The most common nonimmigrant visa is the B visa. There are two types of B visas: B-1 visas for business visitors, and B-2 visas for visitors for pleasure.
The B-1 business visitor category is available to persons who can demonstrate that they 1) have no intention of abandoning their residence abroad and 2) they are visiting the U.S. temporarily for business. Entry is, theoretically, granted for up to a year, but most B-1 admissions are approved for just the period necessary to conduct business and are normally no longer than 6 months.
Business visitors are quite limited in the activities in which they are permitted to engage. B-1 visa holders must not be engaging in productive employment in the United States (U.S.) either for a U.S. employer or on an independent basis. Any work done in the U.S. must be performed on behalf of a foreign employer and paid for by the foreign employer. The work should also be related to international commerce or trade.
The U.S. consular officer reviewing the case will consider several factors when deciding whether to issue a visa including: 1) whether a U.S. worker could be hired to perform the work; 2) whether the work product is predominantly created in the U.S.; and 3) whether the work is controlled mainly by a U.S. company. If the answer to any of these questions is “yes” then the B-1 visa is likely to be denied. An exception may be made in the “B-1 in lieu of H-1B” scenario where a worker would qualify for H-1B status except that the employer is not located in the U.S. But note that many consulates will not consider B-1 in lieu of H-1B filings.
For a tourist to show nonimmigrant intent and demonstrate compliance with the above tests, the key issues are financial arrangements for the trip, specificity of trip plans, ties to the applicant’s home country and ties to the U.S.
Generally speaking, an applicant’s chances for getting a visa will be improved if the planned trip is short, the itinerary is clearly listed, the applicant can easily prove he or she has the money to pay for the trip, and the applicant has a job at home and can show that the time away has been approved by the employer. Of course, in all cases the home country makes a big difference. The lower the visa overstay rate for nationals of a particular country, the better the chances overall that the application will be approved.
The application for a B-1 visa is made at a U.S. consulate. Each consulate has its own procedures for applying for visas and applicants should always closely read the instructions posted at the web site for the consulate. Links to most U.S. consulates abroad can be found at www.travel.state.gov. An applicant will normally apply at the closest consular post in their home country. Some consular posts in other countries also accept applications from third country nationals. Most of the time, the application must be made in person, though some consulates allow the application to be made by mail, a travel agent, or drop box. Under new State Department guidelines, almost all applicants must now be interviewed in person. This change means that it can sometimes take several weeks to get an appointment at a busy consulate.
It is sometimes possible to change from a B-1 visa to another visa once in the U.S. Individuals are cautioned, however, that USCIS could deny a change of status request if they believe the person entered with the intention of switching to another visa. This is particularly true for changes to student visas and when someone applies for a change very soon after entering the U.S. Change requests made within 30 days are particularly suspect unless a good explanation for the change of heart can be provided or the intention to apply for a change was disclosed in advance to a consular officer or USCIS inspector.
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