B-1 Business Visas

In general, travelers seeking admission into the United States to conduct business require valid B-1 visas unless they are eligible to travel as a business visitor (Waiver Business (WB)) under the Visa Waiver program (VWP) or are Canadian.

In some instances, travelers who may qualify to travel visa free (WB) under the Visa Waiver program may wish to apply for a B-1 visa instead, which generally allows for a 6 month entry instead of the 90 days under the WB.

The definition of “business” is limited, and does not generally allow for gainful employment or productive activity such as working for a U.S. employer, operating a business or consultancy work.

The B-1 or WB categories may be used for the following activities:

  • Engaging in commercial transactions which do not involve gainful employment in the United States;
  • Negotiation of contracts;
  • Business meetings and consultations with business associates;
  • Litigation;
  • Participation in scientific, educational, professional or business conventions, conferences, seminars;
  • Conducting independent research.

 

Other business activities covered by the B-1 Business Visitor Visa or Visa Waiver Program (WB)

 

Speakers/Lecturers

If you are traveling to the United States in connection with a speaking engagement you may come on a B-1 or WB, provided there is no remuneration from a U.S. source, other than expenses incidental to the visit. Speakers/Lecturers who will receive an honorarium in addition to incidental expenses may be eligible for the B-1 visa or WB provided all of the following are met:

  • The activities will last no longer than nine days at a single institution;
  • The institution is a nonprofit research organization or a governmental  research organization, or an institution of higher education, or a related or affiliated nonprofit entity;
  • Such activities are conducted for the benefit of the institution or entity; and
  • The speaker/lecturer has not accepted such payment or expenses from five such institutions during the previous six month period.

 

Conferences

Participants in scientific, educational, professional, or business conventions, conferences or seminars may travel to the United States on a B-1 visa or WB. The B-1 visa or WB is also appropriate if presenting a paper at the conference, provided there is no remuneration from a U.S. source other than expenses incidental to the stay. Those who will receive an honorarium in addition to incidental expenses will only be eligible for the B-1 visa or WB if all of the following are met:

  • The activities will last no longer than nine days at a single institution;
  • The institution is a nonprofit research organization or a governmental  research organization, or an institution of higher education, or a related or affiliated nonprofit entity;
  • Such activities are conducted for the benefit of the institution or entity; and
  • The speaker/lecturer has not accepted such payment or expenses from five such institutions during the previous six month period.

 

Researchers

An individual who will engage in independent research may be eligible for a B-1 visa or WB provided there is no remuneration from a U.S. source and the results of the research will not benefit a U.S. organization.

 

Prospective Investors Seeking Investment in the United States

The B-1 visa or WB is the appropriate visa to use to travel to the United States as a prospective investor seeking an investment in the United States including an investment that would qualify him or her for status as an E-2 investor. This includes looking for potential sites for a business and/or to lease premises, negotiating contracts or purchasing inventory, etc.. However, the B-1 or WB individual is prohibited from performing productive labor or from actively engaging in the management of the business prior to being granted E-2 status.

 

Trade Shows and Exhibitions

An individual traveling to the United States to take part in an exhibition, set up an exhibition booth, display samples, sign contracts, and take orders for merchandise produced in and delivered from their home country, may enter with a B-1 visa or WB. The person may not actually sell or take orders for merchandise produced in the United States.

 

Commercial or Industrial Workers

A B-1 or WB visitor may come to the United States to install, service or repair commercial or industrial equipment or machinery purchased from a company outside the United States or to train U.S. workers to perform such services. In such cases:

  • The sales contract must specifically require the seller to provide such services or training;
  • The B-1/WB visitor must possess the specialized knowledge essential to perform the services or training; and
  • The B-1/WB must receive no remuneration from a U.S. source.

These provisions do not cover building or construction work, even if the purchase contract requires that the company provide such services, except for a B-1 or WB visitor who is supervising or training other workers engaged in building or construction work, but not actually performing any such building or construction work.

