How to live in the United States with a tourist visa? (2023)

Living the American dream has probably been on your mind at some point in your life. If you are a Latin American citizen, once you get a tourist visa, travel and decide to stay, the question inevitably arises; what it would be like to live in the U.S. on a tourist visa?

There are different visas with which you can immigrate to the USA and each one has a certain amount of requirements and different costs. Especially if you decide to apply on your own or with the help of a lawyer, which will result in an additional cost.

It is possible for a tourist to stay for more than 6 months in the United States on a B-2 tourist visa, but it is necessary to complete a form to extend the stay.

If you’re a European citizen it’s easier to apply for authorisation to travel to the United States, however, to stay and live legally is a different process, but we’ll talk about all this later.

Types of visas to live in the United States

The first thing you should know is that there are several types of visas to live in the United States that can be applied for once the 180 days of residency allowed by the tourist visa have ended:

  • Business Visa

  • Worker Visa

  • Student Visas

  • Exchange Visitor Visa

  • Transit/Crew Visa

  • Immigrant Religious Worker Visa

  • Domestic Employee Visa

  • Visa for Members of the Foreign Media, Press, and Radio

If you are not yet in the United States and are thinking of travelling to live there, there are several types of non immigrant visas for temporary visitors to travel to the U.S. if you are not a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States.

The purpose of stay in the country, and other facts, will determine what type of visa is required under immigration law. It’s important to have information about the type of non immigrant visa you’ll need to travel, and the steps necessary to apply abroad for a visa to live in the United States.

In this way, you’ll be able to establish how much you need to save to move abroad or whether it will be possible for you to send money to family or friends abroad.

Immigrating to the United States on a tourist visa

To immigrate to the United States with a tourist visa, there are two possibilities, B1 and B2 non-immigrant visas, which allow you to travel to the United States and reside there for 6 months legally. This type of visa must be requested directly at the U.S. embassy of the country where you reside. Depending on your nationality, you’ll be asked to meet a series of requirements in order to apply for it.

After the tourist visa is approved, you will be able to travel to the USA and once you are there and decide to stay, you should begin to get legal advice to learn about the different types of visas you can apply for to reside legally.

While this is happening, you must change your status and fill out Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Non-immigrant Status before the period of authorised stay expires. If not, you could start accumulating unlawful presence time, which is not recommended because you could be permanently denied entry into the country.

It’s important to emphasise that this status is not a visa, but a permit that will allow you to stay legally in the United States while you apply for the visa that best suits your situation.

It's always recommended to seek the advice of a certified immigration attorney, since each case is different.

Can I live in the USA on a tourist visa?

As mentioned above, you can live in the USA on a tourist visa, as long as you do not exceed the legal maximum time limit of 6 months.

Before that time expires, some people often change their status to student status because they decide they want to study in the U.S., or some others have had an established U.S. citizen partner for some time and decide to get married in order to regulate their legal stay.

There are also citizens who have the option of seeking asylum, because in their country of residence they are subjected to situations of extreme danger that do not allow them to return.

Requirements in order to live in the USA on a tourist visa

The requirements to live in the USA on a tourist visa will change depending on the status and nationality of each citizen.

Once you get legal advice and decide what type of visa you can apply for to live in the United States, you should know that it is a process that has an economic cost of between US$500 - US$1,000 and that it can take between 3 and 6 months, but after the pandemic the times are between 8 months and 1 year.

After immigration reviews your documentation, depending on the type of visa you decide to apply for, you’ll receive an envelope at your residence, or a notice to the attorney handling your case, indicating whether your U.S. visa application has been approved or denied.

In case it is denied, don't worry, you can request an appeal to have your case reviewed again and if you are missing any documents, you will be able to process it and have better chances.

It is also important to know that during this process you cannot leave the U.S. territory, because if you leave the country while you are waiting for a status, immigration will take this departure as if you were abandoning the process.

ESTA Visa Waiver

On the other hand, there is the ESTA visa waiver, which allows citizens of 38 countries, including Spain, to travel to the United States without a visa by applying for an ESTA authorization for stays of up to 90 days.

It is a much simpler process to apply for, but has the same restrictions as LATAM citizens in case they want to stay in the United States.

But, ¿What is the ESTA? It is a mandatory travel permit to travel to the United States without a visa. Applying for it is a simple process through an online form from, which is recommended to apply at least 72 hours before the trip.

It is not necessary to go to the U.S. Embassy, it is an easy and quick process, with a cost of 39.95 € per person paid online.

Once approved, the ESTA visa will be sent to your email, you must print it and show it on the day of travel.

There are many ways to live in the United States as a Latin American or European citizen, and there is sure to be a type of visa that suits you and your needs.

Whether you decide to immigrate before arriving to the USA or while you are there, it is important that you always seek legal advice and comply with all the requirements so that your status is always in accordance with the American legislation and so that you do not have any type of immigration problems in the future.

We have shared with you some important facts about living in the United States as a tourist and if you decide to do so and need to send money to family or friends in your country of residence, WorldRemit has a customized system that will help you, at no additional cost, to send international transfers to more than 130 countries.

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