B-1 business visitor visa and B-2 visitor for pleasure visa
Business travelers may enter the United States using a B-1 'Visitor for Business' Visa. Typically these visas are issued as joint B-1 business visit visa and B-2 'Visitor for Pleasure' (i.e. Tourist) visa. This practice means that, if you have an old B-1/B-2 visa originally issued for a tourist trip, it may be valid for a planned business trip.
If you are a national of a Country that comes under the B-1/B-2 visa-waiver scheme for visits to the US for ninety days or less you should probably apply online using ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation). This avoids the necessity of applying for a B-1/B-2 visit visa at the US Embassy in person.
B-1 Business Visitor Eligible activities
While in the US as a business visitor, an individual may:
- Conduct Negotiations
- Solicit sales or investment
- Discuss planned investment or purchases.
- Make investments or purchases
- Attend Meetings, and participate in them fully.
- Interview and hire staff.
- Conduct research.
B-1 Business Visitor Ineligible activies
The following activities require a working visa, and may not be carried out by business visitors:
- Running a business.
- "Gainful employment".
- Payment by an organization within the US.
- Participating as a professional in entertainment or sporting events.
Obviously there is a considerable 'gray area' in between what definitely is allowed and what definitely isn't. It is advisable to err on the side of caution when bringing overseas persons into the USA on business visitor visas. However, in certain strictly limited cases, paid employment may be possible using a US H-1B visa.
Length of stay
Those entering on visitor visas will generally be granted 6 months admission on entry, though the maximum allowable stay is 1 year. It may be possible to obtain a six-month extension to the visit visa as long as the candidate will be maintaining visitor status, and there are good reasons to do so. It is sometimes possible to change status to another longer - term visa whilst in the US as a visitor, as long as the candidate advised the relevant US Embassy or Consulate of this possibility beforehand, or there was no pre-conceived intent to do so.
US Visitor Visas should generally be applied for in a country of which the candidate is a Citizen or permanent resident. Applications made in other countries often run a high risk of being turned down. The most common reason for refusal of B1/B2 visas is the applicant showing insufficient evidence of social, family or economic ties to his/her country of residence that would ensure that s/he would return there following the visit to the USA.
If the necessary conditions are satisfied then the applicant can apply for a visa. If you would like to find out if you qualify, you may fill out our US visa assessment form.
The B-1/B-2 Visit Visa Waiver Pilot Program:
The B-1/B-2 Visa Waiver Pilot Program allows citizens of certain countries to visit the US for up to 90 days without a Visitor Visa. To check if your country is on the list, and for full details, please see our US B-1 and B-2 Visitor Visa Waiver Pilot Program page.
The B-1 in lieu of an H-1B
In certain, limited circumstances the US Consulate may grant a B-1 Business Visitor Visa for work which would normally require and H-1B Work Visa. This provision can be useful when a non-US company wants to send someone to undertake a specific and limited project for a US-based client, or where an employee from a US subsidiary or affiliate company is needed for a short period.
B-1 visas are significantly easier and quicker to obtain for these purposes than the heavily oversubscribed H-1B visa. For full details please see our US B-1 in lieu of H-1B visa page.
Further information, help, and advice
Workpermit.com's team of specialists has over 25 years of experience in immigration services, and have helped thousands of people to study and work in the US. All applications for US visas are dealt with in-house by a US qualified lawyer that are also typically members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).