The “B” in the B-1 visa is all about business. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) classifies the B-1 as a temporary visa for business visitors to the United States. Generally, the length of your stay could be from one to six months, but no more than one year. Although, there are potentially some exceptions to that rule.
Let’s review the current legal requirements for eligibility for the B-1 visa, any exceptions to the general requirements, and the application process.
B-1 Visa: What You Need to Know
You may qualify for a B-1 visa if you need to come to the U.S. for a specific, short amount of time to:
- Consult with business colleagues.
- Attend a conference or convention related to education, science, or business.
- Settle an estate upon the death of a loved one or associate.
- Negotiate contracts.
- Testify at a trial or participate in legal activities related to business.
- Manage “start-up” business activities, like interviewing investors.
- Conduct research.
- Give a speech or lecture.
- Participate in training.
Visitors passing through the United States (for example, to go to Canada) may qualify for a B-1 visa. Airplane pilots may deadhead through the U.S. with their B-1.
If you can qualify for visa status for any other reason, do not apply for the B-1. If you’re coming to work or study, there are other options and your B-1 status will likely be denied.
There is also a Visa Waiver Program, so if you are from any of the participating countries, you should apply through this program.
B-1 Visa: Exceptions to the Rules
If you believe you are eligible for the B-1 visa, the process for applying is relatively straightforward. There is some paperwork to fill out, you will need documentation and then conduct a personal interview. There is also a fee of $160.
Here are step-by-step instructions to help you get there:
- Click here to start the process of filling out the USCIS Form DS-160 Nonimmigrant Visa Application. This form is submitted electronically to the U.S. government.
- Print out the page with the barcode and bring it to your interview.
- Pay the machine-readable visa (MRV) at your local financial institution. To find out which financial institutions will process your payment, go to the website of the U.S. consulate where you’re applying to get a list of participating banks. Note that you cannot pay this fee at the time of your interview.
- You may have an additional Visa reciprocity fee, which is basically a fee to use the credit card. We recommend paying this along with your application fee.
- Call to schedule your B-1 visa interview.
Now you can begin to assemble what you need to bring to the interview:
- Your passport. Note that is must not expire during the period when you will be in the United States. In fact, it must not expire for at least six months after you are scheduled to leave the U.S.
- One U.S. passport-style photo, which should be two inches by two inches. Click here for the photo requirements.
- Any documentation that proves the reason for your visit. For example, your proof of registration for a conference, along with your hotel confirmation, or other ticketed documentation. You must also prove your intent to leave the United States. For example, you could show a plane ticket for your return flight.
- If your trip is business-related and not for a conference, you must bring a letter from the employer in your home country showing your purpose in coming here. It should describe what you’ll be doing and it should also prove that you are not receiving compensation from an American employer while in the country. Additionally, the letter should show your departure date and confirm that you will have a job when you return home.
- You will need evidence that you’re returning home by showing an apartment lease or a relationship with a loved one back home (such as a marriage certificate).
- Finally, you will need proof that you have the financial ability to pay your expenses while you are here. You may have a colleague vouch for you with a Form I-134, Affidavit of Support. Bank or other financial statements, or proof of your income in the form of pay stubs or a letter from your employer, will all be important.
- During the interview, the consular officer will greet you and place you under oath to conduct the interview. Many times these officers will carry out the interview from behind a bulletproof glass window. The officer will review all of your documents and then ask you clarifying questions. You may receive the visa that day, or it could take up to a week.
Need Help? Call an Immigration Expert
Katz Law Offices, Ltd. offers assistance to those seeking to immigrate to the United States. We have helped thousands of clients earn citizenship, extend their stay, or successfully fight deportation. We offer a free 30-minute consultation that can help clarify your status or give you a better understanding of how the current immigration laws affect your ability to stay in this country. Contact us today to find out how we can help.