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Matthews Immigration Group | Raleigh Law Firm | B-1 / WB

B-1 / WB Visas

Generally, a citizen of a foreign country who wishes to enter the United States must first obtain a visa, either a nonimmigrant visa for a temporary stay or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. The visa allows a foreign citizen to travel to a U.S. port of entry and request permission of the U.S. immigration inspector to enter the United States. Nonimmigrant visas ("NIVs") are issued to individuals who intend to remain in the United States temporarily. The type of visa a foreign national is issued depends principally upon the nature of the foreign national's proposed activities in the United States, the duration of those activities, and in some instances, his or her nationality. It is often easiest to understand NIVs and their limitations, criteria, and characteristics by distinguishing them in terms of the principal activity authorized by the visa: (a) employment-based NIVs; (b) NIVs for students and exchange visitors; (c) NIVs for business visitors and tourists; and (d) other NIV categories including diplomats, international civil servants, and family relatives.

Temporary worker visas are for persons who want to enter the United States for employment lasting a fixed period of time and are not considered permanent or indefinite. Most of these visas requires the prospective employer to first file a petition with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS"). An approved petition is required to apply for a work visa.

B-1/WB Business Visitor

A B-1 business visa is the most common type of visa to conduct business in the United States. Although most prospective visitors must apply for a B-1 visa at a U.S. Consulate, some foreign nationals can enter the U.S. for up to 90 days in B-1 status without a visa under a Visa Waiver Program. Canadian citizens also are visa exempt.

B-1 business visitors are admitted to the United States for a limited period of time for the purpose of engaging in commercial or professional activity, but not for employment or "local labor for hire." Generally, a B-1 business visitor may not be compensated from a U.S. source; however, a U.S. source may provide an expense allowance that does not amount to actual compensation. Authorized  B-1 business activity includes attending conventions, meetings, and other commercial or professional activities. The H-1B specialty worker, L-1 intracompany transferee, and E treaty trader or investor visas are usually more appropriate for foreign nationals who wish to pursue temporary employment in the U.S. For those who desire to enter the U.S. to conduct business and not for local employment, the B­-1 visa offers expedited processing and simpler requirements than employment visas. Significantly, B-1 status requires nonimmigrant intent and strong ties to one's home country, while H-1B and L-1 status do not have that requirement.

A foreign national coming temporarily to the United States to engage in commercial transactions that do not involve gainful employment in the United States. The foreign national may be engaged in international commerce on behalf of a foreign firm, may not be employed in the U.S. labor market, and may not receive a salary from U.S. sources. The foreign national would typically enter in B-1 or WB (visa waiver for business) status.

B-1 visitors must seek admission only to engage in business-related activities. Examples of permissible B­-1 activities include:

  • Engaging in commercial transactions that do not involve employment in the U.S., such as negotiating contracts and consulting with business associates.

  • Litigation.

  • Attending conventions, conferences, or seminars.

  • Undertaking independent research.

  • Participation in volunteer internships, or observing the conduct of business, professional, or vocational activities, such as temporary "elective clerkships" for foreign medical students.

  • Participation in volunteer programs, such as the service programs of recognized non-profit and religious organizations.

  • Investigation of the possibility of establishing a U.S. company or investment which may qualify the B-1 visitor for L-1 intracompany transfer or E treaty investor or treaty trader status in the future.

  • Participation as a professional entertainer in certain cultural programs sponsored by a foreign country.

  • Utilization of U.S. music recording facilities for the distribution and sale of recordings outside the U.S.

  • Taking photographs.

  • Creating art for regular sale outside the U.S.

Some foreign nationals who will perform actual labor for compensation in the U.S. may be admitted as B-1 visitors, including:

  • Members of Boards of Directors of U.S. corporations coming to the U.S. to attend a board meeting or to perform other functions of board membership.

  • Members of religious, or charitable organizations participating in a volunteer service program. Only reimbursement for expenses is permitted; however, a minister on an evangelical tour may receive unlimited "offering at an evangelical meeting."

  • Certain foreign nationals who would be eligible for H-1B specialty worker or H-3 trainee or J-1 exchange visitor status, such as foreign nationals who will receive reimbursement but not remuneration from a U.S. source for services or participation in training.