 

Professional Entertainers

In general, a professional entertainer requires an O or P visa to perform in the United States regardless of the amount or source of compensation, or whether the services will involve a public appearance or whether the performance is for charity. This includes not only performing artists such as stage and movie actors, musicians, singers and dancers, but also other personnel such as technicians, electricians, make-up specialists, film crew members coming to the United States to produce films, etc.

 

Professional Entertainers who are Participants in Cultural Programs

A professional entertainer may be eligible for a B-1 visa or WB in the following circumstances:

  • The entertainer is participating in a cultural program sponsored by the sending country;
  • He or she will be performing before a nonpaying audience; and
  • All expenses will be paid by the member’s government.

 

Participants in International Competitions

A professional entertainer may be eligible for a B-1 visa or WB if s/he is

  • participating in a competition for which there is no remuneration, other than a prize (monetary or otherwise) and expenses.

 

Still Photographers

Still photographers can enter the United States on a B-1 or WB for the purpose of taking photographs provided that they receive no income from a U.S. source.

 

Musicians

A musician may use a B-1 visa or WB provided:

  • The musician is coming to the United States in order to utilize recording facilities for recording purposes only;
  • The recording will be distributed and sold only outside of the United States; and
  • No public performances will be given.

 

Artists

An artist coming to the United States to paint, sculpt, etc. who is not under contract with a U.S. employer and who does not intend to regularly sell such art-work in the United States, may use the B-1 or WB.

 

Professional Athletes

Professional athletes such as golfers and auto racers who receive no salary or payment other than prize money for his/her participation in a tournament or sporting event, are eligible to enter with a B-1 visa or WB.

Athletes or team members who seek to enter the United States as members of a foreign based team in order to compete with another sports team are also eligible for B-1 visas or WB provided:

  • Their principal place of business or activity is in a foreign country;
  • The income of the foreign based team and the salary of its players are principally accrued in a foreign country; and
  • The foreign based sports team is a member of an international sports league, or the sporting activities involved have an international dimension.

 

Short Term Assignments or Special Projects for Individuals Normally Classifiable as H-1B or H-3

There are instances when individuals who qualify for H-1B or H-3 visas may more appropriately enter as a “B-1 in lieu of H-1B visa” to perform H-1B services or a “B-1 in lieu of H-3 training visa” to participate in a training program. In such a case, the applicant must not receive any salary or remuneration from a U.S. source other than an expense allowance or other reimbursement for expenses incidental to the individual’s temporary stay. It is essential that the remuneration or source of income for services performed in the United States continue to be provided by the business entity located abroad. In order to qualify for a B-1 in lieu of H-1B visa, there must be an office abroad and the payroll must be disbursed abroad. The employee must also be customarily employed by the foreign firm, the employing entity must pay the employee’s salary and the source of the employee’s salary must be abroad.

 

Training

A B-1 or WB visitor may participate in a training program that is not designed primarily to provide employment and provided the visitor will receive no payment or income from a U.S. based company, other than an expense allowance or reimbursement related to the traveler’s stay.

 

Voluntary Work

Individuals participating 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, may be eligible for a B-1 visa or WB if the work to be performed is traditionally done by volunteer charity workers; they will receive no salary or remuneration from a U.S. source, other than an allowance or other reimbursement for expenses incidental to their stay in the United State; and they will not engage in the selling of articles and/or the solicitation and acceptance of donations.

A voluntary service program is an organized project conducted by a recognized religious or nonprofit charitable organization to provide assistance to the poor or the needy, or to further a religious or charitable cause.

 

Medical Elective

A medical student studying at a foreign medical school and who seeks to enter the United States temporarily in order to take an “elective clerkship” at a U.S. medical school’s hospital without remuneration from the hospital may be eligible for a B-1 visa or WB.

NOTE: The medical clerkship is only for medical students pursuing their normal third or fourth year internship in a U.S. medical school as part of a foreign medical school degree and does not cover those seeking training as physiotherapists, dentists, nurses or vets. (An “elective clerkship” affords practical experience and instructions in the various disciplines of medicine under the supervision and direction of faculty physicians at a U.S. medical school’s hospital as an approved part of the alien’s foreign medical school education. It does not apply to graduate medical training, which normally requires a J-visa).

