What is a Tourist Visitor for Business Visa?


B-1 tourist visa for businessIf you need to come to the U.S. to conduct business, the B-1 business visitor's Visa is usually the initial step. It is generally quick and inexpensive to procure. This visa permits entry into the U.S. for a period of time necessary to conclude your business activity. In general the B nonimmigrant visa category covers both visitors for business (B1) and pleasure (B-2). By far the vast majority of visitors who enter the United States each year do so as nonimmigrant visitors in the B visa category. This article, however, is intended for those wishing to enter in B-1 status (Tourist Visa for Business)

Generally, stays in the United States in this category are brief, and involve such activities as conducting business on behalf of an overseas employer. However, a B-1 visa can also be used for other purposes ,such as certain religious missionary. A B1 tourist cannot be involved in employment while in the United States and cannot undertake an academic study program (with a few limited exceptions, discussed later). This article sets out the legitimate activities that can be conducted in the B-1 visa category and the procedure for obtaining entry to the United States in this classification.


Basic Information 

How long can you stay in the U.S. with a Tourist for Business Visa? Unlike business visitors who enter with E or L visas, most business stays are short in the B category. Usually the period of authorized stay is three (3) months. It is however, in certain cases, possible to obtain a period of admission of up to one year on initial entry to this country. This exception to the six month extension rule is made for certain missionaries. In addition, extensions of stay can be granted, but for no more than six months at a time. The total time in this category is limited to one year. The B-1 family members may receive extensions coinciding with the authorized period of stay of the B-1 visitor. In actual practice, the B-1 visitor is normally granted only a period of entry necessary to conduct his or her business. Most such visits are approved for less than three months. It is rare for a stay of more than six months to be granted. Note that visitors admitted to the United States as part of the Visa Waiver Pilot Program (VWPP) or the Guam Visa Waiver Program have different rules applicable to them regarding duration of stay and extension of stay. The visa waiver program has been put into effect for visitors from many countries. Natives of these countries do not need a visa to enter the U.S. See below, for an explanation of the program The B category applicant, unlike other nonimmigrant categories, requires that an application be made at the U.S. consulate. There is no special permission to be obtained from the Immigration and Naturalization Service in the U.S. before a visa is issued. The visa application process is straightforward and fast for many foreign nationals, particularly from Europe and Japan. The visa can be issued for long period of validity, such as ten years and for an unlimited number of entries.

What are the conditions you must abide by if granted a B1 Visa?

Even before a B-1 visa is approved, the consular official has to determine whether or not the activity contemplated by the visitor falls within those allowed under a B-1 category. All consular posts have been provided by The State Department detailed listing approved activities. If there are any questions or concerns, the consular officers must look to the State Department for guidance. There are a few unclear areas in the listing. In most cases the Consular official resolves these concerns without the need to contact the State Department. If the Consulate were to contact the State Department every time there is a question, there would be a tremendous delay in issuing visas. Most times the traveler must arrive at the U.S. on a certain date in order to complete his or her assignment.


The Permissible Activities for a B-1 Tourist for Business

No Gainful Employment: The most important condition of the B category is that the visitor cannot engage in gainful employment (labor for hire) in the U.S. B-1 nonimmigrants may not receive salaries or other remuneration from US sources for services rendered in connection with activities in the US. A US source, however, may provide these aliens with expense allowances or reimbursement for expenses incidental to their temporary stays.


Functions or circumstances that have been determined to be acceptable as B-1 business
activities include but are not limited to:


    1.  commercial transactions that do not involved gainful US employment (e.g. takingorders for foreign goods) contract negotiation

    2. installation, service, or repair of commercial/industrial equipment purchasedfrom outside the US and/or training of US workers to perform such services.

      Note: typically, contract of sale requires seller to provide such services and B-1visitor possesses specialized knowledge essential to contract performanceconsultation with business associates.

