Home » News & Blog Articles » The B visas: Entering the U.S. as Visitor

I. B-1: BUSINESS VISITOR VISA

A. GENERAL

The B-1 visa is for individuals who are entering the U.S. to conduct business for a relatively short period of time on behalf of their non-U.S. employer or for their own personal business purposes.

B. B-1 VISA REQUIREMENTS

To qualify for a B-1 visa, you must meet the following requirements:

1. You must be entering the U.S. temporarily;

2. You must have a permanent residence in your home country (or the country where you lawfully reside) that you have no intention of abandoning;

3. You must be able to show ties to your home country (or the country where you lawfully reside), such as property, family, and a permanent job;

4. You must not be coming to the U.S. to provide services or engage in business activities that are primarily for the benefit of a U.S. employer;

5. The purpose of your trip must be to perform a legitimate business activity;

6. You may not be paid a salary or other remuneration from a U.S. source. However, reimbursement for per diem and travel expenses is permitted;

7. You must have sufficient financial resources to fund the trip including all travel, accommodation and living expenses during your stay in the U.S.; and

8. You must not be inadmissible to the U.S.

C. Prohibited Business Activities While in the US on a B1

You are prohibited from engaging in the following activities while in the U.S. as a B1 visitor:

1. You cannot accept paid or unpaid employment in the US. For example, you cannot work for a family business (even if working for free); you cannot train, consult or work with clients in the US even if the clients are paying the foreign company rather than you directly (though the B1 in Lieu of H1B may be an option in this case).

2. Cannot sell or furnish product or services (though you can take orders for products or services, or  enter an agreement for the delivery of the product or service, but the product or service must be mailed/delivered from your home country – that is, the actual transaction cannot take place in the U.S.

D. Examples of Permissible Business Activities on a B1 Visa

The following is a non-exhaustive list of the type of activities you can engage in while in the U.S. as a B1 visitor:

 1. Settle an estate;

2. Litigate;

3. Solicit services, negotiate, or finalize a contract;

4. Solicit and take orders for the sale of goods and materials that are not produced in the U.S.;

5. Purchase goods or materials;

6. Appear as a witness in court trials;

7. Participate in short-term training;

8. Solicit sales or investment;

9. Discuss planned investments or purchases;

10. Interview and hire staff;

11. Attending meetings;

12. Make investments or purchases;

13. Act as a speaker or lecturer;

14. Business related shopping or placing orders;

15. Develop business relationships;

16. Visit US factories, laboratories, offices, etc.;

17. Attend board meetings or annual meetings;

18. To perform services on behalf of a foreign based employer as a jockey, sulky, driver, trainer or groom;

19. Attend and participate in conferences;

20. Attend and participate in trade shows and exhibitions;

21. Volunteer under certain circumstances (see below);

22. Commercial/Industrial equipment servicing under certain circumstances (see below);

23. Conduct independent research;

24. Medical elective (see below);

25. Telecommuter working (see below);

26. Crew (see below);

27. Sports (see below); and

28.   Professional entertainers (see below).

E. Other Points of Consideration

1. Changing Status to that of a Student: If, while residing in the U.S. on a visitor visa (whether B1 or B2), you wish to change status to that of a student (F, M, or J visa), you must state this intent while applying for your B visa.

2. Cannot Solicit Merchandised Produced in the U.S.: For example, at a trade show or exhibition, you are not permitted to take orders for merchandise produced in the United States. However, as noted above, you can take orders and solicit sales for products produced outside of the United States.

3. Permissible Voluntary Work: You can enter US to perform voluntary work if (a) you are a member of, or have a commitment to, a voluntary service program, or organized project, conducted by a recognized religious or non-profit charitable organization that provides assistance to the poor and needy in the U.S. and (b) you are entering the U.S. to perform work that is traditionally done by U.S. charity workers within said organization.

4. Industrial/Mechanical Servicing: In a situation where a US buyer purchases industrial/mechanical equipment or machinery from a foreign seller, and the contract stipulates that the seller must install the equipment, the seller/employees of the seller may enter the US to install the equipment, and/or train the buyer’s employees on how to install, repair or use the equipment, permitted they have the specialized knowledge to do so, and the foreign workers are receiving payment from the foreign seller and not the US buyer.  Also, the seller cannot receive any additional remuneration for the service that is over and above what was agreed upon in the original contract.

5. Researchers: If you are an independent researcher, you can travel on a business visa as long as the results of the research will not benefit the U.S. institution you are collaborating with.  If you are going to receive payment from a U.S. source and/or the U.S. institution will benefit from the results of your research, you will require an exchange visitor visa (J-1) or a temporary work visa.

