Hello, this is Matsui from IMS. Japan’s border measures have finally eased up a bit. As of September 7, those entering or returning to Japan who have been vaccinated with three vaccine doses will no longer be required to undergo PCR testing before boarding. This will enable us to travel abroad and go on business trips easily.

Previously, I discussed ESTA as a necessity for traveling to the U.S. However, ESTA is not available for everyone to use. Today, I would like to touch on the difference between ESTA and B visas and explain the necessity of the B visa when ESTA is unavailable.

If you are from a country where ESTA is not available, or if you cannot use ESTA due to various reasons*, you are required to obtain a visa before coming to the U.S. *Some reasons include overstaying, refusal of entry, visa refusal history, and having a criminal record. The activities allowed under ESTA (short-term business, tourism) are the same as those allowed under a B visa, so those who cannot use ESTA must obtain a B visa.

The main difference between ESTA and B visas

 ESTAB visa
Valid Period2 years (or until the expiration date of the passport if the passport is valid for less than 2 years)Up to 10 years, but may be shortened by the discretion of the consul, such as in the case of a criminal record (not dependent on the validity of the passport)
Length of StayUp to 90 daysUp to 180 days
Permission to extend the period of stayNot acceptableAcceptable
Additional Explanation

If your passport expires, as long as the visa is valid and undamaged, you can carry both old and new passports simultaneously. This is not just limited to the B visa. (Please note that this does not apply to visas from other countries). However, is not possible to transfer the visa from an old passport to a new passport. Therefore if you want the visa in your new passport, you must reapply at the Embassy.

Permitted Period of Stay
Up to 90 days for ESTA entry, and up to 180 days for B visa entry. Only the immigration officer can determine the length of stay. In some cases, only a short period of stay may be permitted. Once you are allowed to enter the country, you must check the expiration date of your stay as indicated in your passport. If something is wrong (dates, extremely short permit period compared to the declared intended period of stay, etc.), it is essential to ask questions on the spot and correct them if necessary.

Extension of stay in the U.S.
In principle, the period of stay for ESTA cannot be extended. Therefore, please be sure to depart the country before the end of the expiration period.

Frequently asked questions

  1. Can I apply for a B visa when ESTA is available?
    ⇒ B visa can be applied for by those who can use ESTA. However, the visa will not be granted without a satisfactory explanation to the consular officer as to why ESTA is not acceptable to use.
  2. Is it true that I can stay in the U.S. for up to 6 months?
    ⇒ B visa is only for a short-term stay in the U.S. Maximum stay is up to 180 days; however, this does not mean that you can always stay up to 180 days. If you wish to stay in the U.S. for 180 days, you must provide reasoning of why you would need to remain in the U.S. for that length of time.
  3. The maximum period of stay in the U.S. on an ESTA or B visa is 180 days per year. Does this mean that I can enter the U.S. as often as possible without any problems, as long as I abide by the 180-day rule?
    ⇒ There is no such regulation on the number of days per year that an immigrant may stay in the U.S. for U.S. immigration and nationality purposes. Nevertheless, the more frequently you travel to the U.S. and the longer you stay, the greater the risk that you will be suspected of immigration or employment. This may lead to a higher chance of refusal of entry.

If you use ESTA or B visas incorrectly, you may be refused entry into the U.S., either temporarily or permanently. Please ensure you understand the application process correctly to avoid these things happening. We at IMS also offer B visa support. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any concerns about applying on your own.

For more information, please contact us below ↓