The B-1 visa is an excellent tool for members of the international business community. This visa allows foreign nationals to come to the U.S. to engage in business activities for up to six months at a time. However, it can be difficult to distinguish between appropriate B-1 business activities and activities that constitute skilled or unskilled labor in the United States that are not appropriate on B status. Fortunately, certain activities have been deemed as acceptable by USCIS and the Department of State.
A B1 visa holder may participate in business activities of a commercial or professional nature in the United States, including, but not limited to:
- Consulting with business associates
- Traveling for a scientific, educational, professional or business convention, or a conference on specific dates
- Settling an estate
- Negotiating a contract
- Participating in short-term training
- Engaging in commercial transactions, which do not involve gainful employment in the United States (such as a merchant who takes orders for goods manufactured abroad)
- Undertaking independent research
- Attending board meetings or performing other functions as a member of a board of directors of a U.S. corporation
- Acting as a personal or domestic servant of certain foreign nationals in nonimmigrant status, or of U.S. citizens residing abroad or temporarily assigned to the U.S.
- Seeking E-2 investment opportunities in the U.S. (however, these foreign nationals cannot perform productive labor or actively participate in the management of the business until they have been granted E-2 visas)
- Installing, servicing, or repairing commercial or industrial machinery or equipment purchased from a foreign company, or training U.S. workers to do so (so long as the contract of sale calls for this, the foreign national has specialized knowledge about the equipment/machinery, and the foreign national receives no remuneration from a U.S. source)
- Supervising or training other workers engaged in building or construction work
- Transiting through the United States
- Deadheading: certain air crewmen may enter the United States as deadhead crew with a B-1 visa
This list is not exhaustive by any means. A general rule in determining which activities are and are not permissible is as follows: if the principal place of business and the actual place of accrual of profits (if any) resulting from the B-1 activity is in the foreign country, business activities that do not appear on this list may still be appropriate for B-1 visa holders. Most activities that constitute proper B-1 conduct relate to activities that are incidental to the work that will principally be performed outside of the United States.
If you are unsure as to whether or not your intended activities are permissible under the B-1 visa, consult with a U.S. immigration attorney before traveling to the United States.