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B Visas: Business/Recreational

Visitors who want to enter the U.S. temporarily for business (B-1 category) or tourism/ pleasure (B-2 category) or a combination of both purposes must obtain a B-1/B-2 nonimmigrant visa.

Some foreign nationals of certain countries may qualify for a limited 90-day entry with ESTA under the Visa Waiver Program. All other foreign nationals will need to attend a visa interview abroad at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy before they can enter the U.S. as visitors. Canadians are visa exempt and do not need a visa to enter the U.S.

B-1: Business Visitors

Generally, permissible B-1 business activities include work that is necessary and incidental to a B-1 visitor’s regular employment abroad. This covers a wide range of activities such as:

  • Attending and participating in scientific, educational, professional, or business meetings, conventions, conferences, or seminars;
  • Consulting with business associates;
  • Engaging in negotiations and executing contracts;
  • Attending trade shows;
  • Taking orders for goods produced and located outside the U.S. (NOTE: B-1 Visitors can NOT complete or fill the actual order while in the U.S.); and
  • Researching options for opening a business in the U.S. (such as locating or entering into a lease for office space).

A business visitor may also come to the U.S. to secure funding for a new business. However, after securing the funding, the person cannot remain in the U.S. to start actual business operations or to manage the business or employees in the states.

Personal or Domestic Employees: Qualified personal or domestic employees may travel to the U.S. in B-1 status under certain circumstances when accompanying:

  1. A U.S. citizen employer who lives permanently outside the U.S. or is stationed in a foreign country and is visiting or is assigned to the U.S. temporarily; or
  2. A foreign citizen employer in the U.S. who is in lawful nonimmigrant status.

For long-term or frequent professional-level work, management, and other hands-on activities in the U.S., a foreign national must obtain formal work authorization through an appropriate visa category.

B-2: Recreational Visitors

A B-2 visa is appropriate if the purpose of the planned travel is recreational in nature, such as tourism or visiting friends or relatives; is related to medical treatment; is related to activities of a fraternal, social, or service nature; or involves participation by amateurs who will receive no remuneration in musical, sports and similar events or contests.

Persons planning to travel to the U.S. for a different purpose including students, temporary workers, crew members, or journalists, must apply for a different category of visa.

Duration of Admission

The maximum period admission to the U.S. as a B-1/B-2 nonimmigrant is typically six months. However, the actual period of admission may be limited to the amount of time which is fair and reasonable for completion of the purpose of the visit.

It is important to note that individuals who develop a pattern of frequent travel as either B-1 or B-2 visitors may find that, over time, they are scrutinized more closely with each entry. B-1 and B-2 visitors should be prepared to show that they have strong ties abroad, such as employment, financial, and home ties.