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Business Visas (B-1)

B1 visa application overview

In general, travelers seeking admission into the United States to conduct business require valid B-1 visas. That is unless they are eligible to travel visa free under the Visa Waiver Program, or they are a national of a country which has an agreement with the United States allowing their citizens to travel to the United States without a B-1 business visa.

The definition of “business” in this instance is limited, and does not generally allow for gainful employment or productive activity such as operating a business or consultancy work. Specifically, in the applicable U.S. law the term “business” is limited to the negotiation of contracts, consultation with business associates, litigation, and participation in scientific, educational, professional or business conventions, conferences or seminars and other legitimate activities of a commercial or professional nature. It does not include local employment or labor for hire.

If you are not eligible to travel visa free, or are not a national of a country where B-1 visa requirements are waived, you are required to apply for a visa before traveling.

Business activities covered by the B-1 Visa

Selling

An individual traveling to the United States to take part in an exhibition, set up an exhibition booth, display samples, sign contracts, and take orders for merchandise produced in and delivered from the foreign country, may be eligible for a B-1 visa or visa free travel under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The holder of a B-1 visa or a VWP traveler may not actually sell or take orders for merchandise produced in the United States. If the proposed activities are not as described, a temporary work (H-2) visa will be required.

Voluntary Work

Individuals participating in a voluntary service program which benefits a U.S. local community, who establish that they are a member of, and have a commitment to, a particular recognized religious or nonprofit charitable organization, may be eligible for a B-1 visa or visa free travel under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) if the work to be performed is traditionally done by volunteer charity workers; they will receive no salary or remuneration from a U.S. source, other than an allowance or other reimbursement for expenses incidental to their stay in the United State; and they will not engage in the selling of articles and/or the solicitation and acceptance of donations.

A voluntary service program is an organized project conducted by a recognized religious or nonprofit charitable organization to provide assistance to the poor or the needy, or to further a religious or charitable cause.

If your proposed activities as a voluntary worker are not exactly as described, you will require either an exchange visitor (J-1) or temporary worker (H-2B) visa.

Please Note: When applying for entry into the United States as a voluntary worker with a visa or under the VWP, you should furnish a letter from your U.S. sponsor which contains the following information:

  • Your name and date and place of birth;
  • Your foreign permanent residence address;
  • The name and address of initial destination in the U.S.; and
  • The anticipated duration of your assignment.

Service Engineer

If the engineer(s) will install, service or repair commercial or industrial equipment or machinery sold by a company in the foreign country to a buyer in the United States, and the purchase contract requires that the foreign country company provide such services, then the B-1 visa or visa free travel under the Visa Waiver Program, (VWP) is appropriate. However, in such cases, the engineer(s) must possess the specialized knowledge essential to perform the services, receive no remuneration from a U.S. source, and the company must not receive any payment for these services in addition to that specified in the original contract of sale. If the proposed activities are not exactly as described, temporary work (H-2) visas will be required. Please note that the B-1 visa or travel under the VWP does not cover building or construction work, even if the purchase contract requires that the company provide such services. In such cases, the employees must always qualify for H-2 visas.

The B-1 visa or travel under the VWP is also appropriate for engineers traveling to the United States to train U.S. personnel in the installation, service or repair of commercial or industrial equipment or machinery as specified above. The individuals concerned must continue to be paid by the foreign country company and the contract of sale must specifically require the seller to provide such services.

Speaker/Lecturer

If you are traveling to the United States in connection with a speaking engagement you may travel on a B-1 visa or visa free under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) provided there is no remuneration from a U.S. source, other than expenses incidental to the visit. Speakers/lectures who will receive an honorarium in addition to incidental expenses may still be eligible for the B-1 visa or travel under the VWP provided all of the following are met:

  • the activities will last no longer than nine days at a single institution;
  • the institution is a nonprofit research organization or a governmental research organization, or an institution of higher education, or a related or affiliated nonprofit entity.
  • such activities are conducted for the benefit of the institution or entity; and
  • the speaker/lecturer has not accepted such payment or expenses from five such institutions during the previous six month period.

If the proposed activities are not exactly as described, an exchange visitor (J-1) or temporary work (H-1) visa will be required.

Conference

Participants in scientific, educational, professional, or business conventions, conferences or seminars may travel to the United States on B-1 visas or visa free travel under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The B-1 visa or travel under the VWP is also appropriate if presenting a paper at the conference, provided there is no remuneration from a U.S. source other than expenses incidental to the stay. Those who will receive an honorarium in addition to incidental expenses will only be eligible for the B-1 visa or travel under the VWP if all of the following are met:

  • the activities will last no longer than nine days at a single institution;
  • the institution is a nonprofit research organization or a governmental research organization, or an institution of higher education, or a related or affiliated nonprofit entity.
  • such activities are conducted for the benefit of the institution or entity; and
  • the delegate has not accepted such payment or expenses from five such institutions during the previous six month period.

