US B-1 Business visitor visa and B-2 Visitor for Pleasure Visa

B-1 business visitor visa and B-2 visitor for pleasure visa

Business travelers may enter the United States using a B-1 'Visitor for Business' Visa. Typically these visas are issued as joint B-1 business visit visa and B-2  'Visitor for Pleasure' (i.e. Tourist) visa. This practice means that, if a candidate has an old tourist visa, it may be valid for a planned business trip.

For those who come under the B-1/B-2 visa-waiver schemeto visit the US for ninety days or less you should apply online using ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation), details of which are provided below. There is usually no need to apply for a B-1/B-2 visit visa at the Embassy at all if the candidate wishes .

While in the US as a business visitor, an individual may:

  • Conduct Negotiations
  • Solicit sales or investment
  • Discuss planned investment or purchases.
  • Make investments or purchases
  • Attend Meetings, and participate in them fully.
  • Interview and hire staff.
  • Conduct research.

The following activities require a working visa, and may not be carried out by business visitors:

  • Running a business.
  • "Gainful employment".
  • Payment by an organization within the US.
  • Participating as a professional in entertainment or sporting events.

Obviously there is a considerable 'gray area' in between what definitely is allowed and what definitely isn't. It is advisable to err on the side of caution when bringing overseas persons into the USA on business visitor visas. However, in certain strictly limited cases, paid employment may be possible using a 'H1B'

Those entering on visitor visas will generally be granted 6 months admission (the maximum allowable is one year) on entry. It may be possible to obtain a six-month extension to the visit visa as long as the candidate will be maintaining visitor status, and there are good reasons to do so. It is sometimes possible to change status to another longer - term visa whilst in the US as a visitor, as long as the candidate advised the relevant US Embassy or Consulate of this possibility beforehand, or there was no pre-conceived intent to do so.

NB: Visit visas should generally be applied for in a country of which the candidate is a Citizen or permanent resident. Applications made in other countries often run a high risk of being turned down. The most common reason for refusal of B1/B2 visas is the applicant showing insufficient evidence of social, family or economic ties to his/her country of residence that would ensure that s/he would return there following the visit to the USA.

If the necessary conditions are satisfied then the applicant can apply for a visa. If you would like to find out if you qualify, you may fill out our US visa assessment form.

The B-1/B-2 Visit Visa Waiver Pilot Program:

As long as they are travelling on a participating airline (i.e. most scheduled airlines from participating countries), and hold a return or onward ticket to a country other than Canada, Citizens of the following countries do not need a visa for visits to the US of up to 90 days:  Please note that you still need to apply online under ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation). 

Unfortunately there are new restrictions on the visa waiver pilot program.   Travelers in the following categories are no longer eligible to travel or be admitted to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP):

  • If you are a National of a visa waiver pilot program Country (VWP) countries and have visited Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011 you will in most cases have to apply for a B-1/B-2 visa at the nearby US Embassy or Consulate.  There are exceptions to this rule for example if you have travelled for diplomatic or military purposes working for a VWP country).
  • In addition if you are a national of a visa waiver country and are also a national of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen you will also need to apply for a visit visa at the relevant US Embassy or Consulate,..
Czech RepublicDenmarkEstonia
NetherlandsNew ZealandNorway
PortugalSan MarinoSingapore
SlovakiaSloveniaSouth Korea
TaiwanUnited Kingdom 


Those present in the US under the visa waiver scheme are subject to basically the same conditions as those on a B1/B2 visa, except that it is not usually possible to extend the visa while in the US or change to another visa.

NB: Visitors on private aircraft will require a B1 and B2 visa.

The B1 in lieu of an H1B

In certain, limited circumstances the US Consulate may issue an employment-authorized B1 visa where the work to be undertaken would usually require an H1B visa. This provision is particularly applicable to situations where you may need a non-US company to send a member of staff to the US for a limited period in order to undertake specific projects for you, or where you wish to bring in an employee of an overseas subsidiary, affiliate or parent for a limited period. The requirements for acquiring a B1 in lieu of H1B are:

  • The work to be undertaken in the US must be H1B level – i.e. the worker must be engaged in a 'speciality occupation';
  • The worker must permanently employed (i.e. not a contractor) and paid by the employer outside the US;
  • The worker may receive no compensation other than expenses from a US source;
  • The worker must have a degree relevant to the services to be provided– there is no provision for work experience to be considered equivalent to adegree, as there is under the H1B.

The B1 in lieu of H-1 visa generally takes 1 to 2 weeks to obtain, and considerably more supporting documentation is required than for a normal B1 visa. Periods of admission and extension are the same as for the standard B1 visa (i.e. generally 6 months).

If the necessary conditions are satisfied then the applicant can apply for a visa. If you would like to find out if you qualify, you may fill out our US visa assessment form.

It should be noted that in rare circumstances, holders of this visa encounters problems when trying to enter the US.

This is because while it is issued by a US Consulate or Embassy, it has not been formally recognized by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). For more information, please contact a member of our staff.