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B Visitor Visa & the Visa Waiver Program for Visitors

The “Visitor Visa” allows foreign nationals to enter the U.S. principally for the purposes of tourism or short-term business.  Under visitor immigration classifications, foreign nationals are eligible to enter the U.S. as B-1 visitors for business, as B-2 visitors for tourism, or as part of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) for visitors from specially-designated countries that are exempt from the B visa requirement. Those coming on the VWP do not need to visit a U.S. consulate and obtain a B visa, but they must register and receive clearance for their travel through ESTA several days prior to their travel date to the U.S.

JHU receives various types of visitors annually who typically come to the university for the purpose of conference participation; professional seminars; colloquiums; informal professional engagements or meetings; campus tours; interviews; and under some limited circumstances, short-term business with the university. The immigration status most commonly used to engage in such activities is the B-1 visa/VWP for business. NOTE: B and VWP visitors expressly may NOT study or work in the U.S., with one exception: visiting medical students described below.

Individuals self-petition to enter the U.S. using the B-1 visa/VWP for business.  This means that JHU does not formally sponsor individuals in this immigration classification.  However as described below, the sponsoring Department/Division may provide an invitation letter to describe the portion of an individual’s U.S. visit that will take place at JHU. 

In order to determine whether the B-1 Visa/VWP for Business is appropriate for a visitor’s activity at JHU, consider the following criteria:

  • Intended activity at Johns Hopkins:
    • If the visitor will participate in an informal professional activity such as a conference, meeting, seminar, etc., and will not hold any type of appointment at Johns Hopkins, the B-1/VWP would likely be appropriate.
    • If the visitor will hold a formal appointment—even a “Visiting” appointment such as Visiting Student, Faculty, Scholar, or Researcher, the B-1/VWP would not be appropriate (JHU Departments should review the Visitor Policy for more information).
    • There are a limited number of appointments at Johns Hopkins that might allow the use of the B-1/VWP.
  • Length of visit:
    • The B-1 total period of stay in the U.S. is typically granted in increments of up to 6 months, with the actual length of admission determined by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer upon an individual’s entry to the U.S.  Note that while a B-1/B-2 visa stamp in one’s passport might have a 5-10 year validity period and allow for multiple visits, each admission to the U.S. is granted by CBP in smaller increments, up to six months. (Extensions may be possible but are highly discouraged due to the length of processing time).  B-1 visitors should prepare to depart at the end of their authorized stay and re-enter at a later date if more time is needed.
    • The VWP total period of stay in the U.S. is limited to 90 days maximum, and there is no possibility for extension.  Individuals should depart no later than the authorized stay granted by CBP upon their entry to the U.S.
    • The portion of the U.S. visit occurring at JHU is typically much shorter than the maximum time allowable and related to a specific activity, as noted above.
    • Individuals may visit multiple institutions during a single visit.  JHU is not responsible for any activity occurring outside of JHU.
  • Non-immigrant intent:
    • The “Visitor” visa is intended for a temporary stay in the U.S., which means that individuals seeking to enter the U.S. in this status are expected to have plans to return home at the end of their visit.  They may be asked during a visa interview or upon entry to the U.S. to prove that their visit is temporary.
    • More information about required documentation for a visa interview can be found on the State Department Website. Although VWP participants are not required to participate in a visa interview, it may be helpful to be familiar with documents that prove non-immigrant intent in case of any questions at the point of entry to the U.S.
  • Payment Considerations
    • Visitors in B/VWP status are not eligible to receive regular income/salary or benefits from JHU
    • These visitors are eligible under immigration regulations to receive honoraria, coverage of travel and accommodation costs, and reimbursements for fees and other incidental expenses related to their visit, with the following provisions:
      • To receive honoraria, a visitor cannot spend more than 9 days for academic activities at an institution.  If a scholar stays at an institution for a longer period of time than 9 days, he/she is not eligible for an honorarium and may only be reimbursed for expenses including coverage of travel and accommodation costs.
      • Individuals receiving honoraria are limited to 5 visits in any 6-month period.  If the individual is not receiving honoraria, there is no limit to the number of institutional visits permitted or duration of visit at any one institution up to the authorized end date of the individual’s admission to the U.S.
      • There is no dollar limit on the amount of the honoraria.

This list is not exhaustive.  Please consult OIS well in advance of the individual’s expected arrival date with any questions.

Applying for Visitor Visa/Visa Waiver Program & Entry to the U.S.

