How to Get a US Business Visa
The primary route for business travelers to the US is the B-1 business visa.
You need a B visa for short term business travel to the USA if you are not eligible for visa-travel under ESTA, eg if you are not a national of a VWP country or if you have been denied ESTA authorization.
US business visa requirements
Under the B-1 visa, holders are permitted to travel to the US and stay for up to 6 months to carry out business-related activities.
Permissible activities are limited to generally to those where you are not receiving compensation or remuneration from a US based employer or business.
Examples of activities that would usually be allowed under the B-1 visa include negotiating contracts, consulting with business associates, attending business conventions and conferences and conducting independent research.
If you are concerned about whether your reason for travel falls within the permissible activities, it is always best to take advice before proceeding with the application to avoid issues, delays or even refusal of your application.
Likewise, if you have ever been arrested, cautioned or convicted of an offense, you will have to declare all details which may result in you having to apply for a waiver to travel to the United States.
How to apply for a US business visa
B-1 visa applications are made from outside the US. For UK nationals, this is at the US Embassy in London or the Consulate General in Belfast.
First, applicants are to complete and file the application form DS-160. It will be important to be thorough, comprehensive and accurate with your answers. The photographs must comply with US photo standards.
Once complete, print off the confirmation page and retain for your records and to take with you to your visa interview.
The next stage is to the pay the application fee and arrange your visa interview at the Consular post where you filed the application.
Business visa supporting documents
In addition to the application form, you will also need to compile and submit extensive supporting documentation to evidence your eligibility under the route. The specific documents will vary by individual application. This could, by way of general indication, include:
- DS 160 confirmation page
- Visa appointment confirmation page
- Valid passport or travel document with multiple blank pages to allow for the visa and entry stamp
- US visa photos
- Previous US visas
- Evidence of planned business activities during stay
- Evidence of sufficient funds to maintain you during your stay
- Evidence of residence outside the US Details of any criminal convictions
- Details of medical conditions that could impact your visa eligibility
- Previous US visa application refusals, US entry denials or deportations from the US
Taking professional advice will help ensure the documentation provides more than sufficient proof of eligibility and avoid delays through requests for further information.
While it is advisable to arrive in good time, note that you will not be allowed access into the Embassy 30 minutes before your scheduled appointment time. In all, you will be in the Embassy for 2-3 hours.
During the interview, you will be asked questions by the officer adjudicating your application. These typically only last a few minutes, unless your application is more complex or there are issues or queries about the evidence.
As well as the interview, you will also have your fingerprints taken.
US visa processing times
B-1 visa processing times vary greatly, depending on the circumstances of the application and the caseload of the Consular post.
Looking at the US Embassy in London, straightforward applications supported by sufficient evidence and approved during the visa interview can take around 7 working days for the passport, with visa, to be returned by courier. However, application processing continue to be delayed due to pandemic-related backlogs and service restrictions and public health rules.
Incomplete applications will lead to delays. You may be asked following the interview to provide further evidence as the adjudicator is not satisfied they have all the information needed to make a decision.
Likewise, more complex circumstances can also result in delays. If you are advised during the interview that a waiver of inadmissibility is required for your visa to be processed, you should expect to wait a further 7-9 months to hear a final decision.
If you have a criminal conviction, however minor, however long ago and from wherever in the world, take advice you may need to apply for a visa waiver in addition to your B-1 application.
We offer advice specifically to employees travelling to the US who do not wish to divulge misdemeanours from the past to their employers but who may need to apply for a waiver.
If you are uncertain whether your planned activities qualify as permissible under the B visa, take advice on alternative business and work visa options such as the L-1 visa for intracompany transfers, the E-2 visa to start up or invest in a US business, the E-1 visa if you are planning to further existing substantial trade in the US market or the I visa if you are travelling to the US on press or media-related business.
It’s important, given what is at stake with business travel, to take advice on your circumstances and ensure your application is well prepared and comprehensive. Adjudicators have substantial discretion with the B-1 category, meaning the application has to work extremely hard to evidence eligibility.
NNU Immigration are US business visa specialists, working with companies, company owners and employees to secure relevant immigration permission to travel to the US and lawfully perform the required activities.
Contact us for advice on your USA business visa application.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.