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B1 Visa

Do you need to travel to the US for business?

B1 Visa

To travel to the United States temporarily on business, you have to ensure you have the relevant permission. 

You may have to apply for the B-1 visitor visa if you are a national of a country that does not participate in the US Visa Waiver Program, or if you are otherwise ineligible for visa-free travel to the USA, for example, due to a criminal conviction.


NNU Immigration are here to help!

NNU Immigration are specialists across all classes of US visa, including the B1 visa for business visitors.

The B1 visitor rules on permissible activities are strict and you can be denied entry at the border if officials are not satisfied that you will comply with the rules. Your application will also require you to attend a visa interview, which you should prepare for to avoid issues with your application. 

With exceptional knowledge and insight into the visa application processes, we advise non-US nationals on available US visa and immigration options, including the B1 visa, providing full support with your application to the US authorities.

Contact our US immigration experts

For advice on any aspect of a US visa application, contact our US immigration attorneys.

Contact our B-1 visa experts

For advice on any aspect of your B-1 visa application, contact our US immigration attorneys. 

Contact our B-1 visa experts

For advice on any aspect of your B-1 visa application, contact our US immigration attorneys. 


B-1 Visa Frequently Asked Questions


What is the B1 visa?


If the purpose of your planned travel relates to business, you may need the B1 visa. Permissible activities under the B1 visa include consulting with business associates, travel for a scientific, educational, professional or business convention or conference on specific dates or negotiating contracts.


What is the B2 visa?


If the purpose of your planned travel relates to tourism, visits with friends or relatives, or medical treatment then a visitor visa (B-2) would be the appropriate type of visa.


What is the B1/B2 visa?


The combined B1/B2 visa is what is most commonly issued to visitors, allowing the visa holder to carry out the permissible activities under both visa categories.

A B1/B2 visa is a visa for the joint purpose of business and pleasure. However, if you are eligible under the VWP for visa-free travel, you will be able to use your ESTA to travel to the United States for both purposes combined, although this will be limited to 90 days.


Should I apply for a B1 visa or an ESTA?


The B1 visa is the permission needed by various foreign nationals to visit the United States for the purposes of certain unpaid business activities of a commercial or professional nature. However, depending on your nationality, rather than applying for a visa, you may be eligible to visit the US under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). To travel visa-free under the VWP, you will need to apply for travel authorisation via the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) at least 72 hours before you depart and pay a $21.00 fee.

However, to be eligible to apply for an ESTA, you must meet the following requirements:

  • be planning to travel to the US on a business trip for no more than 90 days
  • be a citizen or national of a VWP-eligible country, including the UK
  • hold a valid and machine readable e-passport, containing an electronic chip
  • hold a return or onward ticket if entering the US by either air or sea
  • not be ineligible to receive a visa under US immigration law.

The decision whether to apply for a B1 visa, or instead obtain an ESTA, is an important one. This is because if you apply for an ESTA shortly prior to travel but you are refused electronic authorisation, you may need to delay your US trip to be able to apply for a visa. You will not be eligible to travel visa-free, or may not be classed as eligible, if either:

  • you have ever been arrested, convicted or even cautioned, where convictions classed as ‘spent’ under domestic law must still be disclosed for the purposes of an ESTA
  • you have ever been refused admission or deported from the United States
  • you have previously overstayed in the United States on the VWP
  • you have a serious communicable illness
  • you have recently traveled to Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, or at any time from on or after 1 March 2011, or you are a national of a VWP-country who is also a national of Iraq, Iran, Syria, North Korea or Sudan
  • you have traveled to Cuba on or after January 12, 2021 or have Cuban nationality.


How long can you stay in the US on a B1 visa?


A B1 visa is a nonimmigrant (temporary) visa to travel to the United States to engage in unpaid business activities of a commercial or professional nature for up to 6 months. If you are eligible for visa-free travel to the United States using an ESTA, but you would like to stay longer than 90 days at a time, you will need to apply for a B1 visa.

However, if you only plan to visit the US for a relatively short trip of less than 3 months, you should check if you need a B1 visa before you apply. Depending on where you are from, you may be able to visit the United States on an approved ESTA instead. You can check this by visiting the US Embassy or Consulate website for your country of residence. If a B1 visa is required, you must obtain your visa before you travel to the US. It is also advisable to obtain approval for your visa before booking any travel or making any plans.


Can I undertake paid employment on a B1 visa?


