B1 and B2 Visitor Visas

Business travelers may enter the United States using a B1 (‘Visitor for Business’) Visa.  In practice, these visas are invariably issued jointly with a B2 (‘Visitor for Pleasure’; i.e., Tourist) visa. This practice means that, if a candidate has an old tourist visa, it may be valid for a planned business trip.

If the candidate comes under the “visa-waiver pilot program” (see details of of this below), there is usually no need to apply for a Visit Visa at all, as long as the candidate wishes to visit the U.S. for three months or less.

While in the US as a business visitor, an individual may:

  • Conduct Negotiations
  • Solicit sales or investment
  • Discuss planned investment or purchases
  • Make investments or purchases
  • Attend Meetings, and participate in them fully
  • Interview and hire staff
  • Conduct research

The following activities require a working visa, and may not be carried out by business visitors:

  • Running a business
  • “Gainful employment”
  • Payment by an organization within the U.S.
  • Participating as a professional in entertainment or sporting events

Obviously there is a considerable ‘gray area’ between what definitely is allowed and what definitely isn’t. It is advisable to err on the side of caution when bringing overseas persons into the USA on business visitor visas. However, in certain strictly limited cases, paid employment may be possible using a ‘H1B’

Those entering on visitor visas will generally be granted six months admission (the maximum allowable is one year) on entry. It may be possible to obtain a six-month extension to the visit visa as long as the candidate will be maintaining visitor status, and there are good reasons to do so. It is sometimes possible to change status to another longer-term visa while in the U.S. as a visitor, as long as the candidate advised the relevant U.S. Embassy or Consulate of this possibility beforehand, or there was no pre-conceived intent to do so.

Important Note: Visit visas should generally be applied for in a country of which the candidate is a Citizen or permanent resident. Applications made in other countries often run a high risk of being turned down. The most common reason for refusal of B1/B2 visas is the applicant showing insufficient evidence of social, family, or economic ties to his/her country of residence that would ensure that s/he would return there following the visit to the U.S.A.

If the necessary conditions are satisfied, the applicant can apply for a visa.

The Visa Waiver Pilot Program:

As long as they are travelling on a participating airline (i.e., most scheduled airlines from participating countries), and hold a return or onward ticket to a country other than Canada, citizens of the following countries do not need a visa for visits to the U.S. of up to 90 days:

Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom.

Those present in the US under the visa waiver scheme are subject to basically the same conditions as those on a B1/B2 visa, except that it is not usually possible to extend the visa while in the U.S., nor change to another visa.

Visitors on private aircraft will require a B1 and B2 visa.