation letter?

The US government is very clear: The B2 visa does not require an invitation letter. And bringing one with you when you submit your application won’t help you. In fact, letters of invitation are not even considered when authorities are looking at your paperwork.

Why is that? Shouldn’t it matter that you have people waiting for you in the US? That’s a valid reason for travel, isn’t it? But look at it from the US government’s point of view. They want all applicants to understand that your visa needs to be based on your life situation, not that of the family or friends who are inviting you. They are more interested in seeing your ties to your country of citizenship than the ties that are bringing you to the US!

2. The B2 application process: What documents are required?

So, if a letter of invitation won’t help you, what will?

The entire B2 application process rests on a form called DS-160, otherwise known as the Nonimmigrant Visa Application. You must fill that out and submit it, along with other supporting documents, which include:

  • Your passport. And just the passport by itself isn’t enough – its validity period is important, too. In order to get a B2 visa, your passport must be set to remain valid for at least 6 months after your stay in the US
  • Proof that you’ve paid for submitting the application
  • A photo of you that meets passport standards

While you’re filling out DS-160, you’ll also find it useful to have the following information on hand:

  • The dates of the last 5 times you visited the US
  • Your travel itinerary
  • Your CV

Some applicants may also be asked to provide extra documents proving financial ability to pay for their trip, as well as proof that their trip is for tourism, and that they intend to leave the US again when their trip has been concluded.

3. The interview process

Once DS-160 has been completed, applicants must undergo a face-to-face interview at the nearest US Embassy. For some applicants, the Embassy may be several hours away, and there may be a waiting period before you can get an appointment.

During the interview, applicants are asked questions about their financial status, ties to their country of citizenship, and their purpose of travel. Once again, even if you bring a letter of invitation to your interview, it will not help you.

Travelers who successfully complete the application and interview process may be granted a B2 visa with validity, stay length, and entry allowance determined by US immigration officials.

4. Who doesn’t require a B2 visa?

For many travelers, it comes as a relief to learn that a B2 visa, with its long application process and interviews, is no longer universally required for tourism in the US.

Citizens of the following countries are eligible for an alternative travel document, called ESTA, which is much easier to apply for:

AndorraHungaryNorway
AustraliaIcelandPoland
AustriaIrelandPortugal
BelgiumItalySan Marino
BruneiJapanSingapore
ChileLatviaSlovakia
Czech RepublicLiechtensteinSlovenia
DenmarkLithuaniaSouth Korea
EstoniaLuxembourgSpain
FinlandMaltaSweden
FranceMonacoSwitzerland
GermanyNetherlandsTaiwan
GreeceNew Zealand United Kingdom

If you have a valid passport from one of the countries above, your trip is for tourism, and it will be 90 days or less, then there is a good chance that you can bypass the Embassy visa application process altogether.

5. What is ESTA, and how is it different from B2?

While B2 is a traditional Embassy visa, printed physically in your passport, ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) is a digital visa that shows up for immigration officials electronically when you enter the US.

The US introduced ESTA in 2006 to allow citizens from eligible countries to bypass the hurdles of the traditional visa application process, and it really is much easier.

Some advantages of ESTA:

  • You don’t have to travel to an Embassy
  • There is no interview
  • You can apply online with Evisa Express
  • The application itself is simpler
  • The time frame for ESTA approval is significantly shorter than for the B2 visa (72 hours as opposed to weeks)
  • It’s much less expensive

To apply for your ESTA with Evisa Express, all you need are your valid passport, your trip details, a digital photo, and an online payment method. Our eVisa experts review your application thoroughly and work with you to make any necessary corrections before submission to the US government. Your application will be processed in 72 hours or less, during which our team is standing by for all questions and concerns. Evisa Express: You take care of your trip; we take care of your visa.

Bogdan T
13 March 2020
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