To visit the United States for business purposes, you will need to obtain a B-1 Temporary Business Visitor visa, unless you qualify for admission as a visa exempt foreign national (Canadian citizens) or under the Visa Waiver Program. Admission under the B-1 category allows you to conduct activities of a commercial or professional nature.
Permissible B-1 Business Visitor Activities
You may be eligible for a B-1 visa if you will be participating in business activities of a commercial or professional nature in the U.S. including (but not limited to):
- Attending scientific, educational, professional or business conventions, conferences, or seminars on specific dates;
- Commercial transactions that do not involved gainful U.S. employment (e.g. taking orders for foreign goods);
- Negotiating a contract;
- Settling an estate;
- Researching options for starting a business or investing in the U.S. (e.g. activities which may eventually qualify you for E-2 Treaty Investor or L-1 New Office nonimmigrant status);
- Installation, service, or repair of commercial/industrial equipment purchased from outside the U.S. and/or providing training to U.S. workers to perform such services; and
- Independent research or professional artistic activity (e.g. music recording, artistic work such as painting, sculpture, or photography) that does not involved income from a U.S. source.
The B-1 nonimmigrant visa category is not meant for extended, long-term activity, but rather for a definite and specific activity.
If you travel to the U.S. with a B-1 visa, you cannot engage in any activity or perform a service that would constitute local employment for hire within the U.S. What constitutes ‘local employment for hire’ will depend on the circumstances of each case. Any activity you perform in the U.S. must be directly connected with and part of your work abroad. It is permissible to conduct business activities on behalf of a foreign employer, but no salary may come from a U.S. source.
Also, if you are coming to secure funding for a new business, you cannot remain in the U.S. to start actual operations or to manage the business, unless you change status to another classification that authorizes employment in the United States, such as E-2 or L-1 status.
Documentation to Show Eligibility for Admission
It can be difficult to distinguish between appropriate B-1 business activities, and activities that constitute skilled or unskilled labor in the U.S. that are not appropriate on B status. Therefore, B-1 applicants should carry documentation that supports their eligibility for the category. Evidence you may submit to demonstrate that the purpose of your trip falls within permissible B-1 Business Visitor activities might include:
- A written statement detailing the purpose of your visit, the activities you will participate in, and the intended duration of your stay;
- Meeting confirmation letters, emails, agendas or outlines;
- Invitations and itineraries for trade shows, conferences, meetings, etc.;
- Evidence of the source of payment or other compensation, if any, that you will be receiving while in the United States.
You must be able to show you have sufficient funds to cover the expenses of the trip and your stay in the United States. You must also show you maintain your residence abroad, which you have no intention of abandoning, and that you have other binding ties which will ensure your return abroad at the end of the visit. This can be demonstrated by the following documentation:
- Ticketed return travel, evidence of other meetings or time-sensitive activities you need to engage in after returning;
- Evidence of property ownership in your home country and ties to family (such as a spouse and children);
- Evidence of employment in your home country, such as an employment confirmation letter and recent paystubs;
- Documentation regarding credit limits, bank accounts, cash on hand, or other means to pay for your expenses.
The maximum period of initial admission to the United States as a B-1 nonimmigrant is typically six months.
B-1 Visa Application Process
Foreign nationals who are neither visa-exempt (e.g. Canadian citizens) nor eligible to enter the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program will need to apply for a B-1 Visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad prior to entering the U.S.
During your visa interview, a consular officer will determine whether you are eligible to receive a visa, and if so, which visa category is appropriate based on your purpose of travel. You will need to establish that you meet the requirements under U.S. law to receive a B-1 visa as outlined above. Upon approval, the Embassy or Consulate will place a visa stamp in your passport.
Note that a visa allows a foreign national to travel to a U.S. port-of-entry and request permission to enter the United States. A visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials at the port-of-entry have the final authority to permit or deny an applicant admission to the United States. Therefore, it is important to bring proof of your B-1 business activity to both the visa interview and to the port-of-entry.
Berardi Immigration Law Can Assist With Your B-1 Visa Application
Berardi Immigration Law regularly prepares successful B-1 applications. We also have a Visa Services Department that will assist with scheduling a B-1 interview and advise on all requisite documentation needed for a successful interview. If you believe you may qualify for a B-1 visa, please contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.