Which US business visa for temporary travel?

Which US Business Visa?

If you are a non-US national travelling to the United States of America for business, it is your responsibility to ensure you have secured the required entry clearance before you travel. You will in most cases require a visa to temporarily travel to the US for either business (or pleasure), unless you are eligible to enter the US visa free under the Visa Waiver Program, or you are a citizen of Canada or Bermuda.

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Do you need a US business visa?  

Visa-free travel

You may be eligible to enter the United States without a visa if you meet the requirements for the US Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The VWP allows citizens of 38 countries (including the UK) to travel to the US without a visa for business, tourism or for transit to another country for up to 90 days.

The VWP is intended for occasional short visits to the US. Visa free travel does not include those who plan to study, work or remain in the United States for more than 90 days. If you wish to stay in the US for longer, you will need to obtain a visa for US temporary travel for up to 6 months.

Travellers that qualify for VWP must obtain authorization to enter the US using the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).

You will generally be granted authorization if you are a citizen of one of the listed VWP partner countries and you hold a valid electronic passport with an electronic chip. However, you will not be eligible to travel visa-free under ESTA in the following circumstances:

  • You have been arrested for certain crimes, even if the arrest did not result in criminal conviction, or you have a criminal record.
  • You have been denied entry to or deported from the US, or you have previously overstayed on the VWP.
  • You have a serious communicable illness.

Some travellers who are citizens of a VWP partner country may still be unable to travel to the US visa-free if they have travelled to Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Syria, Somalia or Yemen any time after 1 March 2011, although there are some limited exceptions. For example, the rule does not apply to VWP eligible travellers who were there to perform military service on behalf of the relevant VWP eligible country.

If you are a dual national of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria, you will not be eligible to travel without a visa.

How do I apply for visa-free travel?

To apply for visa free travel you should complete an online pre-registration form on the ESTA website. It is advised by the US Customs and Border Patrol that you do this at least 72 hours before departure.

If your application for visa free travel is denied, you will need to make an application for a B-1 or B-2 visa for US temporary travel from your nearest US Embassy or Consulate. In these circumstances, this is likely to significantly delay your travel plans.

The main type of visa for non-US nationals temporarily travelling to the United States for business is the B-1 visa. This is a non-immigrant visa for those travelling to the US temporarily to engage in non-revenue-generating business activities. 

B category US business visa 

Business visa for US temporary travel

The B-1 business visa will cover you if you are travelling to the United States to temporarily engage in business activities, such as attending a conference or seminar, or other legitimate activities of a commercial or professional nature.

The B-1 visa will not allow for gainful employment or productive activity such as operating a business. However, limited additional activities can be conducted under the B-1 visa, for example, participating in a voluntary service program that benefits a US local community.

If your proposed business activity falls outside those permitted within the B-1 category, a temporary work visa will be required.

In addition, if you intend to combine your business trip with tourist activities, you would be required to hold the B1/B2 combination visa.

Applying for a visa for US temporary travel

If you are aged between 14 to 79 years old you are required to apply for a visa in person through a pre-arranged interview at the US Embassy or Consulate, by appointment only. Applicants under 14 or 80 years and over may be eligible to apply by courier.

To apply you will need to create an online account, complete form DS-160, pay the application fee and schedule an interview. At your interview, in addition to any category-specific documentation to prove the purpose of your trip, you will be required to bring the following:

  • a print-out of your appointment confirmation
  • a print-out of the confirmation page for form DS-160
  • a 5 x 5 cm (2” by 2”) colour photograph taken within the last 6 months
  • a passport

You will also need, where applicable, documentary evidence of the following:

  • your status in the country of which you reside
  • any previously issued US visas
  • any serious communicable medical condition
  • any arrests, convictions or cautions, regardless of when they occurred.
  • being denied entry to or deported from the US.

You may also need to show that you have sufficient funds available on arrival to support yourself during your stay in the US, and the residence abroad to which you intend to return.

If your application is successful, this can take only a few short days to process. If additional processing or a waiver of ineligibility is required, your application for a visa for US temporary travel could take several weeks, if not months.

Do you have a question about a US business visa?

In the event that your application to travel to the US is delayed or denied, this is likely to significantly impact on your travel plans. You should always apply well in advance of your intended travel date and not make non-refundable travel arrangements until you have been issued a visa and are in receipt of your validated passport. If you are unclear about any aspect of obtaining a visa for US business travel, speak to our specialist US immigration attorneys.

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

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