Top Questions Asked About B-1 Tourist Visas for Business

immigration lawyers

1.    What is a tourist visa for Business?

2.    How long can you stay in the U.S. with a tourist for business visa?

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

4.    What are the permissible activities for a B-1 tourist for business?

5.    How does the visitor’s intent affect the application process?

6.    How to establish Non immigrant intent?

7.    What are the special conditions for large companies?

8.    The Smaller and Less Well Known Company: What should I do?

9.    Where do I apply?

10. How do I tell how much time I am permitted to remain in the U.S.?

11. Who may file for an extension of the B-1 visa?

12. What Forms are used for a B-1 tourist extension?

13. What is the Checklist or tourist extension applications?

14. Items To Consider Before Preparing Your Application.

15.  Forms & Instruction for extending your B-1 tourist visa

What is a Tourist for Business Visa?

If 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 visitor 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 kit 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 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 Kit 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.  


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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. 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.


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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.

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What are 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.  Notwithstanding anything you may believe, the B-1 visitor, in most cases, cannot engage in productive employment while in the U.S. Productive employment includes both services for hire on an independent basis (these are known as freelancers or independent contractors) and salaried work for any employer.  It is the intention of this visa to have the principal benefit of the trip accrue to the foreign company.  The B-1 activity should be associated with international trade or commerce. Engaging in business contemplated for B-1 visa classification generally entails business activities other than the performance of skilled or unskilled labor. Thus, the issuance of a B-1 visa is not intended for the purpose of obtaining and engaging in employment while in the United States. Specific circumstances or past patterns has been found to fall within the parameters of this classification and are listed below. 

The decisive factor is: Will the visitor be paid a salary from a U.S. em­ployer or otherwise engage in activity here that results in pay­ment to the visitor of a fee for services rendered? Gray areas on this point can become a problem for some business visitors in the B‑1 category.

The B-1 Visa Holder must be paid from sources outside the U.S. If the B-1 visitor is planning to be paid in the U.S. or be paid for the performance of a service or contract in the U.S. most likely the visa application will not be approved. However, the business visitor may be paid his/her "ordinary and necessary" business expenses. The definitions of what are considered "ordinary and necessary" business expenses are vague.

Obey the State Department’s five broad requirements for issuance of a B visa to a foreign national.  These establish non-immigrant intent.  They are:

  • The visitor is entering the U.S. for a limited duration.
  • The visitor intends to depart the U.S. at the expiration of his or her stay.
  • While in the U.S., the visitor maintains a foreign residence which he or she has no intention of abandoning.
  • The visitor has adequate financial arrangements to  travel to, and visit  and depart from the U.S.
  • The visitor will engage solely in legitimate activities relating to business or pleasure.
  • The State Department List of Approved Activities
  • The following is a non-exhaustive list of some of the activities undertaken by foreign nationals who have been determined as being purposes:
  • Foreign nationals coming to the U.S. to engage in commercial transactions which do not involve gainful employment in the United States, to negotiate contracts, to consult with business associates, to litigate, to participate in scientific, educational, professional or business conventions or conferences or to undertake independent research (including market research and analysis);
  • A foreign national, other than a member of the entertainment profession, coming to the United States to perform services who would be classifiable as an H-1B (see Appendix A), but who will receive no salary or other remuneration from a U.S. source other than an expense allowance or other reimbursement for expenses incidental to their stay;
  • A foreign national employed abroad coming to undertake training who would be classifiable as an H-3 (see Appendix A) nonimmigrant but who will continue to receive a salary from the foreign employer and will receive no salary or other remuneration from a U.S. source other than an expense allowance or other reimbursement for expenses incidental to his/her stay;
  • A foreign national invited to participate in the training of Peace Corps volunteers or coming to the United states under contract pursuant to sections 9 and 10(a)(4) of the Peace Corps Act, unless he/she qualifies for A nonimmigrant visa classification;
  • A foreign national invited to participate in any program for the purpose of furnishing technical information and assistance under section 635(f) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961;
  • Ministers of religion who temporarily exchange pulpits with their American Clergy and who continue to receive payment from the foreign religious organization and receive no salary from the religious organization in the United States; Ministers of religion proceeding to the United States to engage in an evangelical tour who do not plan to take an appointment with any one church, and who will be supported by offerings contributed at each evangelical meeting. Ministers of religion temporarily exchanging pulpits with U.S. counterparts, who will continue to be reimbursed by the foreign church and will draw no salary from the host church in the United States.
  • A foreign national who is a member of the board of directors of a U.S. corporation seeking to enter the United States to attend a meeting of the board or to perform other certain functions resulting from membership on the board.
  • Personal or domestic servants who accompany or follow to join U.S. citizen employers who have a permanent home or are stationed in a foreign country, and who are visiting the United States temporarily, provided the employer-employee relationship existed prior to the commencement of the employer’s visit to the United States.
  • Personal or domestic servants who accompany or follow to join employers who seek admission into or are already in the United States in B, E, F, H, I, J, L, or M nonimmigrant status, provided:

