Temporary Visitor for Business
Purpose of the B-1 Visa Classification
The B-1 visa classification allows foreign visitors to enter the United States temporarily to engage in business related activities such as conventions, conferences and consultations, but not employment.
- The B-1 visa is relatively simple and quick to obtain.
- The B-1 visa classification is a nebulous category that receives inconsistent and unreliable treatment from immigration officers.
- B-1 Visa Business Visitors may not engage in gainful employment in the United States.
- Spouses and children under 21 may receive B-2 visa status for same duration as the B-1 Visa Business Visitor.
Points of Interest
- The B-1 visa is one of the most erratic categories. It is very unpredictable and very subjective. There are no bright line tests and it is not appropriate for long-term stays.
- Beginning June 26, 2005, travelers applying for admission under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) must be in possession of a machine-readable passport.
- All VWP countries must also produce passports with digital photography by October 26, 2005.
1. Definitions of B-1 Business Visitor
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and immigration regulations define a B-1 Visa Business Visitor as someone:
- With a residence in a foreign country that he or she has no intention of abandoning;
- Who is coming temporarily to the United States;
- For business purposes.
B-1 Visa Business Visitors may not perform skilled or unskilled labor. The term “business” does not include local employment or labor for hire. B-1 Visa Business Visitors also may not develop news in the U.S. for foreign press, radio, film, or other foreign information media.
2. General Permissible B-1 Visa Activities
B-1 visas are reserved for individuals coming to the United States temporarily to conduct limited business activities such as:
- Contract negotiations;
- Independent research;
- Taking purchase orders;
- Consultation with business associates;
- Participation in conventions, conferences and seminars; and
- Other legitimate activities of a commercial or professional nature.
Certain types of work activity may qualify for a B-1 visa business visit if:
- The business visitor clearly intends to maintain a foreign residence and domicile;
- The principal place of business and the place where the profit predominantly accrues is in a foreign country; and
- Each business entry is clearly temporary in character, even if the nature of the business activity itself is not temporary and may be long continued. Matter of Hira, 11 I. & N. Dec. 824 (BIA 1965, 1966; Atty. Gen. 1966).
For more information on B-1 visa business activities see:
- Specific Work Activities Eligible for B-1 Visa Category
- Additional B-1 Visa Activities under NAFTA for Canadians/Mexicans
- Impermissible B-1 Visa Activities
3. Step One: Application at U.S. Consulate
Unless exempt from the visa stamp requirement or eligible for the Visa Waiver Program (see below), to enter the U.S. as a B-1 business visitor most individuals must first apply for a B-1 visa stamp at the U.S. consulate in their home country. The basic application package for a B-1 visa includes:
- Form DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Application.
- A valid, unexpired passport.
- Passport-type photograph.
- Application fee.
Additionally, B-1 visa applicants must satisfy the consular officer that:
- They intend to leave the United States at the end of the temporary stay;
- They have permission to enter a foreign country at the end of the temporary stay; and
- They have made adequate financial arrangements to carry out the purpose of the visit and to depart from the United States afterwards.
Citizens of Canada enjoy special documentary waivers and do not require a visa stamp for entry to the U.S. as a B-1 Business Visitor. Instead, they may seek admission to the U.S. under B-1 visa status directly at the U.S. border.
Citizens of certain countries may also enter the U.S. under B-1 visa status without obtaining a B-1 visa stamp under the Visa Waiver Program. Instead, these individuals can apply for preliminary travel authorization through the government’s Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). Individuals traveling under the Visa Waiver Program may enter the U.S. for up to a 90-day period. A list of the countries whose citizens are eligible for participation in the Visa Waiver Program is available at the U.S. Dept. of State.
4. Step Two: Inspection at U.S. Port of Entry
Admission of B-1 Visa Business Visitor.
If the B-1 visa is granted, or if the business visitor is visa exempt, the B-1 Visa Business Visitor may then be admitted to the United States by an immigration officer at a U.S. port of entry.
While Canadians do not require a visa, they must bring appropriate proof of Canadian citizenship.
Mexicans must present valid entry documents such as a passport and visa or Mexican Border Crossing Card (Form I-186 or I-586).
All B-1 Visa Business Visitors must provide evidence that:
- The applicant seeks to enter for one of the listed activities and not for local labor;
- The business is international with profits accruing mainly outside the United States; and
- Any remuneration comes from abroad.
- Although a simple oral statement might do, the B-1 visa applicant should be armed with a letter.
- Once admitted, a B-1 Visa Business Visitor may be issued an I-94, other times he or she may be simply allowed to enter the United States.
Duration of B-1 Visa Status.
- A B-1 Visa Business visitor may be approved for up to one year, but many times the duration of status is simply for the period of that particular business trip.
Extension of B-1 Visa status.
- Extensions of B-1 visa status may be granted in increments of six months, and may be obtained through a CIS Service Center without leaving the U.S.
5. Helpful Advice for B-1 Visa Visa Business Visitors
When a B-1 visa business visitor applies for entry, she needs to have a visa (or qualify as visa exempt) and an employer letter describing the business activities in which she will be engaged during her temporary visit to the United States. The support letter must carefully describe the legitimate B-1 visa activities, emphasizing that the client will not be engaged in ordinary employment in the U.S. and will not be paid by any US source.
At the Port of Entry, the B-1 visa applicant should expect to be asked:
- Where the goods in which she deals are manufactured, if applicable;
- Where the profits from the business enterprise accrue;
- How often he or she has been in the U.S. in the last twelve months and how often she or he expects to be entering in the coming year.
- Because the B-1 visa is a nebulous category, expect some inconsistent results, which may require an application for a more structured category, such as an H-1B, L-1 or TN Visa.
The Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration (SSA) have agreed that for some of the B-1 visa activities, B-1 visa holders should be able to get social security cards, particularly as they may be subject to U.S. income tax and to the provisions of worker compensation and other employment laws.
In order to issue the social security card, the SSA office will be looking for a consular annotation to the B-1 visa.
The B-1 visa holders eligible for the social security card annotation are:
- Personal or domestic servants of U.S. citizens, or of certain non-immigrants;
- Airline employees who are authorized to work and receive compensation in the United States; and
- Visiting ministers on an evangelical tour who rely on offerings at evangelical meetings.
B-1 Visa Business Visitors who are members of a religious denomination coming temporarily and solely to do missionary work in behalf of a religious denomination may be granted extensions of not more than one year each, provided that their work does not involve the selling of articles or the solicitation or acceptance of donations.