The B-1 visa category is available to foreign nationals seeking to participate in business activities of a commercial or professional nature in the U.S. that do not involve gainful employment. Some examples of business activities include: consulting with business associates, attending a conference, negotiating a contract, participating in short-term training, and settling an estate. The underlying business activity may not involve local employment or labor for hire.
Citizens of Canada and Mexico, who meet the general requirements for B-1 status, are admitted to the U.S. as B-1 visitors pursuant to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Permissible business activities are expanded under NAFTA to include research and design, marketing, sales, and other activities which would normally require employment authorization.
A foreign national who would otherwise qualify for H-1B status may be eligible for B-1 status provided the individual does not receive any salary or remuneration (other than an expense allowance or reimbursement of incidental expenses) from a U.S. source. This option, which is referred to as “B-1 in lieu of H-1B”, is often used by companies to bring foreign workers to the U.S. for short periods of time to participate in training programs or assist with technical projects. To ensure that employers are not using the B-1 in lieu of H-1B provision to circumvent the H-1B laws, B-1 in lieu of H-1B visas are typically scrutinized heavily.
Foreign nationals from countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program do not require a B-1 visa to enter the U.S. They may be admitted to the U.S. for business for a stay of 90 days or less without having to obtain a visa.
A B-1 business visitor may be admitted to the U.S. for an initial period of up to six months, and after admitted, may be eligible for an extension of stay of up to six months. In practice, however, immigration authorities will limit a B-1 visitor’s admission to the amount of time which is necessary to carry out the underlying business activity.
Spouses and children of B-1 visitors are not eligible for dependent visas. They are required to apply for a visa separately.