Because the U.S. government is concerned that some tourists plan to stay in the country illegally, a B-2 visitor or tourist visa may not always be easy to come by. For the best chance of getting one, it may help to have a friend or family member in the States write you an invitation letter. The letter should describe the reason for your visit, where and how long you will be staying, and how you will financially support yourself during the trip. This may put immigration officials at ease, since it demonstrates an intent to remain in the U.S. for a limited period of time.
Who Needs a B-2 Visa
If you're not a citizen of one of the 38 countries exempt from having to obtain a B-2 visa, you must first apply for a visa if you want to visit the U.S. The process includes submitting an application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or a U.S. embassy or consulate, and completing a visa interview. Although it's never a requirement, an invitation letter may increase your chances for being approved for a visitor visa.
Letter Emphasizes Temporary Nature of Visit
Some foreign citizens use visitor visas solely to enter the country with no intention of leaving. For this reason, visa applications are sometimes heavily scrutinized. With this in mind, the person who writes your letter of invitation must emphasize such things as the temporary nature of your visit, the reason for your visit, where you will be staying during your time in the U.S., and whether you or someone else will be financially supporting you during your stay.
Suggested Content of Invitation Letter
The letter of invitation must be in English and sent directly to you from the person who writes it, not to USCIS or the U.S. embassy or consulate where you applied for your visa. The letter should include the writer's name and address, your name and address, the writer's relationship to you, and an opening statement expressing her desire for you to visit her. After that, the writer should provide details about the visit. For example, if you're coming to the U.S. to attend your sister's graduation from an American university, your sister would provide details such as when and where the graduation is, any other side trips planned during your stay, where you will be staying, and who will be paying for your expenses. The more precise details that can be included in the letter, the better.
Invitation Letter Presented at Interview
When you attend your visa interview, take the invitation letter with you. It may be helpful to also bring proof of ties to your home country, such as copies of your lease or mortgage, bank statements and a letter from your employer stating your return-to-work date. This will further demonstrate your intent to be in the U.S. temporarily.
Based on the West Coast, Mary Jane Freeman has been writing professionally since 1994, specializing in the topics of business and law. Freeman's work has appeared in a variety of publications, including LegalZoom, Essence, Reuters and Chicago Sun-Times. Freeman holds a Master of Science in public policy and management and Juris Doctor. Freeman is self-employed and works as a policy analyst and legal consultant.