B-1 Visa Roadmap

The B-1 visa classification allows foreign nationals to temporarily visit the United States to conduct business. This typically includes legitimate commercial and professional activities such as attending business meetings, conferences, and conventions, investigating possible business investments, conducting negotiations, litigating, or undertaking independent research. Under certain circumstances, permitted B-1 activities may also include receiving training or volunteering for religious or nonprofit charitable organizations. In addition, there are special rules for certain professions, including but not limited to domestic servants of U.S. citizens or foreign temporary workers, athletes, artists, still photographers, musicians, participants in international competitions, trainers, and horse racetrack personnel.

In general, B-1 visitors are prohibited from engaging in employment or hands-on work while in the U.S. and from receiving any salary or other remuneration from a U.S. source other than expenses incidental to their stay. If the B-1 visitor is employed, the employer must have an office outside the U.S. and its payroll must also be disbursed from outside the U.S. The B-1 visitor’s employer may be a wholly-owned subsidiary of a U.S. parent corporation.

B-1 visitors are prohibited from attending school for credit but may engage in study that is avocational or recreational in nature.

B-1 Requirements 

The main requirements for obtaining a B-1 visa are:

  • A valid business reason for visiting the U.S.
  • A residence abroad which the visa applicant does not intend to abandon and to which he or she has strong ties.
  • The visit to the U.S. will have a specific duration of time.
  • Sufficient funds to cover expenses while in the U.S.

Documentation

B-1 applicants must provide the following documents for their visa application:

  • Passport (valid for at least six months beyond the desired period of stay).
  • Interview appointment letter.
  • Confirmation page for completed DS-160 Nonimmigrant Visa Application (filed online).
  • Receipt for payment of visa application fees.
  • Current passport-style photo.
  • Documentation regarding the trip’s purpose, the applicant’s ability to cover all expenses of the trip, and the applicant’s intent to depart the U.S. after the temporary business trip, e.g. in form of a letter from the foreign employer stating:
    •  The nature of the employer’s business activities, year founded, number of employees, and annual revenue;
    • The applicant’s position and tenure with the foreign employer;
    • That the applicant is a full-time, paid employee of the foreign employer;
    • The purpose of the applicant’s visit to the U.S.;
    • The expected duration of the visit; and
    • That the applicant will return to the home country after the temporary visit.

Admission

Admission may be granted for up to one year, depending on the purpose of the trip. Extension of B-1 status is limited to six-month increments and filed from within the U.S. on Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. The same form is used for B-1 visitors who wish to change status to another nonimmigrant category, such as for example F-1, L-1, or E-1/E-2 status while in the U.S.

 

Family

A spouse, child, or any other dependent or immediate family member wanting to accompany or join the B-1 business visitor in the U.S. must apply separately for a B-2 tourist visa. While in B-2 status, dependents are neither authorized to work nor permitted to attend school with the exception of minor children, who may be allowed to attend school if they are accompanying a parent and the schooling would be incidental to the reason for the parent traveling to the U.S.

 

Strategies/Options

Canadian and Mexican Nationals

The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement (USMCA) which replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), continues to allow citizens of Mexico and Canada to enter the U.S. to engage in prearranged business activities at a professional level. The range of permitted business activities under the USMCA is wider than that for B-1 visitors from other countries and includes research and design; growth, manufacture, and production; marketing; sales; distribution; after-sales services; and general service; commercial transactions; public relations and advertising; tourism; tour bus operation; and translation. Nonetheless, Mexican or Canadian business visitors under the USMCA must still satisfy all other requirements for B-1 status, including valid nonimmigrant intent and no income from a U.S. source other than an expense allowance or reimbursement. In addition, the USMCA business visitor’s foreign employer must be a Mexican or Canadian enterprise. Mexican citizen business visitors must have either a Border Crossing Card or apply for a B visa, while their Canadian counterparts are exempt from the visa requirement.

B-1 in Lieu of H-1B
A foreign worker who would otherwise qualify for H-1B status may apply for a B-1 visa instead if certain conditions are met:

  •  The foreign worker must engage in hands-on work that meets the H-1B specialty occupation standard and would normally require an H-1B visa (training U.S. workers is also a permissible activity);
  •  The H-1B caliber activity in the U.S. will last no more than six months; and
  • While the foreign worker may receive an expense allowance or reimbursement incidental to the temporary stay from the U.S. entity, his or her salary must continue to be paid by the employer abroad.
    While H-1B status allows for dual intent, applicants for B-1 in lieu of H-1B status must still overcome the presumption of immigrant intent.

B-1 in Lieu of H-3
Under certain circumstances, a person otherwise eligible for H-3 status may obtain a B-1 visa instead. To pursue this route, the trainee must not receive any salary or remuneration from a U.S. source other than an expense allowance or other reimbursement incidental to the training in the U.S. A typical scenario is where the trainee’s foreign employer has a factory or facility in the U.S. where the employee needs to learn new policies, procedures or skills which will then be brought back and applied to the employee’s work abroad.

B-1 in Lieu of R-1
Some religious activities do not constitute “work” and thus can be performed while in B-1 visitor status. Typical examples include attending religious services or conferences, engaging in private worship, prayer or meditation, or pursuing informal religious study. Ministers coming to the U.S. on an evangelical tour or to temporarily exchange pulpits with their U.S. counterparts may also do so in B-1 status.
Members of religious denominations who enter the U.S. temporarily and solely to perform unpaid missionary or certain volunteer work may qualify for B-1 in lieu of R-1 status, as long as their activities involve neither the solicitation or acceptance of donations nor the selling of articles.

B-1 vs Visa Waiver Program (VWP)
Citizens of countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program (WVP) have the option to forego obtaining a B-1 visa and instead apply online through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) if they plan to visit the U.S. for no more than 90 days. Each applicant will need a valid machine-readable passport. Visitors under the VWP are not able to extend their stay beyond those initial 90 days, nor are they permitted to apply for a change of status while in the U.S. However, an exception is generally made for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens (i.e., spouses, parents, or unmarried children under the age of 21) who may apply for adjustment of status to that of a lawful permanent resident.

Legal and policy sources:

Immigration policies and regulations are complex and frequently subject to change. The information contained in this roadmap is intended to provide you with a general overview and may not address your particular circumstances and needs. Serotte Law will assist you with the application and documentation process and answer any questions you may have about the B-1 classification. Request a consultation or give us a call at 888-875-8110.

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