Visiting the U.S. Temporarily for Business and/or Pleasure
B visas and the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)
The following information is for educational purposes only (i.e., to give you general information and a general understanding of this immigration related matter) and does not provide specific legal advice and does not form an attorney-client relationship.
As you may already be aware, generally, foreign visitors will need to obtain a physical (B) visa stamp for visiting the United States temporarily for business and/or pleasure. However, there are exceptions where a physical (B) visa stamp may not be required.
The visas for these purposes are the B-1 (business), B-2 (tourism), and the B-1/B-2 (for both business and tourism).
About B-1 visa status
B-1 visa status does not provide limitless employment authorization; only certain business related work is permitted while in the U.S. in this visa status. The following are some of the permitted business related work while in the U.S. in B-1 visa status per the U.S. Department of State (DOS):
(1) Consult with business associates
(2) Attend a scientific, educational, professional, or business convention or conference
(3) Settle an estate
(4) Negotiate a contract
Additionally, if you are a personal or domestic employee, you may be able to travel to the U.S. for this work in B-1 visa status when accompanying your U.S. citizen employer who either permanently lives outside of the U.S. or is stationed in a foreign country and is visiting the U.S. or is assigned to the U.S. temporarily or when accompanying your foreign employer who is in the U.S. in B, E, F, H, I, J, L M, O, P or Q visa status.
About B-2 visa status
The following are some of the permitted activities while in the U.S. in B-2 visa status per the U.S. DOS:
(2) Vacation (holiday)
(3) Visit with friends or relatives
(4) Medical treatment
(5) Participation in social events hosted by fraternal, social, or service organizations
(6) Participation by amateurs in musical, sports, or similar events or contests (if not being paid for participating)
(7) Enrollment in a short recreational course of study (not for credit toward a degree) (e.g., 2 day cooking class while on vacation)
About B-1/B-2 visa status
B-1/B-2 visa status would permit any of the activities listed above in the B-1 and B-2 visa categories.
Non-permitted activities while in B visa status
The following are activities that are not permitted while in B visa status:
• Study (other than a short recreational course not toward a degree while in B-1 or B-1/B-2 visa status)
• Employment (other than the very business related activities listed above while in B-1 or B-1/B-2 visa status)
• Paid performances or any professional performance before a paying audience
• Arrival in the U.S. as a crewmember on a watercraft or aircraft
• Work as a foreign press including in radio, film, print journalism, or other information media
• Becoming a U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident
The Exceptions Where a B Visa Stamp May Not be Required for Visiting the U.S. Temporarily for Business and/or Pleasure
The exceptions where you may not need a physical B-1, B-2, or a B-1/B-2 visa stamp for entering the U.S. temporarily for business and/or pleasure:
(1) Entering the U.S. under the VWP
• Meet the requirements of the VWP and have the approved ETSA travel authorization prior to boarding the U.S. bound watercraft or aircraft
o When coming to the U.S. for up to 90 days
o A passport holder of a qualified country (see here for listing of current VWP countries)
(2) Entering the U.S. for these purposes as a Canadian or Bermudian citizen
• A physical B-1, B-2, or B-1/B-2 visa stamp would generally not be required for entry for a stay up to 180 days with the following exceptions:
o Applicant with a criminal conviction or other ineligibility
o Applicant who previously violated the terms of admission to the U.S.
o Applicant entering the U.S. on a permanent basis (e.g., K-1, K-2, K-3, K-4, V-1, or V-2 visa)
See the U.S. Consulate General in Bermuda’s webpage here for further information regarding this exception for Bermudian citizens.
See the U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Canada’s webpage here for further information regarding this exception for Canadian citizens.