(1)   The employee has a residence abroad which he or she has no intention of abandoning (notwithstanding the fact that the employer may be in a non immigrant status which does not require such a showing);

(2)   The employee can demonstrate at least one year’s experience as a personal or domestic servant, and

(3)   The employee has been employed abroad by the employer as a personal or domestic servant, for at least one year prior to the date of the employer’s admission to the United States; or


(4)   If the employee-employer relationship existed immediately prior to the time of visa application, the employer can demonstrate that he or she has regularly employed (either year-round or seasonally) personal or domestic servants over a period of several years preceding the domestic servant’s visa application for a nonimmigrant B-1 visa.


(5)   The employer and the employee have signed an employment contract which contains statements that the employer guarantees the employee the minimum or prevailing wages, whichever is greater, and free room and board and will be the only provider of employment to the servant.

  • A visitor seeking investment in the United States which would qualify the visitor for status as an E-2 investor. Such visitor is precluded from performing productive labor or from actively participating in the management of the business prior to being granted E-2 status.
  • A visitor coming to the United States to install, service, or repair commercial or industrial equipment or machinery purchased from a company outside the United States or to train U.S. workers to perform such services. However, in such cases the contract of sale must specifically require the seller to provide such services or training and the visa applicant must possess specialized knowledge essential to the seller’s contractual obligation to perform the services or training and must receive no remuneration from a U.S. source.
  • These provisions do not apply to an visitor seeking to perform building or construction work, whether on-site or in-plant except for an visitor who is applying for a B-1 visa for the purpose of supervising or training other workers engaged in building or construction work, but not actually performing any such building or construction work.


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How does the visitor’s intent affect the application process? 

Of primary concern for the B visitors, is the importance of demonstrating to the consular official that they have bona fide nonimmigrant intent.  This means that the visitor is truly a non-immigrant who intends on departing at the end of the authorized stay.  The visitor cannot have immigrant intent.  With an immigrant intent the visitor does not intend to depart the U.S. but is planning to remain in the U.S. permanently or at least for an extended period of time beyond the period granted.

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How to establish Non immigrant intent?

Establishing non-immigrant intent is a matter of compiling enough documentation so that the Consular officer feels comfortable that you intend to return to your country after your visit.

This is done by demonstrating to the consular official that:

  • You plan only a temporary trip to the U.S.
  • You maintain a residence outside of the U S that they have no intention of abandoning.

The amount of the proof that is required to prove this point depends on the social, economic and employment situation at home as well as the nature of the visitor’s plan in the United States.      


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Special Conditions for Large Companies

The Well-Known Large Company:  What it should do

When a business visitor is entering the U.S. on behalf of an es­tablished company that is likely to be known by U.S. consular of­ficials, a letter from the company setting forth a legitimate busi­ness reason for the trip, specifying dates during which the business will be transacted, and including supporting documen­tation of the trip arrangements, will usually suffice to demon­strate bona fide nonimmigrant intent. Here’s why:


  • The visitor’s employment by the company shows clear ties to his home country and a strong reason for his return.
  • The company’s verification about the length of the trip, when  supported by reasonable documentation such as a round‑trip ticket, can normally be accepted at face value.
  • The company’s backing assures that trip expenses and salary of the visitor will be covered from a non U.S. source.

In this type of case, the company-supporting letter should contain the following statements:

  • A short background about the company, how long its been in existence, the products sold and perhaps something about its size.
  • The reason for the visitor business employee’s trip to the U.S., i.e., and setting forth a legitimate business activity.
  • The specifics of the trip, including the required period of stay, confirmation of travel arrangements and accommodations, an itinerary, and other documentation appropriate to the business activity being conducted.

A statement that the employee’s travel expenses and means of support during the trip will be paid by the employer.


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The Smaller and Less Well Known Company: What it should do

Consider this Before You Begin:  For small companies unknown to the U.S. consulate or for indi­viduals who are self‑employed it is more difficult to obtain a B1 visa. In these cases it is recommended that more detailed documentation should be presented in order to increase probability to obtain approval.