No, the rules are clear that the B1 visa cannot be used for the purposes of carrying out actual labor work or gainful employment.


What are permissible activities under the B1 visa?

The B1 visa can be used in a number of scenarios outside of the exemptions. For example, for project scoping, attending conferences or business meetings.

In the case of both a B1 visa or an approved ESTA, this will authorise you to board a carrier for travel to the United States. However, this does not necessarily guarantee admission to the US, where you will need to satisfy border officials of the reason for your trip.

There are a number of activities permissible under the B1 visa (ESTA) rules, including:

  • attending meetings and consulting with business associates
  • negotiating and signing contracts in the US
  • taking part in litigation based in the US
  • taking part in exhibitions and accepting orders for overseas merchandise
    installing, servicing or repairing equipment or machinery sold by an overseas
  • company to a buyer in the US under a contract for services
  • undertaking a speaking engagement in the US
  • surveying potential sites for a business and/or to lease US-based premises
  • attending a scientific, educational, professional or business convention or conference
  • engaging in independent research
  • undertaking a medical elective clerkship
  • taking part in a voluntary service programme from a religious or charitable organisation.

This list is not exhaustive, where there may be other legitimate activities of a commercial or professional nature. However, the common thread when it comes to permissible activities is that you do not receive any form of remuneration from a US employer or business.


What are you not allowed to do under the B1 visa?


There are several activities prohibited under the B1 visa rules, where this visa will not allow you to undertake gainful employment or study. If your proposed activities in the US are not permitted under the rules, you will need a different visa, such as a work or student visa.

Having been admitted entry to the United States under a B1 visa, or via an ESTA under the VWP, you must not undertake any prohibited activities, such as engaging in unlawful employment, overstaying the maximum period of stay or otherwise violating the rules.

The consequences of breaching the conditions of your B1 or visa-free status can be serious, including having your stay curtailed and being ordered to leave the United States. You may also be denied re-entry to the US on an application for a visa in the future.


How many times can you visit the US with a B1 visa?


On the grant of a B1 visa, these are typically granted as multiple-entry visas, allowing you to make a number of trips during the validity of that visa for up to 6 months at a time.

For those of you who choose instead to apply for an ESTA, this can also be used several times within its period of validity, although you may only stay for up to 90 days at a time.

An approved ESTA will be valid for 2 years, or until your passport expires, whichever comes first. Travellers whose ESTA applications are approved, but whose passports will expire in less than 2 years, will receive an ESTA that is valid until their passport’s expiration date.


What is the process to apply for a B1 visa?


To apply for a B1 visa, you must submit an online application using Form DS-160 and schedule a visa appointment at your local US Embassy or Consulate.

At your appointment, you will be required to attend with a number of documents in support of your application and answer various questions. This means that you must be able to satisfy the consular officer interviewing you for your B1 visa that you meet the relevant requirements, including being able to show that:

  • you are visiting the US for a legitimate business reason
  • you have sufficient funds to cover all your expenses during your stay
  • you only plan to stay in the US for a limited period of time and intend to depart the US and return home, or travel on elsewhere, at the end of your stay
  • you have a residence outside the US, and other binding ties, ensuring your return home.

In many cases, the consular officer will let you know of their decision at the end of your interview although, in some cases, additional administrative processing may be required. This could be where, for example, further information or documentation is needed, or if you need to apply for a waiver of ineligibility if you have a criminal history.

What are the US visitor visa requirements?

Applicants for visitor visas must show that they qualify under provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Applicants must demonstrate that they are properly classifiable as visitors under US law.

The presumption in the law is that every visitor visa applicant is an intending immigrant.

Therefore, applicants for visitor visas must overcome this presumption by demonstrating the following:

  • The purpose of your trip is to enter the U.S. for business, pleasure, or medical treatment;
  • You plan to remain for a specific, limited period;
  • You have sufficient funds to cover expenses in the United States;
  • You have strong social and economic ties abroad; and
  • You have a residence outside the U.S. as well as other binding ties that will insure their return abroad at the end of the visit.

If you believe you may require a B1 visa please contact us for a comprehensive review of your circumstances and a detailed discussion about strategy, procedures, timing, and costs.

What supporting documents are needed for a B1 visa?

