What are the B1 visa requirements for visitors to the USA?
The B-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa, specifically designed for temporary business visits to the USA.
The B1 visa is for non-US nationals who are not eligible for travel under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), who wish to travel to the USA on a short-term basis for business-related activities.
To be eligible, you will need to evidence in your application to the US consular that you meet the B-1 visa requirements. The B1 visa is highly discretionary, and any application should be well prepared with supporting documents to evidence to the consular officer that the requirements are met and avoid a visa denial.
B-1 visa requirements
As part of your application, you will need to show you do not intend to work in the USA and that your reason for travel falls within the permissible B-1 visa activities, as we detail below.
Your visit to the USA must be for a defined and limited period of time.
You must have sufficient funds to support yourself and pay for any expenses incurred as a result of the trip, including your return travel out of the USA.
You must have a residence in a country other than the USA which you intend to return to, as well as other ‘substantial ties’ to that country which would satisfy the caseworker that you will return home at the end of your visit (ie a maximum period of 6 months).
There must be no other factors that would prevent you entering the USA, such as criminal convictions, involvement in terrorist activities, or previous violations of immigration laws.
B-1 visa permissible activities
To be eligible for a B1 visa, your visit to the USA must be for legitimate business purposes.
The type of activity that you will be permitted to – and prohibited from – undertaking will be a critical aspect of your B-1 visa application and the evidence that you should provide to assure the consular officer that you do meet the B-1 visa requirements.
Examples of reasons to visit the USA for temporary business purposes could include, but not be limited to:
- Attending a business meeting, convention or conference as an employee of a foreign company
- Negotiating a contract with a customer
- Taking orders for goods which must be produced outside the United States
- Consulting with clients or business associates
- Visiting sites in the USA that could be used for future business premises
- Litigating or attending court
- Undertaking independent research
- Installing or making repairs to machinery for a foreign company that sells to US customers
- Taking up a speaking engagement at a US university for 9 days or less
- Taking part in a voluntary service programme which benefits a US local community
- Participating in a training program that is not designed primarily to provide employment
- Personal/domestic servants accompanying citizens returning to the US who temporarily or permanently reside in the US
- Personal/domestic servants of holders of certain visa classifications
- Professional athletes receiving only tournament winnings and no salary, eg golfers, tennis players
If the reason for your visit to the USA is both work and leisure related (attending a business convention then holidaying in the USA, for instance), the combined B1/B2 visa would be the appropriate route.
B-1 visa prohibited activities
Conversely, a number of activities are prohibited under the B-1 visa. Alternative visa routes should be considered.
Gainful employment in the US
A B1 visa cannot be used for permanent employment purposes, for the purpose of obtaining and engaging in employment within the US, or to participate on a professional and paid basis as a performer or athlete, or by members of the press.
A number of alternative temporary worker visas available, depending on eligibility, including:
- H1B for temporary workers in a speciality occupation
- I for foreign press members
- L1A and L1B for intracompany transferees
- O for persons with extraordinary ability in the arts, education, sciences, business, athletics and film or TV production
- P visa for artists, athletes and entertainers
B1 visa holders are prohibited from undertaking skilled or unskilled labor. Any payment to the B-1 visa holder relating to the business travel activity should generally occur abroad and the main place of business where profits are also accrued must be in a foreign country.
Enrolling in study
You cannot enrol in study while in the US under the B-1 visa. You should instead apply for and secure a student visa, F-1 or M-1 visa. This can be applied for either from overseas or as a Change of Status from within the US.
Perform building of construction work
The only exception is for supervising or training for business or construction where you are not carrying out actual building work.
How to make a B-1 visa application
You apply online by completing form DS-160 and paying the application fee. You will be required to upload a photograph, which must be in the required format.
The DS-160 form is extensive and will ask for the following information:
This section will ask for your full name, sex, marital status, date and place of birth, original nationality and any other nationality you have ever held, and whether you are a permanent resident in any country other than your country of birth.
You will also be asked for your personal contact details, address and phone information, as well as your passport information.
The purpose of your visit to the USA, your travel plans (travel dates and details), where you will stay while in the USA, the person or business who is paying for your visit.
Travel companions information
This section will ask for details of anyone who is travelling with you.
Previous US travel information
Have you visited the USA before? Have you ever been issued with a US visa? If so, details of that visa and any biometric information you provided. Have you ever lost a US visa or had one stolen? Have you been issued a US visa which has then been cancelled or revoked? Have you ever been refused access to the USA? Has an immigrant petition ever been filed on your behalf with the US Immigration Service?