If the proposed activities are not exactly as described, an exchange visitor (J-1) or temporary work (H-1) visa will be required.

Note: The applications of those seeking visas to attend a technical conference may be subject to additional administrative processing. I regret that we are unable to provide you with any guidance on how long it may take. Therefore, do not make any final travel plans until you have received your passport with a visa in it.

Researcher

An individual who will engage in independent research may be eligible for a B-1 visa or visa free travel under the Visa Waiver Program provided there is no remuneration from a U.S. source and the results of the research will not benefit the American institution. Those who will receive payment from a U.S. source and/or the U.S. institution will benefit from the results of the research, will require an exchange visitor (J-1) or temporary work (H-1) visa will be required.

Business venture

The B-1 visa or visa free travel under the Visa Waiver Program is the appropriate visa classification to travel to the United States to survey potential sites for a business and/or to lease premises. However, the holder of a B-1 visa may not remain in the United States to manage the business. An L-1 (intra-company transferee) visa is required. This would enable the holder to travel to the United States for a temporary period to open up and operate a branch, subsidiary or affiliate office of the business there. To qualify, the new U.S. operation is required to file a petition on the employee’s behalf with the nearest office of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the United States.

Medical Elective

A medical student studying at a foreign medical school and who seeks to enter the United States temporarily in order to take an “elective clerkship” at a U.S. medical school’s hospital without remuneration from the hospital may be eligible for a B-1 visa, or visa free travel under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Note: The medical clerkship is only for medical students pursuing their normal third or fourth year internship in a U.S. medical school as part of a foreign medical school degree and does not cover those seeking training as physiotherapists, dentists, nurses or vets. (An “elective clerkship” affords practical experience and instructions in the various disciplines of medicine under the supervision and direction of faculty physicians at a U.S. medical school’s hospital as an approved part of the alien’s foreign medical school education. It does not apply to graduate medical training, which normally requires a J-visa).

If applying for a visa, a letter from the U.S. medical school outlining the nature and duration of the elective clerkship should accompany the application. If traveling under the VWP, the letter from the school should be presented to the U.S. immigration official at the port of entry.

Activities covered by the B-1 or B-2 Visa

Amateur Entertainer

An amateur by definition is not a member of any professions associated with that activity. Therefore, an amateur, or group of amateurs performing in a social and/or charitable context, or as a competitor in a talent show or contest is eligible for a B-2 visa, or visa free travel under the Visa Waiver Program, if otherwise qualified, provided they will not be paid for their performance. They may, however, receive expenses incidental to the visit. Although the performers cannot be paid for their performance, they may be performing where an attendance fees is charged. Provided the fee is just to cover or defray the actual cost of holding the event, or if there is a profit, the money goes to charity rather than a commercial cause, the B-2 visa or visa free travel is OK.

Please note: An amateur is someone who normally performs without remuneration (other than an allotment for expenses). A performer who is normally compensated for performing cannot qualify for a B-2 visa or travel under the Visa Waiver Program even if they do not make a living at performing.

Professional Entertainer

In general, a professional entertainer requires an O or P visa to perform in the United States regardless of the amount or source of compensation, or whether the services will involve a public appearance. However, a professional entertainer may be eligible for a B-1 visa, or visa free travel under the Visa Waiver Program, if otherwise qualified, in the following circumstances:

  • The entertainer is participating in a cultural program sponsored by the sending country; he or she will be performing before a nonpaying audience; and, all expenses, will be paid by the member’s government; or
  • The entertainer is participating in a competition for which there is no remuneration, other than a prize (monetary or otherwise) and expenses.

Amateur Athlete

An amateur athlete or group of athletes competing in an athletic event for which they will receive no payment, other than incidental expenses, are eligible for B-2 visas, or visa free travel under the Visa Waiver Program, if otherwise qualified.

Please note: An amateur is someone who normally performs without remuneration (other than an allotment for expenses). An athlete who is normally compensated for performing cannot qualify for a B-2 visa or travel under the Visa Waiver Program even if they do not make a living at performing.

Professional Athlete

Professional athletes, such as golfers and auto racers, who receive no salary or payment other than prize money for his/her participation in a tournament or sporting event are eligible for B-1 visa, or visa free travel under the Visa Waiver Program, if otherwise qualified.

Athletes or team members who seek to enter the United States as members of a foreign based team in order to compete with another sports team are also eligible for B-1 visas, or visa free travel under the Visa Waiver Program, if otherwise qualified, provided:

  • their principal place of business or activity is in a foreign country;
  • the income of the foreign based team and the salary of its players are principally accrued in a foreign country; and
  • the foreign based sports team is a member of an international sports league, or the sporting activities involved have an international dimension.

