If you need to visit the U.S. temporarily for business, a B-1 visa is available for that purpose. The B-1 visa allows foreign citizens to travel to the U.S. to conduct certain business activities for periods between one month and one year.
Keep in mind that if you are from one of the many countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program and your planned trip is for 90 days or less, you may be able to travel to U.S. without first applying for a B-1 visa. For more on this, see “Who Can Visit the U.S. on the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).”
The following article will detail who is eligible to obtain a business visitor visa and which business activities you are allowed to conduct while in the United States.
Eligibility Criteria for a B-1 Visa
In order to be eligible for a B-1 visa, you will need to show U.S. immigration authorities that you:
- plan to travel to the U.S. to conduct legitimate (and temporary) business activities
- will remain for only a limited, specific period of time (for example, for a business conference)
- have financial resources to cover your living expenses for the duration of the trip and your transportation to and from the U.S.
- have a permanent home outside the U.S. and other “binding ties” to your home country (such as family or job) showing that you will return after your stay, and
- are not inadmissible to the United States for other reasons. (For more on the criminal, medical, and immigration-related issues that could hamper your attempts to visit the U.S., see “Inadmissibility: When the U.S. Can Keep You Out.”)
You will need to present several documents when you apply for the B-1 visa at the U.S. embassy or consulate abroad (and to the official at the U.S. border) to prove that you have “nonimmigrant intent” – that is, that you plan to make only a brief and temporary visit to the U.S. and that you are able and willing to return to your home country afterward. This can include evidence of sufficient funds to pay for your expenses during your time in the U.S., a lease or deed for your foreign residence, a letter confirming your job at a foreign company, and documents showing that your business trip is a short-term one.
What Types of Business Activities Are Allowed on a B-1 Visa?
The most important thing to remember is that you can’t work for a U.S. company or be paid for your activities as a “business visitor” from a U.S. source. So if you are visiting a U.S. subsidiary or parent company, you should make sure that your salary continues to be paid by your foreign employer – even during your visit. Any payment from a U.S. source may be considered unauthorized employment and may jeopardize your attempts to travel or immigrate to the U.S. in the future.
Some examples of legitimate and temporary business activities that people have conducted on a B-1 visa are:
- attending business conferences and meetings
- taking part in business, educational, religious, scientific, or professional conventions and seminars
- conducting independent research, such as feasibility or marketing studies
- engaging in “start-up” activities (for example, exploring U.S. investment opportunities)
- participating in business litigation, such as giving a deposition or testifying at trial
- purchasing U.S. materials and goods for use in foreign commerce
- giving or attending a lecture, presentation, or other speaking engagement
- participating in short-term job or skills training
- settling an estate
- negotiating contracts and leases, and
- “deadheading,” in which certain foreign air crewmen carry members of flight staff free of charge to another job location
Some notable activities that are NOT allowed while visiting the U.S. in B-1 status are:
- attending academic courses (both for credit and not-for-credit) that are NOT part of work-related training, and
- working – even informally as a musician, babysitter, artist, hawker, or other traditionally “off the books” position.
Are Job Interviews Allowed on a B-1 Visa?
Job interviews and contacting prospective U.S. employers are not specifically forbidden while visiting the U.S. using a B-1 visa.
However, if you state to the consular official that your purpose in visiting the U.S. is to interview for employment, he or she may infer that you intend to move to the U.S. permanently and deny your visa. While you should always be truthful in your applications and statements to U.S. government officials, you may want to state that your business purpose is to confer with associates unless asked specifically whether you are planning to interview. If you do reveal that you are interested in eventually working in the U.S., make sure to have plenty of evidence to prove that you would return to your home country and apply for the appropriate employment-based visa or green card before starting a position with a U.S. employer.
For more about this, see “Will Finding a Job in the U.S. Get You a Green Card?”
Your Companion May Accompany You on a B-2 Visa
While you can’t apply for an additional B-1 visa (also known as “derivative status”) for your spouse, significant other, or other family members, they may be able to accompany you on a B-2 tourist visa for pleasure. The application process is the same as applying for the B-1 visa and your family member must also qualify for the visa.
You can learn more at “A B-2 Visa for Visiting the U.S. as a Tourist: Do You Qualify?” and at “How Same-Sex Partners Can Accompany Temporary (Nonimmigrant) Visa Holders to the U.S.” This is a good option to avoid separation during longer visits.
Personal and Domestic Servants May Be Eligible for a B-1 Visa
Domestic and personal servants such as nannies, maids, and valets can apply for a B-1 visa to accompany U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and several categories of visa holders to the United States.
However, once in the U.S., you will also need to apply for a work permit using USCIS Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization and you will need to have a valid contract between you and your employer. In addition, you must demonstrate that:
- you have a permanent residence abroad to which you intend to return
- you have at least one year of experience as a personal or domestic servant, and
- you have been employed abroad by your employer for at least one year prior to the trip to the United States. If you have worked for your employer for less than a year, the employer must show that he or she has regularly employed a domestic servant in the same position for one year or more at his or her foreign residence.
How to Apply
If you think the B-1 visa is the one for you, the next step is to visit the U.S. embassy or consulate nearest you to apply for one. To learn more about the application process for a B-1 visa, visit Nolo’s article, “Application Process for a B-1 or B-2 Visitor Visa.”