Visitors seeking entry in B-1 status or Visa Waiver Program (VWP) visitors who want to learn more about permissible activities in the U.S. under this status should refer to the information on the State Department Website.

JHU Departments/Divisions that receive informal visitors for the purposes described above may choose to provide visitors with a letter of invitation.  Visitors may present this letter during their visa interview and/or at the point of entry to the U.S.  Because these types of visits vary significantly, the OIS does not provide a template or draft letter for use by Departments/Divisions, but can provide the following helpful criteria for drafting the invitation letter, and will by request, review completed letters to assess their suitability for a visitor visa or visa waiver application.  While the B-1/VWP is often most appropriate for the aforementioned activities, for liability reasons, departments  explicitly may not recommend or endorse use of this visa or any other visa.

Guidance for drafting an invitation letter:

  • On JHU/Departmental letterhead, address the invitation letter to the individual requesting the visa or visa waiver. 
  • Provide a detailed description of the activity in which the visitor will engage at JHU (i.e. conferences, meetings, etc.) The name, location, and dates of the event are all relevant information to include.  If the visitor will perform any specific role during the event (beyond attendance), this would be helpful to mention here (i.e., presenter, panelist, etc.). 
  • Confirm whether or not the division is providing any funding in support of the visit, and if so, describe any type of honorarium, travel expenses, or reimbursements the visitor will receive (conforming to the honoraria and expense payment rules above). 
  • Provide clarification that Johns Hopkins has invited the individual only to engage in the activities as described above, and supports the individual in his/her efforts to obtain the appropriate visa or to enter the U.S. in the appropriate immigration status to allow them to engage in those activities. 
  • Signature & Contact Information:
    • Conference organizer or host can sign the letter and provide their contact information (phone, email) if any follow-up information is needed about the visit.

Visiting Medical Students

Individuals who have been admitted to the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Visiting Medical Student Program will receive admission and confirmation of acceptance from the School of Medicine Registrar.  The OIS does not grant admission to this program and does not provide immigration sponsorship and advising for Visiting Medical Students.  If admitted, the OIS adheres to the guidance of the U. S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM), which is followed by U.S. consulates/embassies in recommending that visiting medical students enter the United States on a B-1 visa or under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Visiting Medical Students should direct any application-related questions to the School of Medicine.  

Individuals who are accepted to participate in the program are expected to resume their university studies after the elective period at JHU.

OIS provides this letter to assist these individuals in procuring a visa.  The letter is only valid if accompanied by written confirmation of acceptance and admission to the Visiting Medical Student Program from the School of Medicine Registrar (Confirmation is in the form of an e-mail.)

Inviting Family and Friends for Graduation

Family and friends from abroad who wish to visit and/or attend a JHU international students’ graduation ceremony may apply for a B-2 visa from the United States consulate nearest to the place of their residence. OIS advises that students read the handout prepared by the U.S. Department of State on tips for Visitor Visas – Business and Pleasure – and assist their guests by following the suggestions below.

*** OIS does not issue invitation letters to family or guests of international students ***

Suggestions for documentation you can provide family or guests to include with their visa application:

  1. A separate letter of invitation, written by you as the host, for each visitor, including the following information:
    1. The visitor’s name, date of birth, place of birth, and nationality
    2. An explanation of the purpose and length of their stay (example: to attend the graduation ceremony, family summer vacation, etc.)
  2. Evidence of your status in the US, such as a copy of your I-20/DS-2019, and/or your I-94
  3. Verification of your Enrollment
  4. Give your visitors the U.S. Department of State information on the visitor visa application process on B-2 visas. If your guest is not fluent in English, you may translate the information or recommend that they contact the nearest U.S. consulate to request a translated version before applying for the visa. They should read the information before submitting their application for the visa. Your guests may be denied visas if they cannot prove to the consular officer’s satisfaction that they will return to their home country immediately after their temporary visit, and it is possible only some applicants get a visa but not all. The following are examples of documents which may help demonstrate strong ties to their home country:
    1. An employer’s letter describing the employee’s position, annual salary, company permission for the trip, and the expected return date to employment
    2. Evidence of funding, if your guest/s intend to cover their own expenses. For example, a bank statement, employment verification, or other funding document
    3. Evidence of substantial property and investments in their home country
    4. Records of other trips abroad and return
    5. Birth certificate to prove familial relationship with you

Please be aware that your family and friends may be denied a B-2 visa if they have relatives who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents. For further immigration advice specific to your family/friend situation, please consult with a licensed immigration attorney.