The B1 visa allows foreign nationals to visit the United States for business purposes. This visa does not provide a path for visa holders to obtain employment in the United States. Instead, the intent of this visa is to allow people to come to the U.S. to participate in conventions, seminars, and conferences, as well as negotiate contracts and consult with business associates.
Those coming to the U.S. with a B1 visa can not be paid a salary from a U.S. employer while in the country.
What Is a B1 Visa?
The B1 visa is a non-immigrant visa issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The visa provides holders with the legal right to visit the United States on a temporary basis to conduct business. The B1 visa is among the most commonly issued U.S. visas.
The B1 business visa is essential for fostering international business relationships. Not only does it help businesses from other countries to grow and expand in the U.S. market, but through the connections made with those traveling under this visa, U.S. companies are also able to expand further into the international sphere.
What Are the Requirements for a B1 Visa?
To apply for a B1 visa, you must meet all the B1 visa eligibility requirements and complete the following steps:
- Complete and submit Form DS-160
- Pay the required B1 visa fees
- Schedule your B1 visa interview
- Prepare your B1 visa documents
- Attend your interview
Eligibility Criteria to Apply for a B1 Visa
To obtain a B1 visa, applicants must meet several eligibility requirements. According to USCIS, in order to be approved for a B1 visa, you must be able to show that:
- Your primary purpose for entering the U.S. is to participate in legitimate business practices
- You have no intention of settling in the United States on a long-term basis
- You have sufficient funds to cover your travel, accommodation, and business expenses while in the United States
- You have a residence outside the United States that you do not intend to abandon
- You have other bonding ties to your home country that you do not intend to abandon
- You have no restrictions against you that would bar you from entering the United States
If you can show that you meet all the above B1 visa requirements, you will be able to submit your application for a B1 business visa.
Not all those who come to the United States for business need to apply for a B1 visa. For example, citizens of countries included in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) are exempt from this requirement. Instead, members of VWP countries can apply for the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). This process is faster and easier than obtaining a B1 visa.
In some cases, those applying for a B1 visa will need to obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). While this document is generally not required for people traveling to the U.S. on a non-immigrant business visa, there are certain situations where obtaining an EAD is necessary, including:
- If you are a personal or domestic servant accompanying an employer who is traveling with a B, E, F, H, I, J, L, or TN visa
- If you are a domestic servant of a U.S. citizen who is stationed outside the U.S. and is visiting the country temporarily
- If you are an employee of a foreign airline traveling to the United States
B1 Visa Benefits
There are several benefits to obtaining a B1 visa. One of the primary benefits of choosing this option for traveling to the U.S. is that you do not need an approved visa petition from USCIS in order to apply.
Other benefits include that you can apply for a B1 visa in person at the American Consulate closest to your residence and that obtaining a B1 visa is far quicker and easier than securing many other visa types.
Application Procedure for B1 Visa
There are five main steps in the application process for obtaining a B1 visa.
Complete Form DS-160
Form DS-160: Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application is the application form you will need to fill out to apply for a B1 visa. This form is completed online and will require you to fill out information about your background, your current situation, and the reason you intend to travel to the United States.
After you have submitted the application form, you will receive a confirmation page with a number you will need later in the application process. You can complete your DS-160 online through the Consular Electronic Application Center or with the help of a visa processing assistant.
Pay the B1 Visa Fees
Before you can schedule your visa interview, you will need to pay the $160 B1 visa application fee.
In addition to this fee, you may have to pay additional fees, including a visa issuance fee. The amount you will pay for this fee depends on the relationship between the United States and your home country. After paying all fees, be sure to save the receipts to include with the rest of your supporting documents.
Schedule Your Visa Interview
If you are between the ages of 14 and 79, you are required to attend a visitor visa interview before you can obtain your B1 visa. Your visa interview will be held at the U.S. Embassy where you are applying. When you schedule your interview, you will receive a confirmation notice that you must bring with you to your interview.
Prepare Your B1 Visa Documents File
You will need to bring several supporting documents with you to your interview. As part of your application, you must include the following:
- Form DS-160 confirmation page and code
- Your passport which must be valid for at least six months beyond your planned stay in the United States
- Details of all your social media accounts
- The confirmation notice of your interview
- A photo that meets the U.S. visa photo requirements
- A letter describing the purpose of your trip
- Bank statements proving that you have the necessary funds to support your stay in the United States
- Evidence of ties to your home country, including family, a work contract, a lease contract, and/or a property deed
- Criminal records or letters from authorities stating that you do not have any prior convictions
- Documents relevant to past visits to the U.S. if this is not your first visit
- A letter from your employer and payslips for the last three months if you are employed
- A letter from the company regarding the details of your trip and your job position
Attend the Interview
Once your interview date arrives, you will need to bring all your documents and be prepared to answer questions from the interviewer. Questions will include requests for information about your background, the purpose of your visit, the business you will be participating in while in the United States, and your intention to return to your home country.
Be specific with your answers giving details about the business you plan to conduct and other activities you are likely to participate in while in the United States.
How Long Is the B1 Visa Processing Time?