US point of contact information
Provide details of any person in the USA who knows you and can confirm your identity, or the company or organisation that you plan to visit whilst in the USA.
You will be asked for details of your parents and spouse.
Present work/education/training information
Your primary occupation, present employer, monthly income and a brief description of your duties.
Past work/education/training information
Previous employment details and education.
Additional work/education/training information
Have you travelled to other countries during the last 5 years and if so where? Have you belonged to, contributed to, or worked for any professional, social or charitable organisation? Do you have specialised skills or training? Have you ever served in the military? Have you ever served in, been a member of, or been involved with a paramilitary unit, vigilante unit, rebel group, guerrilla group, or insurgent organisation?
Security and background
This section asks for medical and health information, whether you have been involved in criminal activities, security information (espionage, war crime and terrorism involvement), immigration law violation information and several miscellaneous information questions.
Preparer of application
Has anyone assisted you in making your application? If so, provide details of that person.
Once you have completed the application form, print out the confirmation sheet for your information and to provide at your interview.
The next step is to visit the US Visa Information and Appointment Services website, pay the machine-readable visa (MRV) application fee (don’t forget to keep a copy of your payment receipt) and schedule your interview.
There is a Business Fast Track option available, should you need to visit the US urgently but whether your reasons for such a request are accepted is down to the discretion of the US immigration authorities and the Embassy or Consulate involved, and will require supporting documentation.
B-1 visa application documents
To demonstrate that you meet the above criteria, you may be asked to provide the following information at your interview:
- A letter from your employer outlining the reasons for the business trip and communication from the business or organisation in the USA that you are visiting
- Property-related documents such as a mortgage statement
- Employment or professional documents such as a company registration certificate or your business card
- Financial documents, for instance, a bank statement of your most recent tax return
- Documents regarding your family such as birth certificates or family photographs
- Travel documents including details of where you will stay while in the USA and your return travel ticket
B-1 visa interview preparation
Your interview will be held at your local US Embassy or Consulate.
Before you attend, you should ensure you have all the relevant documents, including the confirmation page of your DS-160 form and your appointment instruction letter.
Arrive no later than 30 minutes before your interview time. Arriving late may result in your appointment being cancelled, however, you will not be admitted into the Embassy or Consulate more than 30 minutes before your interview.
You will generally be at the Embassy or Consulate for 2 to 3 hours.
Either before or during the interview, your biometric information will be taken. This includes your fingerprints, photograph and signature.
Take your supporting documents with you, including the confirmation page from your DS-160 form and a copy of your appointment instruction page. Without this last document, you will not be allowed access to the Embassy or Consulate.
At the interview, the officer will ask you questions about your completed form, the documents you have provided, your personal situation and your investment venture to check that you are eligible to be granted a B1 visa.
Unless further information is required, you will receive a decision on the day of your interview.
Avoiding a refused B-1 visitor visa
A visa application may be rejected if:
- You didn’t provide sufficient documents and proof.
- The purposes of the visit are not eligible for a B1 visa.
- You have a criminal record.
- You cannot prove that your intention to visit the USA is only for a temporary time.
- You cannot prove that you have sufficient funds to pay for the visit.
- Evidence provided in the application is later found to be fraudulent.
- You previously stayed in the USA for longer than you had permission to do so.
US immigration officials have significant discretion to question travellers at the border. Those travelling under the B-1 visa should prepare to be questioned about their plans and intentions while in the US. It is often helpful to carry documentation with you to evidence that you meet the B-1 requirements and allow for your entry into the US.
A common issue for B-1 travellers is the reason for travel and intended activities, and whether these fall within the permissible activities. If you are unsure if your planned activities come under the B-1 visa, take advice as you may have to consider alternative visa options to avoid issues at the border.
NNU Immigration are specialist immigration attorneys based in London. We can support you with your B-1 visa application, including guidance on compiling the necessary documentation and preparing for the B-1 visa interview.
If you have a question about making a B-1 visa application, please contact us.
B1 visa requirements FAQs
What documents are required for a B1 US visa?
You will need to bring with you to the interview a copy of the DS-160 confirmation page, as well as a photograph from the last six months and your passports (current and expired).
What is B1 eligibility?
To be eligible for the B1 visa, you will have to show that your reason for travel is permissible, that you intend to leave the US at the end of your stay and that you hgave enough funds to support you during your time in the USA.
Do UK citizens need B1 visa?
UK citizens planning to visit the USA will need a B1 visa if they are not eligible to travel visa-free with ESTA authorization.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.