    3. litigation

    4. participation in scientific, educational, professional or business conventions,conferences, or seminars

    5. professional entertainers involved in cultural events, paid for and sponsored by asending country, that will involve public appearance before non-paying audiences

    6. investors seeking investments that may eventually qualify them for immigrant orE-2 nonimmigrant status

    7. independent research or professional artistic activity (e.g. music recording,artistic work such as painting, sculpture, or photography) that do not involvedincome from an US source

    8. foreign airline employees who meet E visa criteria but are not nationals of a
      treaty country or of the airlines’ country of nationality

    9. planning, constructing, dismantling, maintaining or other employment by foreignemployer in connection with exhibits at international fairs and exhibitions

    10. certain religious and charitable activities (e.g. missionaries and recognized international volunteer efforts)

    11. certain athletes who:
      1. are professional but intend to receive no salary or payment their than prize money
      2. are individuals or members of a foreign-based team in an internationally recognized sporting activity whose principal place of business is in the foreign country where their salaries typically accrue and seek to enter pay
        only their incidental expenses

    12. servants employed5 abroad of:
      1. US citizens residing abroad who return or are assigned to the US on a temporary basis

    13. Foreign nationals who have been accorded B, E, F, H, I, J, L, M, O, P, R or TN nonimmigrant status for temporary activities in the US.


      The American Competitiveness and Worksite Improvement Act (ACWIA) of 1998 authorized B classification visitors, performing lecture and seminar services for US nonprofit research and higher education and higher education institution, to receive honoraria
      (compensation for services, in addition to reimbursement for expenses). Certain restrictions apply. Although this legislative provision has net been formally implemented via regulation, INS issued field guidance dated 11/30/99 clarifying that nonimmigrants will be admitted under B classification for compensated academic activities qualifying under ACWIA and, by implication, that B visitors who perform qualifying services in exchange for honorarium payments do not breach their status.

      Note: Under existing regulations, and alien professional who will lecture or provide short-term academic, cultural, etc. services at a US institution must be admitted in H-1B, H-2B, or O-1 status in order to be paid for such activities; that make a business visitor whole for participating in a function or event. B-2 status supports such activities where business visitors give brief, impromptu presentations as an incidental part of US visits but are not subsidized, in whole or in part, by US institutions. At this time, it remains unclear, in spite of INS’ 11/99-field guidance, whether visas will be issued to compensated B lecturers or whether SSA will issue SSN’s to them for tax reporting purposes.


Generally, volunteers do not meet the regulatory definition of employee. Volunteer work may be acceptable in nonimmigrant visitor status if the services are undertaken without expectation of compensation, benefits, or privileges. However, the fact that an employee is unpaid will not cure unlawful employment if the “volunteer” is otherwise indistinguishable from a regular paid employee. Additional factors to consider in a given case may include the benefit derived from the volunteer services by the US organization and/or whether a lawfully authorized US worker would have been hired but for the volunteer services.

Individuals who would otherwise qualify for H-3 classification may be eligible for B-1 classification if they receive no salary or other remuneration (i.e. payment beyond expenses). Alien trainees who seek merely to observe the conduct of business or other professional or vocational7 activity may qualify for B-1 or B-2 classification if the US business does not pay or reimburse expenses. The foreign employer8 must continue to be the principal employer and pay wages, salary, and/or other compensation from a source abroad.

Note about practical experience training: Hands-on training, deigned to provide onthe- job experience, is not deemed to fall within the B-1 (or B-2) classification. Even if the foreign employers pays salary and expenses, B-1 classification is inappropriate if the hands-on services performed by the trainee will benefit the US-based company and/or the US-based company would have had to hire an employee but for the services of the alien “trainee.”

Regardless of the amount or source of compensation or whether the services will involve public appearance, entertainers are generally inadmissible to the US under the B-1 classification.

Exceptions: Aliens otherwise classifiable as H-1b nonimmigrants are admissible under the B-1 classification if participating in cultural programs sponsored by the home country government. Canadian or Mexican nationals participating at US border areas in long established religious festivals/ceremonies or binational civic celebrations also qualify.