The documents you will need in support of your application for a B1 visa, include:

  • a valid passport or other travel document
  • a printout of your Form DS-160 confirmation page and appointment confirmation
  • a receipt for your Form DS-160 application fee payment
  • a 5 x 5 cm (2” by 2”) recent colour photograph (if not already uploaded online)
    evidence of any previously issued US visas
  • evidence of your status in your country of residence if you are not a national of that country
  • relevant documents if you have ever been denied entry or deported from the US
  • a police certificate (an ACRO) if you have ever been arrested, cautioned or convicted
  • a letter from your doctor outlining your current state of health if you have a medical condition that could have a bearing on your eligibility for a visa.

It is always best to check the online instructions for your local Embassy or Consulate before attending for interview. For example, you may be asked to provide evidence of your proposed business activities in the US, such as letter from your overseas employer and/or host organisation providing your personal details, together with information regarding the purpose, location and duration of your US business trip. You may also be asked for additional evidence at interview, including proof of funds sufficient to cover your expenses while in the US and proof of any residence abroad to which you intend to return. If you are unable to provide any evidence on request, this could delay your B1 visa application.

Importantly, even if you are travelling to the United States under an ESTA, you should have in your possession evidence of the purpose of your trip, funds and your overseas residential address. If you arrive at a US port of entry and border officials are not satisfied with your answers, you will need documentation to prove that your intentions are genuine.

How much does it cost to apply for a B1 visa?

The cost to apply for a B1 visa is currently $185. This application fee is non-refundable.

How long does a B1 visa take to process?

You are advised to submit your application no later than 60 days before your intended date of travel.

As with all visa applications, decision times depend on the consulates involved and their workload.

Wait times for interview appointments for B1 visas can vary by location and season, so you should apply for your visa early. You can review the interview wait time for the location where you will apply. For example, the wait time for London is currently 21 calendar days.

Some applications may be subject to additional administrative processing, so it is important to apply for your B1 visa several weeks in advance of your intended departure date and not to make any final travel plans until you have received your passport with your visa in it. Importantly, you do not need firm travel plans before applying for your B1 visa.

What is the difference between the date of the visa stamp and the authorized duration?

Your authorized duration is just that – it relates to the length of time for your approved visit which is granted by Customs and Border Protection at the time of your entry into the United States Under the Visa Waiver Program this is typically 90 days. For a B visa holder admission could be up to 6 months.

The visa stamp duration relates to the window of time within which you can actually enter the US for the visit.

For example, the visa stamp may say 10 years – within that 10 year period you may be allowed to make multiple visits. This does not mean you are permitted to stay in the US for a continuous decade.

It is important to distinguish between the two, they are not in any way ‘interchangeable’.

Can dependents apply?

Dependents – spouses, children – can apply for a B2 tourist visa but if the business traveller is genuinely travelling for a specific business purpose, the embassy officer may not deem it appropriate to issue a long-term visitor visa for a spouse and children. Seek professional advice to determine the best course of action for your circumstances.

How do you apply to renew a B1 visa?

A B1 visa will usually only allow you to stay in the US for up to 6 months, although you may be able to extend this visa for up to one year. Once your visa has expired, you can re-apply for a new visa once you leave the US, in the same way as your initial application.

Can you work with a B1 visa?

The B1 visa will not allow you to undertake paid or productive labour, such as managing a business or undertaking consultancy work, where you would need to apply for a suitable work visa if you plan to engage in any activities not permitted under the visitor rules.

The only exception to the work rules, is where a personal employee or domestic worker is looking to accompany or follow to join an employer who is seeking admission into, or is already in, the United States in certain categories of nonimmigrant (temporary) status.

Can you study with a B1 visa?

The B1 visa may allow you to engage in a short course of recreational study, although the primary purpose of your trip would still need to be of a commercial or professional nature. You would need to apply for a suitable student visa if you plan to pursue any other studies.

Can you change to a different visa while in the US on a B1 visa?

If your plans change while in the United States, for example, where you receive an offer of employment or even meet someone and want to get married, you may be able to request a change in your nonimmigrant status to another visa category. However you should always seek expert advice from an immigration specialist to explore all available options.

Can I stay in USA for 6 months every year?

If you are using a B1 visa to visit the US on more than one occasion, there should be a reasonable amount of time between visits, although there is no set requirement for how long you must wait. This means, in theory, that you can travel to the USA for 6 months every year on a B1 visa. Still, you must be able to satisfy border officials that you intend to depart at the end of each stay, maintaining significant ties to your country of residence, and that you are not using your visa to live in the US through frequent or extended visits.

Need specialist advice? Speak to our experts.

Need specialist advice? Speak to our experts.