4 Important Questions that can help get your B-1 Application approved

  • Question 1.  Have adequate financial arrangements been to cover the expenses of planned trip in the U.S.?
    Make sure you present a pre­paid round‑trip ticket.  Additionally it is a good idea to prepay expenses such as hotel accommodations, car rentals, within U.S. air or rail travel.

  • Question  2.  Are your travel plans realistic?  Do you have a definite plan for the visit or are the plans unclear and uncertain?
    When you file your papers submit documentation clearly showing the travel plans.  This includes a detailed itinerary, ho­tel reservations, listing of prospective meetings and other documentation demonstrating the reason for the trip. For example, if the trip is meant to enter into a contract to purchase products for distribution in the home country, letters from the U.S. seller setting up the meeting dates, agendas, and any pre travel agreements would be extremely helpful.  If you are planning to attend a conference or seminar, the brochure showing dates of attendance would be clearly demonstrate the intending visitor’s plans.


  • Question 3.  Are you requesting a time period that makes sense with your intended plans or are you just asking permission to remain in the U.S. for the maximum time U.S. authorities will allow?
    Use logic.   If the visa applicant is seeking to attend a 5‑day conference, a request should not be made to remain in the U.S. for six months. The period requested for the proposed trip should match with the statements made and the documentation for the travel plans being provided. If you do not have a firm plan because the purpose of your trip does not lend itself to such exactness, such as in cases were you are coming to the U.S. to try to sell a product to many companies that you have no previous relationship with. In these cases you should request a reasonable period of time rather than the maximum possible period.  Remember you can always apply for an extension of time after you arrive in the U.S.  These extensions can be granted for a period of up to one year.
  • Question 4.  Demonstrate that you have enough of a connection with your home country, such as family, social, cultural, employment, business, or other associations that would assure your  return home?

What we need here is to establish certain roots.  Such as: having a steady, secure job, owning a profitable business or investments in real estate.  These are some of the best evidence of a strong connection abroad that would assure the consulate that you intend to return to your home country.  In addition if you are coming alone without your family, it would also go far in establishing that the applicant will be returning to his country.  Maintaining a residence such as a house, condo or apartment is another important element of proof.  Many times the B-1 application is denied because the applicant used the business address as his own for convenience instead of clearly indicating that he or she has a residence.

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Where do I apply?

A nonimmigrant visa application can be made at any visa‑issu­ing U.S. consulate, not just a consulate in the visitor's home country.  However, if you have ever overstayed your visa you will surely be limited to applying in at the consulate in your home country.


You should generally apply at the consulate in your home country.  It is State Department policy for a consulate not to deny a visa application when the applicant is not a na­tional of the country where the consulate is located.  But in real life, applicants who are citizens of countries with a high rate of visa re­fusals and overstay will probably have great difficulty in having a third country consular post accept the application.  Even if they accept the application, they could hold the application in limbo while it sends a request for information (called a "visa alpha cable") to the U.S. consulate nearest to the visitor's residence. In these cases it is very easy for the consular post to refuse to issue the visa simply if they believe that the applicant has failed to provide sufficient proof to establish that he or she is a bona fide nonimmigrant.

It is therefore particularly advisable for nationals of countries with high rates of visa refusals and overstays, such as Brazil, Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, Central America India, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Philippines, to file in their home country. All consulates that issue visas have a special section for nonimmigrant visa applications and issuance, and the intending visitor generally waits in line at that office to submit the papers to a consular official who reviews the papers for completeness. After a wait, during which a consular officer completely reviews the papers being submitted the applicant will be called to a front counter or desk to be questioned about the applica­tion.  If the consular officer is satisfied that the visa should be issued, the visa applicant simply waits while the visa is attached to the passport.



In countries where the visa refusal rate is low, such as in Western Europe­ consulates do not require that a visa application for B‑1 visas be made in person. Instead they permit the visa applicant to mail the visa application to the consulate or to have it delivered by a company representative. The consulate will review the application and make a decision.  They will then return the applicant's passport by mail or hold it to be picked up by the applicant. In most cases this procedure only applies to citizens of the country where the consulate is located. To determine whether the consulate will accept a mail in application, you should call the consulate and ask to speak with the Vice Consul in charge of nonimmigrant visas.  Use these types of application if the application is perfectly clear and you do not believe the consul will have any questions.  If it looks like there could be any possible questions that may come up it would be much better for the applicant to make a personal appearance in order to be available to respond to any question that may be brought up.  In this way you could get a quick resolution to a problem.   But as you can imagine, only employees of large or well-known companies will be able to apply in this manner.  Most every one else is required to apply in person.

