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Quick guide for employers: US B-1 Visa for business travel

Companies who conduct business in the US are likely to have use for B-1 visas from time to time. This common visa allows travel to the US for certain brief business trips to the US .

Our guide reviews the essentials when it comes to understanding when you might need a B-1 visa for your team (and when you might need to explore other options), 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 allows individuals to travel to the US for a temporary period of time for certain business purposes. Importantly, it is not intended for individuals seeking employment or to engage in work. The B-1 visa is typically issued for a period of up to 10 years, and can be used during that 10-year period to request admission to the US for periods of up to 6 months at a time.

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
  • Exploring investment opportunities

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

If an employee will travel to the US for an acceptable B-1 activity, 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 an employee will be traveling to the US for acceptable business purposes, like those listed above, and either of the below conditions are true, a B-1 visa will generally be necessary:

1. The employee is not eligible for visa-less travel under the Visa Waiver Program

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. Traveling with the visa instead of the Visa Waiver Program can mitigate the risk of an employee overstaying their 90-day period of admission, which can have long-lasting penalties making future travel more challenging or impossible.

Additionally, business travel under the Visa Waiver Program must also remain limited to the acceptable, non-work/employment activities listed above. Employees entering the US through the Visa Waiver Program are also not allowed to work.

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 cover expenses during their trip and their return travel)
  • The applicant’s intent to leave the US at the end of the allocated time period

Applicants can usually satisfy these concerns by showing documents related to the reason for their trip (meeting agendas, conference agendas and materials, etc.),  gainful employment outside the US, proof of permanent residence outside the US, and the existence of family ties in their home region.

Can B-1 Visas be Renewed?

Depending on someone’s country of citizenship, the B-1 visa stamp can have a validity of up to 10 years. During the visa stamp’s validity period, someone can use the visa stamp when traveling to the US to request to be admitted for a period of up to 6 months.

Keep in mind that travelers who enter the US via the Visa Waiver Program can be granted a period of stay up to 90 days (not 6 months). For business trips of unknown length, a B-1 visa should be considered. 

What a B-1 Visa Won’t Give Your Team

B-1 visas are intended for temporary, business travel purposes.. The B-1 visa is different from work visas (like H-1B), student visas (like F-1), and green cards.

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

  • Working in the US, including engaging in employment for 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
  • 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 can be fairly straightforward and there are no limits to the number of B-1 visas that can be issued 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. Additionally, appointment lead times and application processing times can be very long and vary widely from one consulate to another. So, it’s important to plan ahead and act quickly if you think a B-1 visa may be necessary for an employee’s intended travel to the US.

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

B-1 visas are an important business tool for international teams that rely on brief business trips to the US. However, the process for getting them can be time-consuming and complicated for both your HR staff and employees.

Localyze offers a one-stop shop for international mobility, partnering with experienced immigration counsel to stayi 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, including contacting Localyze to be connected to an experienced immigration lawyer.

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