B-1 Business Visitors and Visa Waiver Business Visitors
These materials are provided solely for informational purposes and are not legal advice. Transmission of these materials is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Readers should not act upon the information contained in these FAQs without first seeking advice from a qualified attorney.
What is the B-1 Business Visa?
The B-1 Business Visa is applied for and issued at a U.S. Consulate to allow a trip to the United States to participate in certain limited commercial or professional activities which may not include work.
What is the Visa Waiver Business “WB” Visa?
Citizens of certain countries are eligible to visit the United States for a business trip without first having to secure a B-1 visa at the U.S. consulate. The visa requirement is waived for these citizens. However, the same legal requirements and rules that apply to what qualifies as a business visit under the B-1 visa classification also apply to the Visa Waiver business visitor applying for entry to a US inspector.
What are the countries eligible for the Visa Waiver program?
As of November 2014, the qualifying countries are: Andorra, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Republic of South Korea, San Marino, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom.
For the most current list check here.
Is every citizen of a qualifying country able to use the Visa Waiver program?
No. The Visa Waiver program is considered a privilege which the US government can take away. For example, if someone enters under this program and works without authorization for even one day or stays even one day beyond the 90 day period, the eligibility to use the program in the future goes away.
What business activities are permitted under the B-1 or WB?
Some examples of what a business visitor may do are:
Consult with and attend meetings with business associates
Travel for a scientific, educational, professional or business convention, or a conference on specific dates
Participate in litigation
Undertake independent research
Attend board meetings and perform other board related functions as a board director of a U.S. corporation
Seek investments in the U.S. but may not perform productive labor or actively participate in the management of the business
Establish a new branch, subsidiary or affiliate of a foreign employer if the applicant will be eligible for L-1 status upon obtaining necessary proof of acquisition of physical premises
Install, service, or repair commercial or industrial equipment or machinery or software products purchased from a company outside the U.S. under certain circumstances
Settle an estate
Negotiate a contract
Negotiate a lease
Participate in a short-term training in certain circumstances
Are there other permissible business activities under the B-1/WB?
Yes, there are other activities which are more specialized, such as for certain athletes, entertainers, musicians, artists and volunteers. The detailed B-1 visitor rules can be found here.
Is there any general guidance for what might or might not be an allowed activity?
It is not always clear what is and what is not permitted but one general rule is that the visitor be paid from a source abroad for services primarily benefitting an employer abroad, with exceptions in certain circumstances.
What are the other B-1/WB requirements beyond the purpose as a legitimate business trip?
Plan to remain for a specific limited period of time
Funds to cover the expenses of the trip and stay in the United States
Residence outside the United States which you have no intention of abandoning
Binding ties outside the US which will ensure that you will return at the end of the visit
No bars to admissibility to the US—such as criminal convictions, contagious disease, etc.
How long will I be allowed to stay in B-1 status?
The immigration official who inspects you when you arrive will make this determination based on how much time is needed to carry out the stated business activities. This initial period is generally 6 months, with a maximum of one year initial admission period. An inspector may admit for a shorter period depending on all of the facts and circumstances.
May the initial admission period be extended without having to leave the United States?
With a B-1 visa admission, an extension application explaining and documenting the need for an extended stay may be filed and approved, usually in 6 month increments.
What is the admission period under the Visa Waiver Business program?
The visa waiver admission is limited to 90 days with almost no exceptions, extensions, or waivers allowed.
Are extensions permitted under the Visa Waiver Business program?
No, extensions are not permitted under this program except in exceptionally limited circumstances. If more than 90 days is needed to accomplish what you need to do in the US, you should instead apply for the B-1 visa to allow for the flexibility of filing an extension.
What are the other significant differences between the Visa Waiver business visit and entering under the B-1?
Under the Visa Waiver program, you waive your right to removal proceedings if you are found to have violated the terms of admission, for example, if you work without authorization. A B-1 visitor would have an opportunity to appear at a removal hearing to dispute the charge of violating B status before being ordered removed.
If the purpose of my trip is not clearly covered by “permissible” B-1 activities, what should I do?
It is not possible to get an opinion in advance of making a B-1 application. The best approach is to make the application with documents outlining what you plan to do.
If I need to travel to the U.S. many times over the course of one to two years as a Business Visitor, should I be worried about being refused admission?
An inspector makes a determination each time you apply for admission. The factors that they consider to determine whether you will do what you say you will do and whether that is permitted are:
How frequently have you traveled to the US and for what purpose?
Are you employed and paid from a source abroad?
Do you have strong ties to your home country or country of residence—family, property, job?
How long are you spending in the U.S. with each visit? Does it appear that you are living in the U.S. with only brief return visits to your residence or is the purpose of your U.S. visits credible?
Are you a national of a country with a high rate of compliance with US immigration laws regarding overstays or working without authorization?
Do you have enough money to not have to work in the US?
What happens if I tell a little white lie about what I am planning to do?
If you make a material misrepresentation –say something that shuts off inquiry by a U.S. official—to gain entry or get an immigration benefit, you would become inadmissible to the U.S. as a visitor, worker, and as an applicant for a green card (immigrant). This is a potentially very serious and debilitating result with very limited opportunities for a waiver. It is extremely important to always be truthful with US officials, even if you risk denial of a visa or admission to the US.
What is a B-1 in lieu of H-1B?
If someone would qualify for H-1B status—the position the person will fill requires at least a University level degree in a specialized field and the person has such a relevant degree or its equivalent—the B-1 may be used for employment in limited circumstances, which include:
No salary or other remuneration may be received from a U.S. source other than an expense allowance or reimbursement for incidental expenses
The compensation for work in the US. must be provided by a business entity located abroad with payroll disbursed abroad
All other B-1 requirements mentioned above must also be met.
How do I apply for a B-1 in lieu of H-1B?
You would submit a completed B-1 visa application and supporting documents to a US consulate. The documents should outline the work that will be performed in the US, its likely duration, the nature of the position as one requiring at least a specific University level degree and your qualifications and what foreign entity will pay the compensation for the US work.
How will I know that I have been approved for this classification and not just the B-1?
When you get your visa stamp in your passport, it should be annotated to state “B-1 in lieu of H-1B” so that it is clear to the US inspecting officer that you may work while in the US because you have been approved for this special classification.
If I plan to enter under the Visa Waiver program may I work under the rules of the B-1 in lieu of H-1B?
Yes, it is permissible to enter for 90 days as a Visa Waiver business visitor qualifying for B-1 in lieu or H. The applicant would be required to bring a detailed letter and documentation to establish eligibility for this classification to present to the inspecting officer at the Port of Entry. If eligibility for this classification is not clear, then applying for the B-1 in lieu of H visa is advisable.
Is there anything else I should know about the B-1 in lieu of H-1B?
Although the B-1 in lieu of H-1B is clearly permitted under the law, some U.S. consulates do not routinely or easily issue these visas. It is best to investigate the practices of the relevant U.S. consulate. Also, this visa classification is designed for short term assignments in the US with the idea that the foreign employee will return to work with the foreign entity. It is risky to use this classification to bridge working in the U.S. before full H-1B status is authorized for work beginning October 1.