NAFTA did not change the regulations regarding admission of B-1 business visitors. Although NAFTA does not provide separate B-1 rules, however, it facilitates the temporary entry of Canadian and Mexican citizens on a reciprocal basis. Appendix
1603.A.1 to NAFTA Annex 1603 lists the following categories of business visitor activities:

1.  Research and Design Distribution
2.  Growth, Manufacture, and Production Sales
3.  Marketing After-sales Service
4.  General Services

Although the list of permissible business visitor activities overlaps the list of activities in which any business visitor may engage, there are some significant differences. Under NAFTA, after-sales service contracts are permissible for the life of the warranty or service agreement, i.e. not limited to one year from the date of the service contract. In addition, self-employed persons (e.g. consultants) may enter the US as business visitors as long as they are not paid from US sources, have principal places of business and earn
profits abroad, and their work products are primarily created abroad.

TN-eligible Canadian or Mexican citizens whose professions appear on NAFTA Appendix 1603.D.1 may be admitted under the B-1 classification as long as they receiveno salary or remuneration from a US source, their principal place of employment and earning of business profits remains outside the US, and their US business activities are international in scope. NAFTA does not permit Canadian and Mexican professionals to
work in the US as business visitors by remaining on the payroll of their foreign employer. To become part of the US labor market, they must be admitted under a nonimmigrant classification (e.g. treaty national, “TN”) that permits employment in the US.


Period of Stay

Canadian or Mexican business visitors who present the required documentation will generally be admitted for the requested period of stay up to a maximum of one year.

Canadian Business Visitors

No visa or Form I-94 Arrival Departure Record is necessary for Canadians (I-94’s may be issued upon request). Upon entry into the US, Canadian business visitor must present proof of Canadian citizenship, description of the business purposes of their trips, and evidence that their business purposes conform both to NAFTA Appendix 1603.A.1 and to general B-1 visitor restrictions relating to compensation, principal place of business, international scope of work, etc. Canadian nationals who enter the US for acceptablem business visitor purposes three or more times per year may be eligible for the INSpass11 and PORTPASS programs that facilitate entry.

Mexican Business Visitors

Mexicans require B-1 visas from a US consulate or Border Crossing Cards. In addition, upon entry into the US, Mexican business visitors must present descriptions of the business purposes of their trips and evidence that these business purposes conform both to NAFTA Schedule 1 and to general B-1 visitor restrictions relating to compensation, principal place of business, international scope of work, etc.

Note about Border Crossing Card limitations: Border Crossing Cardholders are restricted to visits of 72 hours or less within 25 miles of the border. Mexican business visitors with Border Crossing Cards or nonimmigrant visas, who seek to stay longer than 72 hours and travel within any of the 50 states, must obtain I-94 Arrival-Departure Records stamped at points of entry. The Form I-94 replaces the Mexican Border Visitors’ Permit (Form I- 444), which was required through March 31. 1997, for business travel of up to 30 days within the five southern border states (CA, NV, AZ, NM, TX)

Visitors must also establish "Non-Immigrant Intent.An alien is classifiable as a visitor for business if he or she overcomes that presumption of intending immigration, qualifies under the provisions of section 101(a)(15)(B) of the immigration and Nationality Act, and establishes all of the following:

  • intends to leave the US at the end of the temporary stay
  • has permission to enter a foreign country at the end of the temporary stay
  • seeks admission for the sole purpose of engaging in legitimate activities relating
    to business, evidenced by employment in the US will not be necessary
  • has compelling ties to the business sponsor
  • has a residence abroad that he or she does not intend to abandon
  • the function he or she will perform in the US is a necessary incident to
    international trade or commerce (i.e. not limited to “businessmen”).
  • The visitor will engage solely in legitimate activities relating to business or pleasure.



Top Ten Questions (FAQ) about B-1 Visas