  • Certain commercial or industrial workers servicing equipment purchased outside the U.S.; workers training U.S. workers to perform such services; supervisors or trainers of building or construction workers; and employees of foreign exhibitors at international expositions.

  • Personal or domestic servants of U.S. citizens residing abroad visiting the U.S. temporarily, servants of some U.S. citizens temporarily assigned to the U.S., and servants of some foreign nationals in nonimmigrant status.

  • Certain professional athletes who compete for prize money only.

  • Under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), citizens of Canada or Mexico as agents, buyers, and manufacture, production, marketing, sales, distribution, and service personnel.

  • Certain artists, other than photographers, who do not regularly sell their artwork in the U.S.

  • Individuals coming to institutions of higher education and research provided they are engaged in traditional academic activities such as lecturing, demonstrating, etc., and that the duration of the activity is for nine days or less. Such individuals cannot receive more than six of these payments in any six-month period.

Visa Waiver Program

 

Travelers coming to the United States for legitimate business or tourism (B-1 or B-2 category visa) purposes for 90 days or less from qualified countries may be eligible to travel without a visa if they meet the Visa Waiver Program ("VWP") requirements. The program includes countries that provide reciprocal benefits to U.S. citizens. Currently, 38 countries participate in the VWP.​ The VWP enables most citizens or nationals of participating countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. Travelers must have a valid Electronic System for Travel Authorization ("ESTA") approval prior to travel and meet all other requirements. If you prefer to have a visa in your passport, you may still apply for a visitor (B) visa.

Qualifying for a Visitor Visa

There are specific requirements which must be met by applicants to qualify for a visitor visa under U.S. immigration law. The consular officer at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate will determine whether you qualify for the visa. The required presumption under U.S. law is that every visitor visa applicant is an intending immigrant until they demonstrate otherwise. Therefore, applicants for visitor visas must overcome this presumption by demonstrating: (a) that the purpose of their trip is to enter the United States temporarily for business or pleasure; (b) that they plan to remain for a specific, limited period; (c) evidence of funds to cover expenses in the United States; and (d) that they have a residence outside the United States as well as other binding ties that will ensure their departure from the United States at the end of the visit.

Applying for a Visa

Persons intending to apply at a U.S. Consulate for B-1 visas should provide documentation about the purpose of their trip, their intention to return home, and their finances. Specifically, an applicant for B-1 status must have a residence in a foreign country which he or she has no intention of abandoning. Consular officers are required by law to presume that all B-1 visa applicants have immigrant intent unless demonstrated otherwise. B-1 applicants must affirmatively demonstrate nonimmigrant intent. Applicants for visas should generally apply at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country where they live. It is important to apply for a visa well in advance of a planned travel departure date.

Completing Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, is the first step in the visa application process. After you have submitted Form DS-160, print the confirmation page and bring it to your interview. Next, pay the non-refundable visa application fee, if you are required to pay it before your interview. Then, make an appointment for an interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you pay to apply for your visa. You can learn how to schedule an appointment for an interview, pay the application processing fee, review embassy-specific instructions, and much more by visiting the website of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will be applying. The wait time for an interview appointment for applicants can vary, so early application is strongly encouraged. During the visa application process, an ink-free, digital fingerprint scan will be taken. Some visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the visa applicant's interview by a Consular Officer.

  • Applicants for B-1 status should have evidence of ties abroad, which may include permanent employment, business, or financial connections, family ties, and social or cultural associations, that will assist in demonstrating intent to return to a foreign country.

  • B-1 visas are more likely to be issued to applicants from financially and politically stable countries, and to applicants with substantial financial resources.

 

B-1 visitors enter the U.S. for a specifically limited duration.

  • Applicants for B-1 status must provide specific and realistic plans for the entire period of their contemplated visit.

  • Although the "temporary" period of time required for B-1 visa status is not specifically defined, it does signify a limited period of stay. In practice, the period  of time permitted will be defined by the purpose of the business visit.

  • Applicants for B-1 status will generally be admitted for 30 days, unless they can articulate to the immigration officer a reason for a longer period of stay. The maximum period of admission generally is six months. Consular officers and immigration officers must be satisfied that applicants will depart upon completion of the visit.

