Understanding the B-1 / Visa Waiver Program “Business Visa”
The B-1 visa is given to people who come to the U.S. temporarily for business. The visa is typically issued in combination with a tourist visa for pleasure and is reflected by a “B-1/B-2” annotation on the visa stamp. People who enter the US on the Visa Waiver Program who engage in business activities are subject to the same limitations, as explained below, as those who engage in business activities on the B-1 visa.
The B-1 visa has been called the most “ill-defined visa.” It has also been subject to heightened scrutiny in recent times. Members of Congress have called for inquiries into what they consider to be widespread abuse of the B-1 visa program and the government has initiated investigations against companies who they believe are misusing the program. Recently, a major international company agreed to pay $34 million, the largest penalty ever paid for alleged immigration violations, to close a government investigation into, among other things, its alleged improper use of the B-1 visa program. Due to increased government scrutiny and investigation, business visitors should take extra care to assure any business activities they engage in while on the B-1 visa or Visa Waiver Program are permissible.
Although the B-1 is named a temporary visa for “business,” not all business activities are permitted. For example, traditional employment for hire by a US company is not allowed. Case law confirms that those who enter on the Visa Waiver Program or on a B-1 visa must be engaged in only business activities that are “limited to intercourse of a commercial character.”
Proper business-related activities include:
- Engaging in commercial transactions that do not involve gainful employment in the US (such as a merchant who takes orders for goods manufactured abroad)
- Negotiating contracts
- Consulting with business associates
- Participating in litigation
- Participating in conferences, seminars or conventions
- Conducting independent research, such as studying the US business market
Connecting Your Business With International Talent
At Becker & Lee LLP, employment-based immigration is one of our primary practice areas. Our experienced attorneys have worked with a range of talented individuals, employers, and human resource professionals to obtain B-1 visas, and other temporary visas for their employees. Past clients include energy companies, international furniture suppliers, Silicon Valley tech companies, and a range of additional startups and businesses.
Our B-1 visa lawyers offer comprehensive representation to help ensure legal compliance and efficiency and increase chances of success in the visa application process. Contact our San Francisco Bay Area law firm to learn more about your options.