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How do I tell how much time I am permitted to remain in the U.S.?

When you entered the United States a white card was attached to your passport by U.S. Immigration.  This card is called an “I-94.” An extension of stay can only be granted if the time on the I‑94 has NOT expired.  It also cannot be granted if  the applicant has violated the  terms of his visa category.  For example is the person entered as a B‑1, a tourist, he would be in violation if he worked without permission of the immigration service.  The application of exten­sion should be submitted no less than 15 days before the end of the authorized stay nor more than sixty days prior to the expira­tion of the visa.  However, the application will generally be accepted as long as it is filed anytime before the expiration of the visa. 


Look carefully at the form I‑94 attached to your passport. There is a red stamp on it which has written within it a date.  This is the last day you are authorized to stay in the United Sates.  Do not confuse this with your visa, which you received at a U.S. consulate abroad.  The date on the visa stamp in your passport indicates the last that you may enter the U.S. Each classification of nonimmigrant visa has its own individual maximum stay period.  For example B visas can only remain the United States for up to one year, H visas only 6 years, and stud­ents eight years.

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Who may file for an extension of the B-1 visa?

If you entered as a B-1 tourist for business, you may apply for an extension of stay. You may include your spouse and your unmarried children under age 21 as co-applicants in your application for the same extension of status if you are all in the same status now or they are all in derivative status.

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What Forms are used for a B-1 tourist extension?

The application for Extension of Temporary Stay is filed on form I‑539 and must be accompanied by a filing fee.  The application is submitted to the district director in the district where the applicant is staying.  Processing can take approximately 60 to 90 days. If the application for extension is approved it you will receive a written notification of the extension as well as a new I-94. If denied you will still be granted a short while to leave the U.S. without being out of status.  There is no appeal from a denial of an application for extension of temporary stay. To download the  forms click here.

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Checklist For Tourist Extension


The application for extension must be filed directly with to the USCIS.  More detailed information here.

The application packet should consist of the following: 

  • FORM I-539
  • Copy of Form I-94 - If Form I-94 or required copy cannot be submitted, you must file Form I-102, Application for Replacement/Initial Nonimmigrant Arrival/Departure Document, with this application. A Kit is available.
  •  Copy of the trip ticket showing the departure date requested.
  • A company letter or other supporting documentation. This letter should include:

1.     The reason for the request of extension. In it explain what the original purpose of the trip was and why there is a need for extension of time. (Such as – more meetings, more presentations, more consultations or negotiations).

2.     What are the  arrangements for departure and that the need to stay is still temporary.

  • Filing fee $290.
  • Anything else that would show your plans for the addi­tional period. 
  • Make a copy of the entire package and mail out by certified mail.
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Items To Consider Before Preparing Your Application

  •  The spouse and other dependents of the principal visa holder can be included in the same extension application, even if the spouse en­tered at a different time, so long as the spouse’s period of authorized stay has not expired. Therefore, a copy of the I-94 forms of the spouse and other dependents should also be included with the application.
  • If I-94 forms are missing for any of the persons included in the Form I-539 application, Form I-102, for replacement of a lost or missing I-94 form, must be submitted with the extension request. A separate Form I-102 and filing fee must be filed for each missing Form 1-94.
  • If the application is approved, the Service Centers will mail the applicant an approval notice. Form 1-797, and will mark the new au­thorized period of stay on a new I-94 card on a tear-off portion.
  • A reason for his extension request must be stated in the application.  The reason can be for many reasons so long as it sounds reasonable.  If the USCIS believes that the person is coming here to work or to study the case will not be approved without first filing for a change of status. Reason that have been accepted are:

1.     Negotiations with U.S. Company have not concluded.

2.     Additional sales or marketing opportunities are available.

3.     Meetings have been rescheduled.

  •       The instructions of the visa extension application indicate that an extension request should be filed before the authorized period of stay expires.  In practice it can be filed up to the date of expiration of stay.
  •       NOTE: A B-1 visitor who requires an additional week or less to complete his or her stay need not make a formal extension application. Simply write a short letter addressed to the local USCIS office explaining the cir­cumstances requiring the additional time.  You should provide the new date of de­parture. A formal approval is not necessary. 
  •    The I-539 extension application must be mailed directly to one of the four USCIS Service Centers.


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Moses Apsan, Esq.
Copyright © 2011  [Law Offices of Moses Apsan, PC. All rights reserved.