B-1/B-2 Visa or Waiver – Business or Pleasure Visitors
Certain kinds of business-related travel are permitted using B-1 visitor status. The most important requirement to understand is that those coming to the U.S. in B-1 status may not work in the U.S. The term “work” has a very specific legal meaning in U.S. immigration law and “work” means that an individual is engaging in productive tasks in the U.S. for which the individual is being paid and that the tasks that the individual engages in would normally be completed by an individual employed in the U.S. Therefore, individuals coming to the U.S. to operate a business or work as an independent consultant, as well as those coming to be employed by a U.S. employer, or even engage in regular productive work for a foreign employer are not eligible for B-1 business visitor status.
In contrast, individuals coming to the U.S. who are employed by a foreign entity and will engage in business activities of a non-work nature may be eligible for B-1 business status. Generally these are individuals who are consulting with business associates, engaging in training, examining the creation of investments, attending conferences, negotiating contracts, or carrying out responsibilities under a given contract.
Requirements for B-1 Business Visitor Status
To be eligible for business visitor status, the applicants must be able to show that:
- The visit to the United States is for a limited duration, usually under one year
- They have a clear intention to depart the United States upon the completion of a specific activity or the expiration of the time permitted in the U.S.
- They have maintained a foreign residence to which they have intend to return.
- They have made adequate financial arrangements to meet their while in the U.S.
- They will be solely engaged in legitimate business activities while in the U.S.
- They will be employed and paid by a foreign entity.
- Their activities in the U.S. are associated with international trade or commerce and will primarily benefit a foreign entity.
Frequently Asked Questions about B-1 Visas
Who would qualify as a B-1 business visitor?
- Participants attending scientific, educational, professional, business, or religious conventions
- Persons engaged in specific projects in the U.S., apart from work that regularly occurs in the U.S., and who are paid by a foreign employer
- Business professionals participating in commercial transactions such as negotiating contracts or gathering specifications for products to be manufactured abroad
- Persons engaged in independent studies such as feasibility studies, market research or any such activity
- Persons attending professional or business conferences, workshops, or seminars
- Business professionals exploring options to set up a subsidiary of a foreign corporation, or to make investments
- Technical personnel installing or servicing equipment pursuant to a contract of sale, or to provide after sales service
- Business professionals attending meetings as a member of the Board of Directors of a U.S. corporation
- Professionals to consulting with business associates (but not those providing consulting services as a business)
- Purchasing agents of a foreign employer visiting the U.S. to procure goods, components, or raw materials for use outside the U.S.
- Foreign business professionals coming to the U.S. in conjunction with litigation
- Individuals coming to the U.S. to speak at universities or in other professional settings
What are the advantages of B-1 visitor status?
Other than business activities like attending meetings, conventions, business negotiations, tourism purposes etc., a person is also entitled to use the visa for short-term training or a company course provided the sponsoring company from the home country is committed to bearing the expenses.
What are the Limitations of B-1 visitor status?
The U.S. immigration law strictly restricts B-1 visitors from seeking employment or working in the U.S. and the visitor is not allowed to start any program of study.
Process and Timing for B-1 Visitor Status
Canadian citizens can seek B-1 status at a U.S. port of entry. They should be able to clearly explain what activities they will be doing and how those activities render them eligible for B-1 status. Canadians are generally allowed to enter for up to six months in B-1 status.
Citizens of countries that are eligible for the visa waiver, or ESTA program, may apply for an ESTA online through the U.S. Department of State’s web site to enter the U.S. on a visa waiver in B-1 status. As with Canadian citizens, such individuals should be able to explain their activities clearly and how they qualify for B-1 status. Individuals entering on a visa waiver in business visitor status are given a maximum of 90-days stay which cannot be extended.
Other foreign nationals will need to apply at a U.S. Consulate for a B-1 visa. They, too, need to be able to demonstrate that their activities in the U.S. are eligible for the B-1 and that they meet the other requirements. Individuals entering on a B-1 visa can be given a period of stay of up to six months and can apply to extend it.
It is important to note that the U.S. Department of State always issues a combined B-1/B-2 visa which embodies two very distinct reasons for travel to the U.S. The B-1 allows for business travel. In contrast, the B-2 allows only for travel for pleasure or medical purposes. Individuals who enter the U.S. in B-2 status are ineligible to work or to engage in business activities.