Each kind of visa issued by the United States government is appropriate under certain circumstances. If you choose to apply for the wrong kind of visa, you may be considered ineligible or you may be restricted from engaging in the kinds of activities that have inspired your desire to come to the United States. An experienced attorney can help to ensure that you apply for the correct type of visa based on your eligibility and your travel-related intentions.
For example, when business professionals wish to enter the U.S., they must determine whether they want to apply for work-related or visitor visas. Work-related visas allow foreign nationals, entrepreneurs and investors to work in the U.S. while residing in the U.S. Depending on the aims of the applicant and the specific visa applied for, these visas may remain current for years. Some even serve as a first step on the pathway toward obtaining a green card. By contrast, business-related visitor visas (formally referred to as B1 visas) allow foreign nationals to stay in the U.S. for a brief period of time while engaging in certain, limited business-related activities. It is important to clearly define your needs, priorities and intentions before applying for a B1 visa. If you ultimately obtain a B1 visa and then engage in prohibited activities while in the U.S., you will leave yourself vulnerable to a host of negative consequences and liabilities.
B1 Visa Permissions and Benefits
At the heart of what is and is not considered “permissible activity” under a B1 business-related visitor visa is the consideration of so-called “nonimmigrant intent.” One of the primary reasons why a B1 visa is issued for a maximum duration of six months (with the possibility of a six month extension, but no longer) is that this particular visa is aimed at foreign nationals who have no intent of abandoning their foreign residences in favor of working and residing in the U.S. The kinds of activities deemed permissible under a B1 visa are those that support an applicant’s nonimmigrant intent.
Practically speaking, this means that the business-related activities that are permissible under the terms of a B1 visa are designed to keep a visa holder from abandoning his or her job abroad and immigrating to the U.S. in violation of the terms of that individual’s B1 visa. If a B1 visa holder determines that he or she would indeed like to remain in the U.S. in order to live and work, that individual must apply for a change of status and seek to obtain an alternative work-related visa.
If a B1 visa holder does intend to return to his or her country of residence pursuant to the terms of his or her B1 visa, that visa holder may engage in certain, limited business activities for the duration of his or her stay in the U.S. These activities include meeting with business associates, negotiating contracts, attending short-term trainings related to his or her current job, participating in conferences, meetings, conventions, business events and academic occasions, settling estates and otherwise engaging in activities directly in furtherance of the visa holder’s foreign employment position or professional field.
B1 Visa Restrictions and Prohibited Activities
While visiting the U.S., a B1 visa holder may not engage in new employment for an American company. In general, any business-related activities undertaken while in the U.S. must serve as an extension of employment that primarily occurs overseas, for a company primarily based overseas. Any exceptions to this general rule must adhere to the spirit of nonimmigrant intent. For example, if a visa holder received reimbursement for expenses and a per diem from his or her current foreign employer in order to attend a conference and meet with business colleagues, these activities would be permissible. If a company based in the U.S. asked the visa holder to undertake some contract work while he or she was in the U.S. and paid that individual accordingly, this would be considered new employment by an American company and would not be considered permissible activity under the terms of the visa. Working for an American company while in the U.S. does not honor the spirit of nonimmigrant intent, as undertaking new employment while on American soil could serve as inspiration to abandon one’s foreign employment and remain in the U.S.
In essence, B1 visa holders cannot “work” in the U.S., they may only engage in business activities in furtherance of their current employment or profession. Similarly, they may not engage in courses of study for academic credit. Any foreign national wishing to study in the U.S. for the purpose of obtaining degree-related credit should consult an attorney about a suitable visa alternative. However, it is important to remember that attending short-term trainings and/or conferences in furtherance of one’s current job description (and not for credit) is permitted under the terms of a B1 visa.
It should be noted that professional athletes, artists and performers are generally subject to different sets of rules, restrictions and allowances. In general, if you either wish to visit the U.S. in order to participate in amateur competitions, performances, etc. or you wish to temporarily visit the U.S. in order to engage in paid performances, competitions, etc. you will need to consult an attorney about an alternative visa designed specifically for these purposes.
Visa Application Assistance Is Available
If you are interested in securing a B1 visa or you have questions about the process, please do not hesitate to contact an experienced attorney as soon as your travel dates have been set. The visitor visa application process is detail-intensive, so the more proactive you are in seeking legal guidance, the more you will benefit from the effort of planning ahead. Please consider scheduling a consultation with a LawTrades immigration attorney today. Our team’s efficient and focused approach to the visa application process is an excellent fit for business-related travelers intent on securing visas without unnecessary delays.