B-1 Visa

What is the B1 Visa?

The B1 non-immigrant visa allows individuals from foreign countries to visit the United States temporarily to consult with business associates; attend a scientific, education, professional, or business convention or conference; settle an estate; or negotiate a contract.

Who is Eligible for the B1 Visa?

In order to qualify for a B1 visa, an applicant must prove:

  • That the purpose of their trip is to enter the United States temporarily for business;
  • That they plan to stay in the United States for a specific, limited period of time;
  • That they have funds to cover expenses while in the United States;
  • That they have a residence outside the United States as well as other binding ties that will ensure their departure from the United States at the end of their visit.

What Can I Do in the United States with the B1 Visa?

The B1 visa generally allows individuals to engage in business activities in the United States. Some qualifying activities under the B1 visa include:

  • Selling merchandise, sign contracts, take order, or take part in an exhibition;
  • Servicing or repairing commercial or industrial equipment or machinery sold by a company in the United Kingdom to a buyer in the United States;
  • Speaking at a qualified event for which the visa holder will receive no compensation other than expenses related to travelling to the United States;
  • Surveying potential sites for a business and/or to lease premises;
  • Participating in a scientific, educational, professional, or business convention, conference, or seminar;
  • Engaging in independent research for which the visa holder will receive no compensation from a U.S. source and the results of the research will not benefit a U.S. institution;
  • Taking an elective clerkship as a medical student at a U.S. medical school’s hospital for no compensation from the hospital;
  • Participating in a voluntary religious or non-profit charitable service program that benefits a U.S. local community;
  • Performing services on the Outer Continental Shelf.

What Am I Not Allowed to Do in the United States with the B1 Visa?

The B1 visa doe not permit travel to the United States for the purpose of engaging in certain activities, including:

  • Long-term employment by a U.S. employer;
  • Obtaining permanent residence in the United States;
  • Study;
  • Performing for pay or before a paying audience;
  • Arrival as a crewmember on a ship or aircraft
  • Working as a member of the foreign press or information media, including print journalism, film, or radio.

For How Long is the B1 Visa Valid?

The B1 visa allows individuals to stay in the United States for no longer than 180 days (or 6 months).

Can B1 Visa Holders Extend their Stay Past 180 Days?

B1 visa holders may apply to extend their stay in the United States by filing Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Applications to extend stay must be filed at least 45 days before the currently authorized stay expires.
Generally, B1 visa holders are permitted to stay in the United States for an initial period of stay of 1 to a maximum of 6 months. B1 visa holders may extend their stay for up to an additional 6 months. The maximum amount of time a B1 visa holder may stay in the U.S. after extending their stay is 1 year.
Individuals who stay in the United States longer than authorized on the Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record risk being barred from returning to the United States or may face deportation from the United States.
In order to qualify for a visa extension, a B1 visa holder must:

  • Have been lawfully admitted into the United States under the B1 visa;
  • Maintain a valid nonimmigrant visa status;
  • Have not committed any crimes that make them ineligible for a visa;
  • Have not violated the conditions of their admission by engaging in impermissible activities;
  • Have a valid passport that will remain valid for the duration of their stay

What is the process for obtaining a B1 visa?

The application process for the B1 visa involves several general steps. However, before beginning the B1 visa application process, applicants should recognize that the application process may vary somewhat depending on the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the applicant’s country. Applicants should check with the Embassy or Consulate in their country for any specific requirements as they go through the steps outlined below:

Fill Out Form DS-160 Online

Generally, applicants for the B1 visa must first fill out and submit Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application. While filling out Form DS-160 online, applicants must pay the application fee and upload a photo of themselves that meets the United States Department of State photo requirements. After the Form DS-160, applicants will need to print the application form confirmation page to bring to their interview.

Schedule and Attend the Consulate Interview

After completing Form DS-160, applicants should schedule an appointment for a visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the applicant’s country. Interviews are generally not required for applicants under the age of 14 and over the age of 80.
At the interview, the applicant will meet with a U.S. Embassy or Consulate officer to answer questions to determine eligibility for the B1 visa. Additionally, applicants may have biometric screening done, which includes ink-free, digital fingerprint scans.
The visa applicant must bring the following documentation to the interview:

  • Valid passport for travel;
  • Form DS-160 confirmation page;
  • Application fee payment receipt;
  • Photo that meets the photo requirements;
  • Documentation proving the purpose of the applicant’s trip to the United States, such as a letter from the applicant’s employer detailing the purpose of the applicant’s trip to the U.S. and the applicant’s job position;
  • Documentation proving the applicant’s intent to depart the United States after his or her trip, such as proof of family ties, temporary job contract, or a deed to property the applicant owns in his or her home country;
  • Documentation proving the applicant’s ability to pay all costs of his or her trip to the United States, such as financial or bank statements.

In some instances, a B1 visa applicant may need to prepare additional documentation, including:

  • A list of the applicant’s social media accounts;
  • Criminal records or letters from authorities stating the applicant has no prior convictions;
  • Documentation evidencing any prior trips taken to the United States by the applicant, if any;
  • Documentation evidencing the applicant’s current employment in their home country, if any, and pay stubs from the past three months showing their income.

After the interview, the visa application may be immediately approved or it may need further administrative processing. If the visa is approved, the applicant may have to pay a visa issuance fee.

Entering the United States

Once the visa is issued, the applicant will be subject to additional screening at the United States port of entry. Customs and Border Protection officials at the port of entry have the authority to permit or deny admission to the United States. An applicant should have all documentation ready to present to officials upon arriving in the United States.

How much does it cost to get a B1 visa?

  • The fee for Form DS-160 is $160
  • Any biometrics fee is $85
  • Additional costs may be involved when gathering all required documentation

Sweta Khandelwal

Sweta completed her Masters in Law from the University of California, Los Angeles and her JD from the Faculty of Law, Delhi University in India and has been practicing law for 15+ years getting visas, green cards, and citizenship for 1000+ clients, 100+ companies across 50+ nationalities.

Sweta has been recognized as a ” Super Lawyer, Rising Star,” and as amongst the ” Top 40 under 40″ immigration attorneys in California (American Society of Legal Advocates). She is also the recipient of the Advocacy Award by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Sweta is also a chartered accountant — the equivalent of a CPA. This makes her uniquely positioned to understand the immigration needs of her business clients in the broader context of their corporate objectives.

Sweta is actively involved with immigration issues and immigrant communities in various capacities. She has assumed key roles at the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), both at the local and national level. She has been a past chair at the Santa Clara Valley Chapter at AILA and has also been involved in various practice area committees at AILA National. Sweta has addressed multiple conferences/forums in the United States and worldwide on immigration and business issues.