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.
In order to be eligible for a B-1 visa, you will need to show U.S. immigration authorities that you:
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.
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:
Some notable activities that are NOT allowed while visiting the U.S. in B-1 status are:
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?”
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.
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:
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.”