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What is the B-1 Visa?

The B-1 Visa, known as the Temporary Business Visitor Visa, allows visitors to come to the United States temporarily to participate in business-related activities. It falls under the non-immigrant category and serves the dual purpose of facilitating business trips (B-1) and tourism (B-2), or even a combination of both (B1/B2). This means you can come to the United States for meetings, conferences, research, and general tourism.

How long is the B-1 Visa valid?

One of the perks of the B-1 visa is its flexibility. Typically valid for up to a decade from the date of issue, it grants travelers a stay of up to six months (180 days) per visit. If you find yourself wanting to stay for longer, you can extend your visa for an additional six months. You’d simply need to file Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, and submit any required supporting documents to USCIS. However, the maximum amount of time you can spend on a B-1 visa on any single trip is one year.

What Can You Do with a B-1 Visa?

A visitor to the U.S. may perform the following “non-work” activities on a B-1 Visa:

  • Attend business meetings, conferences, seminars, interviews; 
  • Participate in short-term training;
  • Give a one-off or short series of talks and speeches provided these are not organized as commercial events and will not make a profit for the organizer;
  • Negotiate and sign deals and contracts; 
  • Meet with investors or participate in accelerator programs;
  • Undertake independent research;
  • Take preliminary steps to start a business in the U.S., such as meeting with attorneys, leasing office space, incorporating a business, opening a bank account, etc.;
  • Gather information for their employment outside of the U.S.; and,
  • Meet with a customer to understand their requirements, so long as work for the customer is performed outside of the U.S.

A visitor to the U.S. may not perform the following “work” activities:

  • Oversee or manage a business in the U.S.;
  • Engage in hands-on services for clients or customers;
  • Provide services to a U.S. employer;
  • Make decisions that impact the U.S. operations, including hiring new staff and implementing new operational policies;
  • Direct staff in the function of their work;
  • Review and monitor the work of paid staff;
  • Be paid by a U.S. entity for work performed in the U.S.

How to Apply for a B-1 Visa

First things first, you'll need to complete a DS-160 application. We’ve outlined everything you need to know about the DS-160 here. Once that's done, it's time to schedule your visa appointment interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Be sure to gather all the necessary documents beforehand, including a clear itinerary and an invitation letter if you're visiting for business purposes. You can find more tips for a successful visa interview here.

What does it mean to enter the U.S. as a visitor?

Whether you are entering the U.S. on “ESTA” or on a B1 visa, you must be prepared to explain to a border officer that you intend to remain in the U.S. only temporarily, and that you do not intend to work. Visitors to the U.S. should be prepared to show evidence of their temporary stay, such as receipts for return flights and itineraries for temporary accommodation in the U.S. Avoid mentioning any plans to relocate permanently to the U.S. during your interview.

The B1 visa opens up a world of opportunities for business professionals. Whether you're sealing deals or exploring iconic landmarks, this visa is your ticket to unforgettable experiences in the United States.