  • Although most business visits are approved for a period of less than three months, it is possible to obtain a period of admission of 12 months on initial entry. Extensions of stay may be granted for six months at a time if necessary.

  • An applicant's proposed length of stay in the U.S. should not be defined by the maximum period allowable under U.S. law, but rather should be consistent with the time-frame limitations offered by business contacts, relatives, or friends, and with other information provided to the consular officer and/or immigration officer.

 

Applicants for B-1 status must demonstrate that adequate financial arrangements have been made to enable them to fulfill the purpose of their visit to the U.S. without unlawful employment, and to ensure their departure from the U.S.

  • A detailed letter from the applicant's overseas employer is essential. This letter must state the purpose of the applicant's business travel to the U.S., their salary, position, how long they have been employed, and the purpose and expected duration of their U.S. visit.

  • Applicants for B-1 status must also be prepared to provide evidence of support of spouse and children, or other dependents, in the country of foreign residence during the period of their stay in the U.S.

An applicant's prior U.S. immigration history is relevant to the consular officer's decision whether to issue a B-1 visa. A supervisory consular officer reviews all refusals. Some refused applications may be reactivated by reapplication.


B-1 visa holders would be well-advised to bring all documentation previously offered to a consular officer in support of issuance of a B-1 visa with them for possible examination by an immigration officer upon arrival.

Additional Information

 

No assurances regarding the issuance of visas can be given in advance. Therefore, final travel plans or the purchase of non-refundable tickets should not be made until a visa has been issued.

 

Unless canceled or revoked, a visa is valid until its expiration date. If your passport expires, you may use the valid visa for travel and admission to the United States along with your new valid passport containing the same biographic data. Do not remove the visa page. Instead, carry both passports together.

A B-1 visa is automatically invalidated if the visa holder overstays or otherwise violates the terms of his or her nonimmigrant visa status. Such persons must apply for new visa stamps in their home countries, barring extraordinary circumstances. Persons who overstay their admission under VWP cannot enter without a visa in the future.

If an immigration officer believes that an arriving foreign national is not entitled to be admitted, or has committed a misrepresentation, the immigration officer can order a foreign national summarily "removed." There is no appeal from that removal order, and the consequence of such an order is the inability to enter the United States for five years. A B-1 visa holder confronted with the threat of removal can request that the application for admission be withdrawn, but granting such a request is in the immigration officer's discretion. The only other alternative, if appropriate, is to request asylum. A foreign national who has been ordered removed can later apply for a waiver of the removal bar. Also note that foreign nationals who overstay admission for more than 180 days and voluntarily depart cannot reenter the United States for three years, and foreign nationals who overstay admission for one year or more cannot reenter for 10 years.

B-1 in Lieu of H-3

This unique visa category is distinct from the traditional B-1 visa category in that it allows for some hands-on training activities. (As stated above, traditional B-1 visas are generally only appropriate for business activities such as meetings and conferences, and hands-on activities are generally prohibited.) On the other hand, the "B-1 in lieu of H-3" visa category is distinct from the H-3 and J-1 visa categories in terms of the nature, scope, and duration of training that is authorized. Generally, the longer the period of stay and the more hands-on training, the more appropriate a J-1 or H-3 becomes.

 

However, in order for a "B-1 in lieu of H-3" visa to be a legitimate option, the amount of "hands-on" or on-the-job training generally must be limited. While the law and regulations do not quantify the amount of hands-on training that is permissible, it is best to configure a training program such that the hands-on portion of the training remains below 25%. In addition, to increase the likelihood of approval, the initial length of the training program should be limited to three months or less.

 

Finally, the "B-1 in lieu of H-3" option does involve some risk, as there is always a possibility that the U.S. Consulate and/or U.S. Customs and Border Protection ("CBP") at a U.S. port of entry will take the position that this visa type is not appropriate. Should this occur, it may be necessary to secure another visa type.

Visa Denials

 

If a consular officer finds it necessary to deny the issuance of a visitor visa, the applicant may apply again if there is new evidence to overcome the basis for the refusal.

More detailed, case-specific advice is available from Matthews Immigration Group by scheduling a consultation.

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