B-1 and B-2 Visas

The B-1 and B-2 Visas allow applicants to request a US period of stay for up to six months, to conduct business or to vacation. To obtain the B-1 and B-2 Visas, the person must apply at the U.S. consulate in their home country, unless already present in the United States in other valid status.

Many applicants prepare their own B-1 or B-2 visas without incident. However for more complex cases, including difficult consulates, I have successfully assisted companies and individuals in preparing strong applications that demonstrated eligibility for the underlying visa category.

B-1 Visa: Business Professionals

The B-1 visa is designed for professionals employed abroad who are entering the United States to conduct business on behalf of that foreign employer. DHS will generally limit a B-1 applicant's stay to the few weeks or months required to complete the specific business transaction. To ensure adequate time is allotted, it is important for the applicant to explain and document both the timing and scope of any business itinerary to the DHS officer upon entry, if asked.

What are the B-1 visa requirements?

Basic requirements include:

  • Applicant must maintain a residency abroad which he or she has no intention of abandoning and have a round trip airline ticket
  • Intend to enter the U.S. for a short period of time
  • Seek admission to conduct legitimate business activities
  • Applicant must be paid by and work for a foreign employer

Permissible legitimate business activities are?

Permissible B-1 activities include:

  • Negotiate contracts
  • Investigate possible investments in the United States, often used by E-2 visa applicants to research and set up their US business
  • Consult with business partners or possible clients
  • Attend board meetings
  • Engage in commercial transactions
  • Train employees of a U.S. Company on equipment bought from the foreign company
  • Participate in conventions, seminars or workshops

Can a B-1 entrant work for a US company?

The answer is emphatically NO! A B-1 visa may not be used to work for a US company, even one that is a legal subsidiary of a foreign parent company. I have heard many stories of unwary foreign employees who are refused US entry, barred from future entries or have immigration issues on later applications, because improper employment took place. Please consult with a competent immigration attorney to determine what the correct visa option is for your case.

B-2 VISA: Tourists And Visitors

The visitor visa (B-2) is the most commonly issued visa category and is ideal for those wishing to sight see or visit with family members residing in the United States. This category can also be used for short periods of study, entertainment and cultural events/activities.

A B-2 entrant will generally be given anywhere from two weeks to six months to remain in the United States. Once in the United States, some applicants may apply for a one time extension of stay for up to six additional months (totaling out at a twelve month period of stay). With certain restrictions, this person may also apply to change status to another non-immigrant category.

What are the B-2 visa requirements?

To obtain the B-2 visa, an applicant must prove:

  • Non-immigrant intent, i.e. a firm desire and intent to return to the home country after the authorized grant of stay
  • Strong home ties
  • That entry is for a period of specifically limited duration
  • He or She has a bona-fide B-2 reason for entering the United States
  • Sufficient funds to support the trip, without having to engage in unauthorized employment

Legitimate B-2 Categories:

Legitimate B-2 basis for entry include:

  • Tourism
  • Visiting Family
  • Medical Visits
  • Amateur athletes or entertainers
  • Non-business conferences
  • Students (if B-2 is noted "prospective student")
  • Fiancee when the consular officer believes the person will leave the U.S. before or soon after the marriage before re-entering on a fiancée or other visa

Difficulty in Obtaining B-2 Visas:

For many people, it is very difficult to obtain a B-2 visa. Applicants from countries with high non-return numbers (China, Philippines, India) or from countries with low employment numbers and high poverty levels (Ecuador, Guatemala) will have a harder time convincing the consular officer of his or her real intention to leave the U.S. as directed by DHS. Young, single people without "stable" employment are often denied, regardless of the country of origin for the same reason. In order to increase chances of an approval, it is crucial that the applicant can demonstrate strong ties to their home country. When a person is denied once, this goes on their immigration record and can cause difficulty with future non-immigrant applications for entry.

Importance of Non-Immigrant Intent:

The U.S. Consulate will deny any visa application where they think an applicant is going to overstay their trip to the United States. Non-Immigrant intent means that the applicant has no intention of remaining in the U.S. past the time allowed by the U.S. government. An applicant proves non-immigrant intent through behavior, detailing the reason for the trip, providing convincing documentation of this purpose (wedding invitation, business meeting confirmation) and demonstrating strong home ties.

Definition and Importance of Strong Home Ties:

Strong Home Ties are people, things or circumstances that bind you to your home country. Strong Home Ties include owning a business; longstanding employment; minor children; a large family unit; business, religious and social memberships; ownership of houses, boats, cars.

The U.S. Consulate will not issue a B-2 visa to anyone who cannot demonstrate strong home ties. According to their logic, if a person has strong home ties, this means he or she will not want to remain in the U.S. longer than the time period given by DHS. However if a person cannot show strong home times, that person presents a much larger risk of an overstay violation once inside the United States.