B-1 Business Visitor Category
The visitor visas are for persons desiring to enter the US temporarily for business, pleasure or medical treatment. There are two categories in this: B-1 for business visitors and B-2 for pleasure or medical treatment. In practice B-1 visas are issued jointly with B-2 (i.e. visitor for pleasure) visa. Therefore, if a person already has an old tourist visa that will be valid for a planned business trip. Although using the B category for the purpose of study is not permitted, some study ancillary to a legitimate visit to the United States in this category is permissible.
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Qualifying for a visa
The presumption in law is that every visitor visa applicant is an intending immigrant. Therefore, applicants for B-1 visas must overcome this presumption by demonstrating that:
- The purpose of their trip is to enter the U.S. for business;
- That they plan to remain for a specific, limited period;
- Evidence of funds to cover expenses for the trip including all travel, accommodation and living expenses during their stay in the U.S. In case of insufficient financial resources to fund the trip, to provide evidence that his or her employer will provide support;
- Evidence of compelling social and economic ties abroad, that the alien has a residence outside the U.S. as well as other binding ties which will insure his or her return abroad at the end of the visit, and that the alien has a foreign residence that he or she has no intention of abandoning;
- That the alien is not engaged in skilled or unskilled labor, study, or work as a representative of foreign press, radio, film, or other information media; and
- The alien must not be coming to the U.S. to provide services or engage in business activities that are primarily for the benefit of a U.S. employer.
B1 visa is available to visitors coming temporarily to the U.S. to engage in legitimate business activities of a commercial or professional nature. These visa holders may not receive salary, compensation, etc. from any U.S. source except for reimbursement of incidental travel expenses only.
The list of permissible activities under B1 includes engaging in commercial transactions not involving gainful employment, such as taking sales orders or making purchases of inventory or supplies for a foreign employer; negotiating contracts; consulting with business associates; engaging in litigation; or participating in scientific, educational, professional, or business conventions or conferences.
The most common specialized activities include persons coming:
- To serve as a personal or domestic servant for a non-immigrant who is on a temporary assignment in the United States, for a U.S. citizen who is subject to international transfers and is in the U.S temporarily, or a U.S. citizen who visits temporarily to the United States but has a residence abroad;
- To participate in an athletic event as a professional athlete who gets remuneration only in the form of any prize money won by the athlete;
- To participate 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;
- To install, service, or repair, or train U.S. workers to install, service, or repair, equipment or machinery purchased outside of the United States;
- For the purpose of business, which may include conducting negotiations, soliciting sales or investment, and interviewing and hiring staff;
- To perform professional duties that would normally qualify the person for H-1 status except that the alien would not receive any remuneration from a U.S. source;
- To explore the possibilities of setting up subsidiary of a foreign corporation, or to make investments;
- To participate in scientific, educational, professional, or business conventions, conferences or seminars or to conduct research;
- To perform duties including attending board meetings as a member of the board of directors of a U.S. company.
Applying for a visa
Applicants for B-1 visas should generally apply at the American Embassy or Consulate with jurisdiction over their place of permanent residence. Although visa applicants may apply at any U.S. consular office abroad, it may be more difficult to qualify for the visa outside the country of permanent residence.
As part of the visa application process, an interview at the embassy consular section is required for visa applicants. Persons below 13 and above 80 years generally do not require an interview, unless requested by embassy or consulate. Each applicant for a visitor visa must submit these forms and documentation, and submit fees as explained below:
- A Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-156. A letter accompanying the application from the alien's employer specifying the business need for the trip;
- A Supplemental Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-157;
- A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date of at least six months beyond the applicant's intended period of stay in the United States. If more than one person is included in the passport, each person desiring a visa must make an application, and with at least one blank page;
- Two identical color photographs showing full face without head covering against a light background. One may wear a headdress if required by a religious order of which he or she is a member;
- Information describing the company such as brochures, catalogs, annual reports;
- A copy of tour itinerary; and
- Documentation demonstrating ability and intention of the alien, or that of his or her employer, to support the alien's travel and other expenses while in the U.S.
- Unless previously canceled, a visa is valid until its expiration date. Therefore, if the traveler has a valid U.S. visa in an expired passport, do not remove the visa page from the expired passport. It may be used along with a new valid passport for travel and admission to the United States.
Applicants must demonstrate that they are properly classifiable as Business visitors under U.S. law by:
- Evidence, which shows the purpose of the trip, intent to depart the United States, and arrangements made to cover the costs of the trip, may be provided. It is impossible to specify the exact form the documentation should take since applicants' circumstances vary greatly.
- Those applicants who do not have sufficient funds to support themselves while in the U.S. must present convincing evidence that an interested person will provide support.
- Depending on individual circumstances, applicants may provide other documentation substantiating the trip's purpose and specifying the nature of binding obligations, such as family ties or employment, which would compel their return abroad.
- Visitors are not permitted to accept employment during their stay in the U.S.
Terms of Stay and Extensions
B-1 visitors may be admitted for not more than one year and may be granted extensions of temporary stay in increments of not more than six months each (several minor exceptions to this rule exist). However, most B-1 admissions are approved for just the period necessary to conduct business and are normally permitted to stay no longer than three months.
A visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. Immigration authorities have the authority to deny admission, and can determine the period for which the bearer of a visitor visa is to be authorized to remain in the United States. At the port of entry, an Immigration official must authorize the traveler's admission to the U.S. At that time the Form I-94, Record of Arrival-Departure, which notes the length of stay permitted, is stamped. Visitors intend to stay beyond the time indicated on their Form I-94 must contact the USCIS to request Form I-539, Application to Extend status. The decision to grant or deny a request for extension of stay is made solely by the USCIS.