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B-1 Visitor for Business


The B-1 classification allows foreign nationals to come to the United States temporarily to engage in a variety of business-related activities.  Except in rare circumstances, employment is not permitted under this nonimmigrant classification.  Because of the broad range of acceptable uses of the B-1 classification, more questions about eligibility occur in this category than in any other.

The Term "Business"

"Business" refers to conventions, conferences, consultations, and other legitimate activities of a commercial or professional nature.  It does not include purely local employment or labor for hire. The law draws a sharp distinction between "doing business" and "working," though in practice deciding where business ends and employment begins is not always easy.  U.S. consular and immigration officers are particularly sensitive to activities that appear to go beyond "business" and spill over into employment.

The following conditions may be useful in understanding the scope of the B-1 category:

  • The B-1 visitor's services must inure to the benefit of an employer whose principal place of business is outside of the United States;
  • Any profit derived must be accrued (at least predominantly) outside of the United States;
  • Any compensation must be paid to the foreign employer;
  • Each B-1 entry must be individually or separately of a clearly temporary nature; and
  • The B-1 visitor must have an unequivocal intent to return to his or her foreign domicile.
Typical Uses of the B-1

The following are examples of clearly acceptable uses of the B-1 category;

  • to engage in commercial transactions that do not involve gainful employment in the U.S. (for instance, a representative of a foreign computer manufacturer coming to the United States to take orders in the United States for computers which are manufactured abroad)
  • to negotiate contracts
  • to consult with business associates
  • to litigate
  • to participate in scientific, educational, professional, or business conventions or conferences; and
  • to undertake independent research. 
B-1 in Lieu of a Work Visa

As indicated above, the B-1 category does not normally permit employment in the United States.  Some exceptions exist, provided that the B-1 visitor falls into one of the following occupational groups and meets the conditions listed:

  • Ministers of religion who are: (i) temporarily exchanging pulpits with American counterparts, or (ii) proceeding to the United States to engage in an evangelical tour; or (iii) coming for the sole purpose of performing missionary work on behalf of a denomination.
  • Personal or domestic servants: (i) of U.S. citizens residing abroad, who accompany or follow to join U.S. citizen employers who have a permanent home (or are stationed) in a foreign country; or (ii) who accompany or follow to join employers who seek admission into (or are already in the United States) in B, E, F, H, I, J, or L nonimmigrant status; or (iii) who are accompanying or following to join U.S. employees regularly stationed abroad but who are temporarily assigned to the United States.
  • Crew members of private yachts that will be sailing in U.S. waters for more than 29 days.
  • Crewmen destined to the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf.
  • Foreign nationals studying at foreign medical schools seeking to enter America temporarily to accept an "elective clerkship" at a U.S. medical school's hospital without remuneration from that hospital.

The "H" classification contains several subcategories of work- or employment- related visas, such as, H-1B for members of the professions, H-2B for temporary (skilled or unskilled) workers, and H-3 for industrial trainees. Certain foreign nationals who would normally be expected to obtain H visas may be issued B-1 visas for the following purposes:

  • Members of the entertainment profession, if coming only to participate in a cultural program sponsored by the sending country, and performing before a nonpaying audience, and if all expenses (including per diem) will be paid by the entertainer's government;
  • Members of "specialty occupations" (the "H-1B" visa category), if coming to the United States to perform services classifiable as H-1B -- that is, to fill a position requiring the services of a "degreed professional" or equivalent, and receiving no salary or other remuneration from a U.S. source other than in expense allowance or other reimbursement for expenses (including room and board) incidental to temporary stay;
  • Persons already employed abroad coming to undertake training that would classify them as H-3 (Industrial Trainees), but who will continue to receive a salary from their foreign employer and will receive no salary from a U.S. source other than an expense allowance or other reimbursement for expenses (including room and board) incidental to temporary stay.  Note that B-1 visitors coming primarily to pursue business training may engage in part-time study in conjunction with the training program;
  • Professional athletes, such as golfers and race drivers, who receive no salary or payment other than prize money for their participation in a tournament or sporting event;
  • Specialists coming to install, service or repair commercial or industrial equipment or machinery purchased from outside the United States, or to train U.S. workers to perform such service, PROVIDED that; (i) the contract of sale specifically requires the seller to perform such services or training; (ii) the foreign national possesses specialized knowledge essential to the seller's contractual obligation to provide services or training; (iii) the foreign national will receive no remuneration from a U.S. source; and (iv) the trip will take place during the first year following purchase;
  • Prospective investors coming to America to seek an investment that would qualify for "E-2" (Treaty Investor) status, provided that the visitor does not perform productive labor or actively participate in the management of the business;
  • Prospective intracompany transferees coming to open or be employed in a new branch, subsidiary, or affiliate of the foreign employer, if the business visitor will be eligible for "L-1" (Intracompany Transferee) status upon obtaining proof of acquisition of physical premises. 
Visa Application

One of the most attractive features of the B-1 category is the relative simplicity by which a visa may be obtained.  Because foreign nationals admitted to the United States as B-1 visitors are not considered to be working in America, no prior petition need be filed with the immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), nor is any advance approval required.

Application for a passport visa is made by the foreign national directly to the U.S. consular office or embassy nearest to this or her place of residence abroad. Applicants must submit: (1) a Nonimmigrant Visa Application; (2) a passport-type photograph; (3) a passport valid for a period of at least six months beyond the date to which they intend to remain in the United States; and (4) whatever supporting evidence is appropriate to establish visa eligibility.

Canadian nationals are generally be exempt from the nonimmigrant visa requirement.

Foreign nationals should keep in mind that the B-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa, meaning that the applicant must have a residence outside of the United States that he or she has no intention of abandoning, and the intention to leave the United States upon completion of his or her visit.

Admission and Time Limits

At the U.S. port of entry, the B-1 visitor's admissibility is determined by an U.S. Customs and Border Protection immigration inspector.  B-1 visitors are admitted for a period of time that is fair and reasonable for completion of the purpose of the trip, but under no circumstances for more than six months initially.

At some foreign airports (particularly in Canada), U.S. immigration authorities have established preclearance inspection facilities through which all U.S.-bound travelers must pass before embarking on their air travel.  These preclearance inspection facilities are the functional equivalent of the immigration inspection checkpoints that exist at airports within the United States.

Extensions of an initial period of authorized stay may be sought by written (occasionally oral) application made to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration (USCIS).  In almost all cases, extensions may be granted in increments of not more than six months each.  There is no appeal from the USCIS decision not to grant an extension.  A streamlined procedure sometimes exists for B-1 visitors seeking to remain for less than 30 additional days.

Spouses and Children

Spouses and children who accompany the B-1 business visitor may be issued B-2 (Visitor for Pleasure) visas.  B-2 visitors or tourists are often admitted to the United States for an initial period of six months whether that length of time is needed or not.  B-2 visitors may seek extensions of time in the same manner described above.


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