A business visa, more commonly referred to as a B-1 visa, is a type of temporary visa that allows persons or entities who intend to engage in commercial and/or professional business activities to enter into the United States on a temporary basis. Although a B-1 visa may not expire for up to 10 years, this does not mean that B-1 visa holders will be allowed to remain in the United States for that length of time.

In general, a B-1 visa holder will typically be allowed entry into the United States for a period of six months. B-1 visa holders who wish to extend their stay must apply for a visa extension before the six-month time lapses. If a B-1 visa holder is able to get their visa extended, it will usually only last for another six months. In other words, a B-1 visa can last for a maximum of one full year contingent on whether the visa extension was approved or denied.

B-1 visas cannot be used to obtain lawful permanent residency status or a green card. Again, business visas are specifically for conducting certain commercial or professional activities with companies or persons who are based in the United States. This also means that persons who are in the United States on the basis of a B-1 visa may not accept a permanent position at a U.S. company through this type of visa.

Some other business activities that a B-1 visa holder will be prohibited from doing under this immigration status include:

  • Performing business tasks that would constitute work product;
  • Conducting business or helping a relative to operate a family business in the United States;
  • Working for or being supervised by an employer whose company is located in the United States, regardless of whether the position is paid or unpaid; and/or
  • Registering for classes that are solely for academic purposes, as opposed to those related to work and work training programs.

On the other hand, some examples of the types of business activities that would permit a foreign-born national or entity to apply for a business visa include:

  • Participating in commercial transactions: Nonimmigrants who apply for a B-1 visa will most likely fall under this category. Some business activities that may make a nonimmigrant eligible to apply for a B-1 visa include settling an estate, attending a business meeting, purchasing U.S. goods or materials, receiving job-related training, negotiating a contract or a lease, developing professional relationships, and performing independent research.
  • Attending business conventions, seminars, or conferences: Individuals who are invited to attend a business convention, seminar, or conference that are scientific, religious, professional, or educational in nature may apply for a B-1 visa, so long as the meeting does not extend past nine days.
  • Accompanying a nonimmigrant or U.S. citizen: A personal or domestic servant who accompanies or follows a nonimmigrant employer to the United States may apply for a B-1 visa. Alternatively, a domestic servant who accompanies or follows a U.S. citizen employer who is normally in another country and is temporarily visiting the United State may be eligible to receive a B-1 visa as well.
  • Working for an international airline: A nonimmigrant who is employed by an international airline may be able to obtain a B-1 visa if they meet all of the criteria for this category.
  • Performing certain religious work: Persons who are employed by religious service providers or nonprofit organizations may be allowed entry into the United States if they are supporting a charitable or religious cause in a specific U.S. community on a temporary basis.

What are the Requirements for a B-1 Business Visa?

In order to apply for a B-1 visa, a nonimmigrant traveling to the United States for business purposes must first complete an application. The application and its instructions can be found on the website for the U.S. Embassy or Consulate that is located in the country where they will be traveling from.

To initiate this process, an applicant should determine which B-1 visa category they fall under as well as should make sure that they can prove that they are eligible to receive a B-1 visa. While these requirements will vary based on a nonimmigrant’s country of origin, they will generally need to demonstrate the following:

  • That they have a legitimate reason for traveling to the United States, which concerns commercial or business-related activities;
  • That they only intend to remain in the United States for a limited amount of time;
  • That they have enough funds to cover their stay and any expenses incurred throughout the duration of their business trip to the United States;
  • That there is no other reason not to admit them into the United States; and
  • That they have and intend to return to a residence and/or other ties outside of the United States once they have handled their business dealings.

Depending on which B-1 visa category an applicant chooses, they may need to file additional forms and other supporting documents. They will also be required to provide certain forms of evidence, such as government issued identification documents, photos that adhere to application guidelines, and/or airline tickets that prove they have an intent to return to their home country (e.g., round trip tickets).

In addition, an applicant will need to pay a filing fee in order to submit all of these documents. An immigration officer may also request that they schedule and attend a biometrics appointment and/or an interview. The entire process can take anywhere between several months to up to a year from start to finish to complete. If an applicant is denied a B-1 visa, they may file an appeal against the decision within 30 days from the date they received the denial.

What Other Types of Business Visas are there?

As previously discussed, business visas are primarily issued to nonimmigrants who wish to remain in the United States for a short period of time to handle business dealings. A nonimmigrant who intends to stay in the United States for longer than six months to work for an employer, should consider applying for an H-1B visa instead.

Alternatively, a nonimmigrant who is employed by a company that has either a subsidiary, branch, satellite office, affiliate, or headquarters in the United States and wants to transfer to that location, should file a petition for an L-1 visa.

It should be noted, however, that it is much more difficult to obtain an L-1 visa than it is to receive a B-1 visa. The reason for this is because an application for an L-1 visa will require more evidence and support from an employer.

These are only two of the types of business visas offered to nonimmigrants looking to stay in the United States for a limited amount of time to handle business-related tasks. To learn more about the other kinds of business visas that nonimmigrants can apply for, a prospective applicant should consult an immigration attorney for further legal advice about the matter.

Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with a Business Visa?

The process to apply for a business visa can seem intimidating at first. There are many strict legal requirements and not all of them may be clear. Thus, if you have any questions or would like some assistance with the B-1 visa application process, then it may be in your best interest to contact a local immigration lawyer for further legal advice.

An experienced immigration lawyer will be able to guide you through this process and can review all of your forms before you officially file them. A lawyer can also help you file a petition for an extended visa if you are already in possession of a B-1 visa that is about to expire.

In addition, your lawyer can provide legal representation if there is an issue with your B-1 visa application or if you need to attend a hearing in immigration court. Lastly, if your application for a B-1 visa is denied, your lawyer can also help you file an appeal as well.