Processing time for your B1 visa application will vary depending on the workload of the U.S. Embassy where you apply. Additionally, other factors considered by the immigration officer can affect the time it will take to receive an answer. Because of this, it is impossible to give a precise answer regarding processing time.
After your application has been reviewed, you will be notified whether it was approved or not.
How Long Can I Stay in the U.S. With a B1 Visa?
The initial validity period for a B1 visa is six months. The assumption is that you will be able to complete all business you have in the United States within this six-month period. After the six-month period has passed, you will be expected to return to your home country.
Is There Any Extension for a B1 Visa?
It is possible to apply for an extension to your B1 business visa if six months is not going to be enough to complete your business dealings.
In order to apply for an extension, you must prove that you have not completed all the business you are in the country to conduct. Additionally, you must provide a confirmation letter from your employer, proving that your extended stay is essential for their business.
However, attempting to extend your stay could be difficult, depending on your current financial situation. Since you are not allowed to work for a U.S. company while in the country on a business visa, you will again have to show that you have enough funds to cover the rest of your stay in the country.
Can I Get a Green Card as a B1 Visa Holder?
The B1 visa is a non-immigrant visa. Because of this designation, you can not enter the country with this visa with the intention of remaining in the United States on a permanent basis. Since you must prove your intention to return to your home country during your interview, it can present a challenge if you attempt to apply for a green card while in the U.S. on a B1 visa.
To apply for permanent residency while in the country on a B1 visa, you must meet one of the following criteria:
- Have a family member in the U.S. and apply to join them
- Marry a United States citizen as part of a legitimate marriage
- Find a job in the U.S. where the employer is willing to sponsor your visa
However, even though meeting one of these conditions to apply for a B1 visa might make it possible to obtain a green card, you have to be aware that your application will be highly scrutinized. You will need to show that you did not have the intention to remain in the United States when you first applied for the B1 visa.
Can a B1 Visa Holder Bring Their Family Members?
Unlike many immigrant visas, a B1 visa does not provide a direct path for your family member to join you in the United States. If you come to the United States on a B1 visa, your family will have to apply for a B2 visitor visa to join you.
If they are granted the B2 visa, your family member will be able to join you for six months and can potentially extend their stay for up to one year. Your family member’s visa application will not be tied to your approval for a B1 visa. Instead, these applications are all processed individually.
Will B1 Visa Holder Get Access to U.S. Healthcare?
You will not automatically receive U.S. healthcare when you come to the United States as a B1 visa holder. It is critical to realize that the United States healthcare system is the most expensive of any country in the world.
Because of the high cost of healthcare in the United States, it is advisable to purchase a health insurance plan to cover your costs.
Certain Cases That Fall Within the Category of B1 Visas
Sometimes, it is clear whether or not a B1 visa is the correct choice for your situation. However, in other cases, it can be a bit more difficult to determine if the B1 visa is right for you. Some of the valid reasons for applying for a B1 business visa include to:
- Participate in a scientific, educational, professional, business, or religious convention
- Work on specific projects in the United States while being paid by a foreign employer
- Participate in commercial transactions not involving gainful employment, including negotiating contracts and consulting with business associates
- Undertake independent research, including feasibility studies and market research
- Attend professional or business workshops, seminars, or conferences
- Explore the possibility of setting up a subsidiary for a foreign corporation
- Make investment decisions
- Serve as a personal or domestic servant accompanying a U.S. citizen or non-immigrant employer in the country on a B, E, F, H, I, J, L, M, O, P, R, or TN visa
- Install or service equipment pursuant to a contract of sale
- Provide after-sale services to a customer
- Attend meetings as a member of the Board of Directors of a U.S. corporation
- Observe business, professional, or vocational activity as long as no hands-on activity is required
- Compete for tournament money in an athletic competition
- Conduct business consultations with business associates in the United States
- Procure goods, components, or raw materials for use outside the U.S. as a purchasing agent for a foreign employer
- Come to the United States in conjunction with litigation
- Render professional services in the United States, which would otherwise qualify them for an H1B visa if they weren’t being paid by a source outside of the country
- Undertake an established training program that would otherwise qualify them for an H3 visa if they weren’t employed by a company abroad
- Engage in productive employment in the U.S. as an employee of a foreign airline who is paid in the U.S. and is not eligible for E1 treaty trader status
- Engage in activity as a religious missionary
- Engage in activity as a crew member of a yacht
- Work as a foreign business consultant providing training or expert advice to a U.S. company
- Perform duties as a guest speaker or lecturer at a United States university
Additionally, the B1 business visa may be the right choice for you in special situations if you are a Canadian or Mexican such as if you work as a truck driver and are transporting commodities across the border.
Get Started on Your B1 Business Visa Application Today
If you are planning to travel to the United States on a business trip, it is essential that you take care of all your required paperwork as quickly as possible. With the potential for delays in the processing time of your B1 visa due to a backlog at the embassy where you are applying, you need to leave plenty of time for your application to be processed.
To avoid additional delays, it is critical that you file your application correctly. An immigration services company like ImmigrationDirect can provide you with all the tools you need to ensure that your B1 business visa application is completed correctly and filed on time. Reach out to us today to get started and ensure that you are ready to travel to the U.S. for business.