I want to visit my family in New York for vacation, but I’m in school, have very little savings, and can’t afford the trip on my own. My cousin is a U.S. citizen, and she told me that she would pay for my plane ticket and my expenses while I’m in the United States. How can I show that she will sponsor my visit?
In order to be eligible for a B-2 tourist visa – or to enter the U.S. without a visa, as a visitor on the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) – you must have the ability to pay for your expenses such as food, lodging, and transportation, as well as your ticket back home. The reason for this is that the U.S. government wants to ensure that visitors to the U.S. will not need to rely on public benefits (or welfare) during their stay.
However, immigration officials understand that many foreign tourists don’t have incomes on par with those of U.S. residents. This is why you can have a friend or relative who is a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or lawfully admitted nonimmigrant “sponsor” your trip. For a full explanation of who is eligible to apply for a tourist visa, see Nolo’s article “A B-2 Visa for Visiting the U.S. as a Tourist: Do You Qualify?”
You should bring evidence with you to the U.S. consulate where you will apply for your visa (or to the border official if visiting on the VWP) that you have been invited to visit the U.S. by your cousin and that she has offered to support you. You will also need to show that your cousin has adequate financial resources to pay your expenses during your vacation. Although there is no “magic number” of personal worth that a B visa sponsor must show (unlike other types of visas), it is recommended that he or she can prove that she has salary, income, and other assets totaling 100% of the amount listed for the corresponding family size in the federal Poverty Guidelines.
You should have your cousin send you the following items: