What Is a Business Visa?

A business visa, also known as the B-1 visa, is a non-immigrant visa into the United States of America. A B-1 visa is required if you are planning to travel to the U.S. for a short period of time for a business-related reason that does not require actual labor or payment from a U.S. source.

The business visa covers, but is not limited to, the following activities:

  • Consulting with business associates
  • Attending scientific, educational, professional, or business conventions and conferences
  • Negotiating a contract
  • Taking part in short-term training
  • Settling an estate
  • Competing in an amateur athletic event
  • Participating in professional athletic competitions where no payment other than prize money is received
  • Undertaking religious activities such as missionary work, evangelical touring, preaching, or volunteer services

Requirements for a Business Visa

In order to successfully apply for a Business Visa to the United States, you must prove the following:

  • The reason for your trip is temporary for business, pleasure, or medical treatment.
  • You plan to stay in the United States for a specific and limited amount of time.
  • You have proof of money to fund your stay.
  • You will not receive any salary from a United States entity.
  • You have a place of residency outside of the United States that you do not plan to give up.
  • You have other social or economic ties outside of the United States that prove you will return to your country of residence.

Exceptions for Requiring a Business Visa

You may not need to apply for a B-1 visa if you come from one of the countries listed in the Visa Waiver Program on the State Department website. If you choose this option, you will only receive a visa waiver for 90 days. This cannot be renewed from within the country except in emergency situations. You will need to show proof of onward travel and may still need to apply for an ESTA.

However, if any of the following statements are true, you may still need to apply for a B-1 visa regardless of whether your country is part of the Visa Waiver Program:

  • Your business trip to the U.S. will last for more than 90 days.
  • You will perform actual work in the U.S. for which you will be paid by a U.S. entity.
  • You will go on frequent or long business trips to the U.S.

Length of Stay on a B-1 Visa

A B-1 visa may cover a period up to 10 years, but the length of each stay will be limited to six months. A B-1 visa may be extended for a maximum stay of up to one year; it can be renewed within the country at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. You must show proof that you will remain a visitor and not seek paid employment.

How to Apply

You should leave plenty of time to apply for your visa. Apply as soon as possible and no later than 60 days before you want to take your trip. If you are planning to come to the country for a conference that is about science or you have a scientific background, you should apply at least 90 days before you plan to travel. You should also avoid buying any airline tickets before you have received your visa. No matter how strong your case is, you should not automatically assume that you will be granted a visa.

  • Step 1 - Candidates should check to see if their country is listed on the visa-waiver program. If it is, they should then apply for the ESTA.
  • Step 2 - Fill out the DS-160 form online and print out the confirmation page.
  • Step 3 - Schedule an interview with your nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Applicants between the ages of 14 and 79 are required to appear in person. Those under 14 or over 79 may be exempt. Note: it is best to apply for this visa within your country of residence. Otherwise, it may be difficult to show enough evidence that you will leave the U.S.
  • Step 4 - Prepare your documents. Make sure you have the following documents with you when you go to your interview:
    • A valid passport that does not expire for at least six months after your intended stay in the U.S.
    • Your printed confirmation page from the DS-160 visa application and proof that you have paid the application fee. Also, be sure you have uploaded a photo to your application.
    • Proof of current income, tax payments, property or business ownership, or assets
    • Your travel itinerary
    • A letter from your employer that details your position, salary, how long you have been employed, and the purpose of this visit to the U.S.
    • Criminal/court records of any arrest or conviction anywhere, even if you completed your sentence or were later pardoned

In addition to the above, you should consider bringing along certain documents based on your present situation:

  • If you are a student, bring your most recent school results, transcripts, and diplomas. Bring evidence of financial support, such as a monthly bank statement or deposit slip.
  • If you are a business visitor or company director, bring evidence of your position in the company.
  • If you are visiting a family member, bring a photocopy of your family member's proof of visa status. For example, their Green Card, naturalization certificate, or visa.
  • If you have previously visited the United States, bring any documents attesting to your previous immigration or visa status.

Applicants Seeking Medical Care

If you want to travel to the U.S. for any medical treatment, you need to bring the following information to your visa interview.

  • A medical diagnosis from a physician in your country of residence explaining your medical situation and why you need to come to the United States for treatment.
  • A letter from a doctor or medical facility in the U.S. stating a willingness to treat your specific medical situation, details of how long they think you will need treatment, and the cost of the treatment (including all fees and expenses).
  • Proof that you or someone you know can pay for your transportation, medical, and living expenses.

Administrative Processing of Business Visa

It often takes up to 90 days for a B-1 visa to be processed, and in some cases, it can take up to six months. When checking your visa status online, find your Batch Number on the Case Status Report. There are only four status remarks.

  • Pending: The application is currently pending administrative processing. Do not contact the embassy while your case is pending.
  • Email Sent: The embassy requires more information from you. They have emailed or called you in order to receive that information. If the status says Email Sent, but you never received an email or phone call, get in touch with the Operator Assisted Information Service.
  • Send Passport (PPT): You need to send your passport to the embassy in order to have the visa issued to you.
  • Processed: The application has been processed. If you have been granted a visa, you will receive it by courier within five business days.

In some instances, you may be able to expedite the visa process. Some consulates and embassies call it an urgent or emergency appointment. You must clearly explain why an expedited appointment is needed and show the dates you plan to travel to the U.S.

B-1 Versus B-2 Visa

 

A B-1 visa is for business-related travel, while a B-2 visa is solely for tourism within the United States. It is common when applying for the B-1 visa to be issued a combination B-1/B-2 visa that allows you to visit as a tourist as well as on business matters.

Ineligible Activities on a B-1 Visa

While visiting the United States on a B-1 visa, you are unable to do any of the following:

  • Run a business
  • Gain employment within the United States
  • Be paid by a company within the United States
  • Participate as a professional in a sporting event that you are being paid for

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I bring dependents on a B-1 visa?

It is not recommended that you apply to bring your dependents with you while traveling to the U.S. on a B-1 visa. There is no dependent visa category on a B-1 visa application. It is generally accepted that you would not bring your dependents to a business meeting or other business activity.

  • How do I show that I only intend to remain in the United States for a limited period of time?

You can prove this by showing one of the following:

  • A return ticket
  • Evidence that you have time-sensitive meetings or activities that you will be taking part in upon your return
  • Proof of property ownership, family that you will return to, or employment in your home country
  • Proof that what you are doing in the U.S. has a specific start and end date.
  • How do I prove that I have sufficient funds?

To prove you have enough money to support your travel in the United States, you can show evidence that things have already been paid for as well as credit card limits and bank statements.

  • What is an E-2 visa?

In the event that you are coming to the U.S. to see if you can start a business here, you will need to apply for the E-2 visa, not the B-1 visa. In order to be eligible for this visa, you must be a citizen of a Treaty Country.

  • Can I get a B-1 visa instead of an H1-B visa?

In some very rare cases, the U.S. Consulate can issue a B-1 visa instead of an H1-B visa. It is possible if a non-U.S.-based company wants to send an employee to work for a short period of time with a U.S.-based client or if a U.S.-based company with subsidiaries abroad wants to bring employees over to the U.S. to work on a specific project for a specific amount of time.

If you need help with a business visa, you can post your question or concern on UpCounsel’s marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Stripe, and Twilio.