Proposed rule changes for US business visitors

The US State Department has published proposals to revise the US business visitor regulations.

Closure of the ‘B-1 in lieu of’ H1B specialty occupation

Under current rules, foreign nationals are permitted, in limited circumstances, to enter the US under the B-1 visa for legitimate, specific and short-term H1-B services while remaining employed abroad and on their foreign employer’s payroll.

This provision is known as B-1 in lieu of H1B (BILOH).

If implemented, the rule will not invalidate or revoke current BILOH-annotated visas. It would, however, see applicants subject to additional eligibility requirements under the B-1 route, other than BILOH reasons.

Business travellers may also potentially be open to independent review at the border by US CBP officials. Questions are likely to center on whether the traveller will be paid the US prevailing wage.

The public comment period has now closed, and the State Department is expected to review the responses and prepare to issue a final rule in the Federal Register.

Extending the line of questioning for US business visitor visa applicants

The State Department has also submitted proposals to expand information collation in relation to certain US visitor visa applicants.

New questions are proposed about the applicant’s funding sources, their travel history over the preceding 15-year period to the application as well as further personal information.

Exclusion from the B-1 route of members of performers

A final proposal concerns the exclusion of entertainment or athletic professions (with certain exceptions) from the scope of the B-1 visa, where they are travelling to the US to perform within their professional field. Such travellers would typically be classified under the O-1 or P-1 categories.

US immigration advice

As yet there is no indication of whether the proposals will be amended in line with public feedback or indication of the timeframe for the Foreign Affairs Manual to be updated and any final rule being published. If you have any concerns about the changes and their impact on your options, or those of your employees, to travel to the US on business, please contact us for advice.

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

Last updated: October 31, 2020