B1 Visa Requirements for US Business Travel

The B-1 visa usually applies if you are a national of a country that does not participate in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) or you have been denied ESTA authorization to travel under the VWP. It is the visa category for visitors travelling to the USA for short-term, 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.


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B-1 Visa Requirements

  • You do not intend to work in the USA
  • You intend to stay temporarily in the US and have substantial ties to your home country meaning you will leave the US before the end of your B-1 visit (maximum period of 6 months)
  • You have the financial ability to support yourself during your time in the US
  • Your reason for visiting falls within the B-1 visa permissible activities

B-1 Permissible activities

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. You are permitted to do the following:

  • Engaging in commercial transaction not involving gainful employment. These include:
    • Attending conferences, meetings, trade shows, etc. in a non-functional (i.e. no work duties) capacity
    • Attending expositions or trade shows as an employee of a foreign company
    • Surveying potential sites for a new business or lease
    • Taking orders for goods which must be produced outside the United States
    • Negotiating contracts
    • Consulting with clients or business associates
    • Litigating or attending court
    • Undertaking independent research
    • Act as a lecturer or speaker
    • Service engineer activities for a foreign company that sells to U.S. customers
    • 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

B-1 Prohibited activities

Conversely, a number of activities are prohibited under the B-1 visa. For such reasons for visit, take advice on alternative immigration options open to you in your circumstances.

Gainful employment in the US
The B-1 visa cannot be used for the purpose of obtaining and engaging in employment within the US and B-1 visitors 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.

Applying for the B-1 visa

You apply online by completing form DS-160 and paying the application fee. You will then be invited to arrange a visa interview at a US consular post overseas.

During the interview, you will be asked questions by a consular office relating to the information provided in your application form and your travel plans. It helps to take supporting evidence with you to prove your eligibility and ties to your country of residence such as your employment contract in your country of residence, mortgage statements for your home in your country of residence.

Do you have a question about the B-1 visa requirements?

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.

This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.

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