6. Medical Elective: Applicable only to medical students pursuing a medical degree at a foreign institution.  You can travel on a business visa to take an elective clerkship which provides practical experience and instruction in the various disciplines of medicine under the supervision and direction of faculty physicians at the hospital of the U.S. medical school.  However, the clerkship must be an approved part of the individual’s foreign school education and you do not receive any remuneration from the hospital.

7. Telecommuters: If you are a temporary resident in the US who will be working from home, you may be eligible for a B1 visa if you satisfy the following requirements:

a. You are employed by a company outside of the US

b. You will not get any remuneration from a US source, other than expenses incidental to your  stay

c. The work is in an occupation requiring a bachelor’s degree or higher in your specific speciality and you have that level of education

8. Crew: Crew members may enter the US on a B visa under the following circumstances;

a. Crewman of a private yacht:  As long as the yacht will be sailing out of a foreign home port and cruising in the US waters, the nationality of the private yacht does not matter;

b. Coasting Officer:  May enter to perform responsibilities of a coasting officer;

c. Pickup Aircraft: An employee of a foreign airline coming to pick-up aircraft if she/she is not transiting the US and is not inadmissible as a crewman. He/she must present an employment letter from the foreign airline;

9.  Sports: Athletes may enter the US on a B visa under the following circumstances:

a. Professional Athletes – Individual: Participating in a tournament or sporting event is permitted.  Receiving prize money is permitted, but no other payment is allowed.

b. Athlete – Member of a Foreign Based Team: If you are a member of a foreign-based team who would like to compete with an another sports team so long as the following conditions are met: (1) Both you and the team have your principal place of business or activity in a foreign country: (2) Your team’s income and your salary as a team member accrue mainly in a foreign country; and (3) Your team is a member of an international sports league or the sporting activities involved have an international dimension

c. Amateur team sports player: You may enter the US on a B visa to join a professional team during the course of the regular professional season or playoffs for brief try-outs; and

 10.   Professional Entertainer: You may enter the US on a B visa under one of the following circumstances:

a.To participate only in a cultural program sponsored by the sending country.  The performance must be before a non-paying audience. All expenses including per diem will be paid by the sending government; or

b. To participate in a competition that has no remuneration other than a prize and expenses. The prize can be monetary.

II. B-2: TOURIST VISITOR VISA

A. GENERAL

The B-2 visa is for individuals who are entering the U.S. for pleasure, tourist purposes, medical purposes, or to attend conferences/meetings.

B. REQUIREMENTS

1. You must have ties in your home country, such as employment, family, assets etc. to evidence that you will return home prior to the expiration of your visa; and

2. You must have sufficient financial resources to fund the trip and your living costs while in the U.S.

D. When to use the B-2 Visa

1. Tourism/Vacation:  Use this visa to visit the U.S. as a tourist.

2. Visit Friends and Family: Use this visa to visit friends and family in the U.S.

3. Medical Purposes:  Enter the U.S. under this visa to receive medical treatment.

4. Conventions/Conferences: Use this visa to participate in non-business conventions, conferences, and meetings in the U.S.

III. DURATION

Individuals can be granted a stay in the US on a B visa for up to one year, but, in general, the B visa is typically granted for no longer than six months at a time. Also, you can apply for an extension of stay in six month increments.

 IV. SPECIAL RULES FOR CANADIANS

Unlike citizens from other countries, Canadians need not apply for a B visa at a US consulate or embassy. Instead, Canadians are permitted to explain their purpose of entry to a US customs official at a port of entry (i.e. a US/Canada border crossing, or the US customs section of a Canadian airport), and may be permitted entry pursuant to the restrictions of B status.

 V. VISITOR VISA PROCESSING TIME

Unless you are a Canadian citizen, to obtain a visitor visa you must submit a visa application at the embassy or consulate where you lawfully reside and schedule a visa appointment. Your visa will be either issued or denied during, or a few days after, your visa appointment. In general, it takes anywhere from a one day to a few weeks to get a visitor visa appointment, depending on where you live.

The time it takes to obtain your visitor visa – that is, the amount of time it takes to sit for your visa appointment – is different for each consulate/embassy.  However, fortunately, the U.S. Department of State provides the wait times for visitor visa appointments in each consulate/embassy.  To determine the wait time for a visitor visa appointment at the consulate/embassy nearest you, visit the U.S. Department of State Visa Wait Time webpage: http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/wait/wait_4638.html.

VI. VISITOR VISA APPLICATION FEE

You must pay a government fee to apply for a visitor visa at a U.S. consulate/embassy. The current fee is $160 USD. Remember, Canadians need not apply for a visitor visa at a U.S. consulate/embassy and thus need not pay a fee.

 VII. SPOUSE AND ACCOMPANYING CHILDREN

Your spouse and children may also obtain visas to accompany you on your trip provided they are not inadmissible to the United States.

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