 

Domestic Employees

Personal or domestic servants who are accompanying or following to join an employer in the United States are eligible for B-1 visas. This category of persons includes, but is not limited to, cooks, butlers, chauffeurs, housemaids, parlormaids, valets, footmen, nannies, au pairs, mothers’ helpers, gardeners, and paid companions.

Accompanying a Nonimmigrant Visa Holder

Personal or domestic servants who are accompanying or following to join an employer who seeks admission into, or who is already in, the United States in B, E, F, H, I, J, L, M, O, P, Q, or R nonimmigrant status may be eligible for the B-1 visa classification provided:

  • The employee has a residence abroad which he or she has no intention of abandoning;
  • The employee can demonstrate at least one year’s experience as a personal or domestic employee;
  • The employee has been employed outside the United States by the employer for at least one year prior to the date of the employer’s admission to the United States, or if the employer-employee relationship existed immediately prior to the time of application, the employer can demonstrate that he has regularly employed (either year-round or seasonally) domestic help over a period of years preceding the time of application; and
  • The employee has at least one year’s experience as a personal or domestic servant as attested to by statements from previous employers.

Accompanying an American Citizen

Personal or domestic servants who are accompanying or following to join their United States citizen employer in the United States may be eligible for the B-1 visa classification if their employer ordinarily resides outside the United States (i.e. has a permanent home or is stationed in a foreign country) and is traveling to the United States temporarily, or the employer is subject to frequent international transfers lasting two years or more and who, as a condition of employment, is going to reside in the United States for a stay not to exceed four years. In addition,

  • The employee must have a residence abroad which he or she has no intention of abandoning;
  • The employer-employee relationship must have existed for at least six months prior to the employer’s admission to the United States or, alternatively, that the employer has regularly employed a domestic servant in the same capacity while abroad;
  • The employee has had at least one year experience as a personal or domestic servant by producing statements from previous employers attesting to such experience; and
  • The employee is in possession of an original contract or a copy of the contract, which contains the original signatures of both the employer and the employee.

NOTE: It is not possible to qualify for a B-1 visa if the United States citizen will reside permanently in the United States, even if the individual concerned has previously been in the United States citizen’s employ abroad.

 

Religious activities covered by the B-1 visa

The following is a list of religious activities which may be undertaken on a B-1 visa or WB under the Visa Waiver program.

 

Missionary Work

Ministers of religious denominations, whether ordained or not, entering the United States temporarily for the sole purpose of performing missionary work on behalf of a denomination may be eligible for a B-1 visa, provided that he or she receives no salary or remuneration from the United States other than an allowance or other reimbursement for expenses incidental to the stay, and the work which is performed in the United States will not involve the selling of articles or the solicitation or acceptance of donations. Missionary work for this purpose may include religious instruction, aid to the elderly or needy, proselytizing, etc.. It does not include ordinary administrative work, nor should it be used as a substitute for ordinary labor for hire.

 

Evangelical Tour

Ministers of religion proceeding to the United States to temporarily engage in an evangelical tour who do not plan to take an appointment with any one church and who will be supported by offerings contributed at each evangelical meeting may be eligible for a B-1 visa.

 

Preaching or Exchanging Pulpits

Ministers of religion who will be preaching in the United States for a temporary period, or will be exchanging pulpits with a U.S. counterpart may be eligible for a B-1 visa, provided that she or he will continue to be reimbursed by the foreign church and will receive no salary from the host church in the United States.

 

Other B-1 or WB permissible activities include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Members of Board of Directors of U.S. corporations coming to the United States to attend a meeting of the board or to perform other functions resulting from membership on the board.
  • Crewmen of a private yacht who are able to establish that they have a residence abroad which they do not intend to abandon, regardless of the nationality of the private yacht. The yacht must sail out of a foreign home port and cruise in U.S. waters for more than 29 days.
  • Horse Races: Individuals coming to the United States to perform services on behalf of a foreign-based employer as a jockey, sulky driver, trainer or groomer.