During your stay at the University of Chicago, there may be times when you would like to invite family or friends to visit you in the U.S. Your visitors may enter the United States under B-2 (tourist) visa status.
Only the spouse and dependent children (under the age of 21) of F-1, H-1B and J-1 status holders are eligible for a dependent status, such as F-2, H-4 or J-2 status. Other family members (parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, etc.) and domestic partners are not eligible for these statuses and will need to obtain their own visa and status, such as B-1 or B-2.
Departments inviting a visitor for business reasons, e.g. a scholar for an academic presentation, should refer to the “Who can come in B-1/B-2 status or under the Visa Waiver Program?” section of OIA’s website, which also contains a specific invitation letter template created for this purpose.
- Entering under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)
- Preparing for B-2 Visa Application
- Supplementary Documents You Can Help Provide
- Entering the U.S. on the Basis of a B-2 Visa
- Citizens from Canada, Mexico and Bermuda
- Health and Travel Insurance (For All Visitors)
Entering under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP):
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables nationals of select countries to enter the U.S. as visitors (for business or tourism) for 90 days or less without having to obtain a B-1/B-2 visa. You can see the list of eligible countries here. Visitors from VWP-eligible countries must check the following before arriving to the United States:
They have registered and received authorization to travel through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)
Citizens of Bermuda, Canada, the Marshall Islands and Micronesia are not required to apply for ESTA.
- Their passports are valid for six months past their expected stay in the U.S., unless their country of nationality appears on this U.S. Department of State list. If the country is included on the list, the visitor’s passport needs to be valid until his or her expected stay in the U.S.
If the visitor plans to travel in the U.S. for tourism and pleasure for longer than 90 days, then they must apply for a B-2 visa even if they are from a VWP-eligible country.
Preparing for B-2 Visa Application:
Your visitors should first go to the website of the nearest U.S. Embassy/Consulate to schedule an appointment. They should then fill out the visa application form which can be accessed from the following link: https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/
Prior to the scheduled appointment, visitors should prepare documents that prove or address the following points:
The visitor’s intent to return to their home country, i.e. they have sufficient economic and social ties to motivate them to return home. Examples include:
- Proof that close family members remain in the home country
- Bank statements of any accounts they maintain at home
- Proof of property ownership (house, land, apartment, etc.)
- Proof of continuing employment, such as a letter from the employer stating that visitors will return to their job after the visit to the U.S.
- Proof that each visitor has sufficient financial resources to cover the expenses of their visit to the U.S. and their return to the home country, such as a bank statement.
- Evidence of the purpose/reason for the trip and its short-term nature (e.g. flight itinerary, attending graduation, etc.).
Supplementary Documents You Can Help Provide:
The decision to grant B visa status is made by the U.S. consular officer based primarily on documentation proving the above points. Officers are principally interested in confirming that the visitors have no intentions of staying in the U.S. permanently.
However, there are supplementary documents in addition to those mentioned above you can provide that could potentially improve the chances for your visitor. These documents are recommended but not required; there are no documents required from the University of Chicago for your guest’s visa application.
Here are some examples of documents that you can provide:
- An invitation letter from you. The letter should include the purpose of the visit, your relationship to the visitor, a statement of your status at the U.S., and the length of time they will be visiting. We have created a template that you can use to prepare this letter.
If you will provide financial support for the visitors (including room and board during the visit), you can submit evidence such as a copy of your bank statement to prove that you have sufficient resources to support them. Alternatively, there is a Form I-134 Affidavit of Support you can submit for this purpose. You can download the Form I-134 here: http://www.uscis.gov/files/form/i-134.pdf
NOTE: If your visitors will pay for their expenses themselves, you are not required to complete Form I-134.
- A printout of your I-94 record and a copy of your I-20/DS-2019/H-1B Approval Notice (Form I-797) as proof of your legal stay in the U.S.
- Screenshots from websites for specific events (e.g. graduation) showing the date, time, and location of said event to show purpose. The University's convocation page can be found here.
Entering the U.S. on the Basis of a B-2 Visa:
Visitors should also double check that their passports are valid for at least six months past their expected stay in the U.S. unless their country of nationality appears on this U.S. Department of State list. If the country is included on the list, the visitor’s passport needs to be valid until his or her expected stay in the U.S.
Generally, individuals entering the U.S. on the basis of a B-2 visa are admitted for a period of up to six months. However, the immigration officer may admit an individual for more or less time depending on the applicant.
Citizens from Canada, Mexico and Bermuda:
- Canadian citizens traveling to the U.S. for pleasure and tourism purposes do not require a non-immigrant visa, and do not have to apply for ESTA.
- Mexican citizens must have a Border Crossing Card which will act as their B-2 visa.
- Bermudan citizens do not require a non-immigrant visa for travel up to 180 days, as long as the travel is for pleasure and tourism purposes.
- Visitors may still need to apply for non-immigrant visa depending on the purpose of the visit. Please review the visa requirements and details on the Department of State website.
- Please also check with the air carrier to ensure you have all required documents for travel to the U.S.
Health and Travel Insurance (For All Visitors)
Health and travel insurance is important when visiting the United States. Medical costs are very expensive and even minor sicknesses during your visitor’s stay could amount to large expenses. Visitors should be prepared and obtain suitable health and travel insurance, either in their home country or in the U.S., for the duration of their stay.
There are online tips on how to obtain proper travel insurance. Health insurance policies should provide at least USD$50,000 in major medical coverage and offer a low deductible.