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Global Mobility BasicsNovember 20224 min read

A quick guide for employers on the B-1 Visa for business travel to the United States

If business needs take your employees to the United States for an extended period of time, the B-1 Visa may be the right fit for your needs.

Companies and their employees who frequently conduct business in the United States are likely have use for B-1 visas from time to time. This standard business visa covers business trips to the US lasting up to 6 months, with the potential for a one-time, 6 month extension.

Our guide covers the essentials when it comes to understanding when you might need a B-1 visa for your team, including details about the application process along with other key information. Awareness of common issues with the B-1 visa can help your team avoid delays and complications that can derail your business plans.

What Is a B-1 Visa?

A B-1 visa gives international business travelers the authority to enter and stay in the United States for qualifying business activities for up to six months. It is often compared with the B-2 visa, which is used for non-business travel and tourism within the United States. 

Common business reasons your employees may need a B-1 visa include:

  • Meeting with business partners, clients, and other industry professionals
  • Negotiating or finalizing contract terms
  • Attending conferences on specific dates that are of a professional, business, educational, or scientific nature
  • Participating in short-term training to advance business interests

When Do Your Employees Need a B-1 Visa for Travel to the US?

Anytime an employee travels to the US for work, they will need a B-1 visa, unless their travel qualifies under the Visa Waiver Program. Under the Visa Waiver Program, citizens of eligible countries do not need a visa when traveling to the US for 90 days or less.

If either of the below conditions are true, your employee will need a B-1 visa to travel to the US:

1. The employee is not a citizen of a Visa Waiver Program eligible country

2. The trip will be more than 90 days

Even if your employee qualifies for the Visa Waiver Program, obtaining a B-1 visa from the start may still be beneficial if you’re unsure how long the business trip will last. The last thing you want to do is risk having an employee overstay their 90-day waiver period and end up in the US illegally as violating US immigration law could make it more challenging, or even impossible, for your employees to return to the US on future business trips.

The B-1 Visa Application Process

In order to apply for a B-1 visa, your employee will need to follow the steps below and visit their local US embassy or consulate.

  • Fill out Form DS-160 online and print the confirmation page to bring to their interview
  • Submit an appropriate photo
  • Pay the application fee and, depending on their nationality, a visa issuance fee
  • Schedule an interview with their local US Embassy or Consulate office

At their interview, the consular officer will determine if your employee qualifies for a B-1 visa and verify the following information:

  • The overall nature of the business trip
  • The applicant’s ability to pay all associated travel costs (i.e., that they have the funds to return home)
  • The applicant’s intent to leave the US at the end of the allocated time period

Applicants can usually satisfy these concerns with information showing gainful employment outside the US, proof of permanent residence, and the existence of family ties in their home region.

Can B-1 Visas be Renewed?

The US allows B-1 visa holders to be in the country for an initial 6-month period. The B-1 visa can be extended for an additional 6 month period, allowing for a total stay in the US for up to one year.

To extend a B-1 visa, Form I-539 must be completed and the applicant must meet the following criteria:

  • Be in the US legally on a valid, non-immigrant visa
  • Not have committed any crimes
  • Have no violations of the conditions of admission to the US
  • Have a valid passport that remains valid during the extended period

US Citizenship and Immigration Services recommend that B-1 visa holders apply for an extension of their visa at least 45 days before its expiration. 

Keep in mind that travelers who enter the US via the Visa Waiver Program cannot extend their stay like those with a B-1 visa can. For business trips of unknown length, it is best to start with a B-1 visa. 

What a B-1 Visa Won’t Give Your Team

B-1 visas are intended for temporary, business travel purposes. They are not the same as an immigration visa or green card.

Among other items, B-1 visas prohibit visa holders from the following activities:

  • Accepting employment from a US company or otherwise receiving a salary or income from one
  • Making any sort of paid performance or professional performance in front of a paying audience
  • Selling goods (although you can bring goods into the country to solicit orders)
  • Maintaining a permanent residence
  • Enrolling in an academic or vocational institution

How Difficult is it to Obtain a B-1 Visa?

Overall, B-1 visas are fairly straightforward and there are no limits to the number of B-1 visas given out each year. However, factors such as the nature of the business trip and the personal background of the applicant will determine how difficult the overall process is. Issues with submitted documentation and concerns raised during the interview can certainly harm your team’s chances of successfully obtaining a B-1 visa.

Localyze Can Manage Your International Team’s B-1 Visa Needs

B-1 visas are an important business tool for international teams that rely on frequent and extended travel to the United States. However, the process for getting them can be time consuming and confusing for both your HR staff and employees.

Localyze offers a one-stop shop for international mobility, staying up-to-date with the most recent rules, form updates, and other nuances of visas and immigration processes, so you don’t have to. To learn more about how Localyze can help with your B-1 and other business visa needs, book a demo today.

The content of our website, specifically the articles discussing legal topics, are researched with the utmost care. However, the provider cannot assume any liability for the correctness, completeness, and topicality of the information provided. In particular, the information is of a general nature and does not contain legal advice in individual cases. For the solution of specific legal matters, please consult a lawyer.

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