The General Application Process for a B visa
Step 1: Complete Form DS-160 (on the U.S. Department of State’s (DOS) webpage here) including uploading your photo • You will need to print the confirmation page upon completing the Form and bring this confirmation page to the nonimmigrant visa (NIV) interview
Step 2: Pay the non-refundable visa application fee
• Payment of this fee may be required prior to the NIV interview, refer to your corresponding U.S. Embassy’s or Consulates’ website for exact instructions as order of the steps in the application process may vary
• You may also be required to pay an additional visa issuance fee depending on your nationality upon visa approval
Step 3: Schedule the NIV interview
• The NIV interview may not be required where the applicant is 13 years old or younger or 80 years old or older
• See your corresponding U.S. Embassy’s or Consulates’ website for more specific details regarding the NIV interview and process
o This would generally be the corresponding U.S. Embassy or Consulate for where you live
Step 4: Preparing for the NIV interview
• Be prepared to bring:
o Your passport (with a validity of 6 months beyond your intended stay in the U.S. unless your country is exempt from this requirement)
o Your DS-160 confirmation page
o Payment receipt of application fee (if required to pay fee prior to NIV interview)
o Printed photo (in the case that your electronic photo upload failed)
o Additional documentation to establish your eligibility may be required (e.g., documentation to establish the purpose of your trip, documentation to establish your intent to depart the U.S. at the conclusion of your trip, your ability to completely fund your trip related costs).
• There may be an option to demonstrate ability to completely fund trip related expenses through evidence of another person willing to cover the trip related costs.
Step 5: NIV interview
• The U.S. Consular Officer may take your ink-free fingerprints during the interview
• You may be informed at the end of the interview if your application is approved or if further processing is required.
Since B visa application approval is not guaranteed and since even the timeframe for obtaining the visa varies, it is recommended that you do not purchase non-refundable travel tickets until obtaining the visa.
The General Application Process for Travel under the VWP
Step 1: Complete the ESTA application
Step 2: Pay required fees
• Generally, a decision on your case will be made within 72 hours
• You will generally be able to correct any errors after submitting your application by clicking “Check Individual Status” except for mistakes regarding your passport and/or biographical information and regarding the eligibility questions.
Requirements for a U.S. Visa for Business and/or Pleasure
Applicant must be able to demonstrate their nonimmigrant intent/ overcome the presumption of immigrant intent; this includes demonstrating their intention to enter the U.S. only temporarily for business and/or pleasure (for a specific, limited period of time), their funds to cover their expenses in the U.S., their foreign residence and binding ties to ensure their departure from the U.S.
The foreign applicant would be able to apply again with evidence to overcome the visa denial (if permitted under the particular denial grounds- not permitted under 221(g)). Generally, the denial notice would inform the foreign applicant of the specific legal ground(s) for denial and regarding the availability of a waiver of the grounds of inadmissibility.
Traveling to the U.S. for Temporary Visit for Business and/or Pleasure
It is important to keep in mind that the visa (or approved ETSA) does not guarantee entry to the U.S. as it is only permission to travel to the U.S. port-of-entry to request permission to enter the U.S.
For travel to the U.S. under the VWP, the ETSA authorization page is not required and the ETSA authorization only needs to be valid for up until entering the U.S. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) does recommend printing out the ESTA authorization approval for one’s own records of the application number and confirmation of the ETSA status.
Expiring Passport, Valid B Visa Stamp
The valid B visa stamp would still be valid despite it being in an expired passport as long as it has not been canceled or revoked. To travel with this valid B visa stamp, you would bring this expired passport with the valid B visa stamp along with your new valid passport.
Traveling to the U.S. for Medical Treatment
The U.S. consular officer may ask you for further documentation regarding your medical treatment at the NIV interview including the medical diagnosis by a local physician (explaining your condition and reason for seeking treatment in the U.S.), letter from medical physician or facility in the U.S. (including their willingness to treat your condition along with the anticipated length and cost of the treatment) and/or proof of your ability to cover your travel related fees (including for transportation, medical and living expenses).
Reasons For Hiring or Consulting with an Immigration Attorney to Assist you with Your Case
(1) If you have a previously denied ETSA or B visa application or if you were previously denied entry to the U.S.
(2) If you have a criminal record or other inadmissibility grounds affect your case
(3) If your application has been pending beyond the normal processing time
(4) If you are in the U.S. and will either extend or change your NIV status
If you need assistance with your B visa application or ETSA application, please, contact Immigration Attorney Rebecca Carcagno by phone at (734) 999-0360 or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.