Religious activities covered by the B-1 visa

The following is a list of religious activities which may be undertaken on a B-1 visa.  Note: Travelers who qualify for a B-1 visa may also be eligible to travel visa free under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

Missionary Work

If you are performing missionary work on behalf of a religious denomination you may be eligible for a B-1 visa, provided you will receive no salary or remuneration from the United States other than an allowance or other reimbursement for expenses incidental to your stay, and the work which you are to perform in the United States will not involve the selling of articles or the solicitation or acceptance of donations. When applying for a visa, or entry into the United States with a visa or under the VWP, you should furnish a letter from your U.S. sponsor explaining in detail the nature of your visit.

Evangelical Tour

If you are to engage in an evangelical tour and do not plan to take an appointment with any one church you may be eligible for a B-1 visa, provided you will receive no remuneration from a U.S. source, other than the offerings contributed at each evangelical meeting. When applying for a visa, or entry into the United States with a visa or under the VWP, you should furnish a letter from your U.S. sponsor explaining in detail the nature of your visit.

Preaching

If you will be preaching in the United States for a temporary period, or will be exchanging pulpits with your U.S. counterpart you may be eligible for a B-1 visa, provided you will continue to be reimbursed by your church in the United Kingdom and you will receive no salary from the host church in the United States. When applying for a visa, or entry into the United States with a visa or under the VWP, you should furnish a letter from your U.S. sponsor explaining in detail the nature of your visit.

Voluntary Service Program

If you will participate in a voluntary service program which benefits a U.S. local community, and you establish that you are a member of, and have a commitment to, a particular recognized religious or nonprofit charitable organization, you may be eligible for a B-1 visa if the work to be performed is traditionally done by volunteer charity workers; you will receive no salary or remuneration from a U.S. source, other than an allowance or other reimbursement for expenses incidental to your stay in the United State; and you will not engage in the selling of articles and/or the solicitation and acceptance of donations.

A voluntary service program is an organized project conducted by a recognized religious or nonprofit charitable organization to provide assistance to the poor or the needy, or to further a religious or charitable cause.

If your proposed activities as a voluntary worker are not exactly as described, you will require either an exchange visitor (J-1) or temporary worker (H-2B) visa.

When applying for entry into the United States as a voluntary worker with a visa or under the VWP, you should furnish a letter from your U.S. sponsor which contains the following information:

  • Your name and date and place of birth;
  • Your foreign permanent residence address;
  • The name and address of initial destination in the U.S.; and
  • The anticipated duration of your assignment

Applying for the B-1 Business Visa

Please review the following FOUR STEPS below before beginning your visa application.

Step 1: If you have ever arrested and/or have a criminal conviction, have a medical ineligibility, or have been denied entry into or deported from the United States you will be required to furnish documents relating to your situation in support of your application.

Step 2:   Applicants aged 14 to 79 are required to apply for a visa in person at the US Embassy through a prearranged appointment.  In certain circumstances applicants under the age of 14 or those aged 80 are exempt from appearing in person and may submit their application through the courier service

Step 3:  Complete the online DS-160

Step 4:  Gather the required documents

Reminder: It is recommended that individuals apply for visas well in advance of their proposed date of travel. No assurances regarding the issuance of visas can be given in advance. Therefore, final travel plans or the purchase of non refundable ticket should not be made until a visa has been issued and you are in receipt of the passport.

Administrative Processing at the U.S. Embassy

Some cases require additional administrative processing. If you attended a visa interview on or after October 1, 2009 and your application was refused under 221(g) and you received the “Administrative Processing” handout at the interview, you can check the status of your case on-line. The case status report will be updated periodically. The review of your application may take 90 days to complete. In some cases, processing can take six months or longer, so if your case is not yet listed, please check back periodically for the latest information.

How to read the case status report

Find your Batch No. in the case status report and note the case Status. There are only four case status remarks: Pending; Email Sent (Date); Send Passport (PPT) and Processed. Each remark is explained below and instructions are given where applicable.

Pending:  Your case is still pending administrative processing. The Embassy cannot issue you a visa before completion of this process. The Embassy cannot waive this processing or influence the amount of time this processing may take. Please do not contact the Embassy while your application is being processed as we will not be able to assist you.

Email Sent: The Embassy needs additional information from you in order to process your case to conclusion. The Embassy has emailed or telephoned you regarding this information. You must submit this information to the Embassy before your case can be completed. If your case status is EMAIL SENT, but that email was never received, please contact the Operator Assisted Information Service and let them know that you need to email the Embassy regarding this information.

Send Passport (PPT): You are required to submit your passport for issuance of the visa. Submit your passport through the Embassy’s contract courier service.

Processed: The visa has been issued, or the case is closed and no action can be taken at this time. If the visa is issued, it will be returned within approximately 5 workdays by the Embassy’s courier service.

Click here for Department of State information regarding the Business Visitor Visa (B-1) – For business-specific purposes.

 

Contact us for more information about the B1 Visa application process, business visa requirements or any other immigration law question. Our professional team will reply promptly. Do it yourself with our downloadable kit.

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