Law Offices of Stuart J. Reich, PLLC

Practice Limited to Immigration & Nationality Law

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New York, NY 10004

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The B-1/B-2 Visitor Visa

Q: What is the Visitor Visa?

A: The B-1/B-2 visitor visa (B-1 for business visits, B-2 for personal/vacation visits) allows foreign nationals to enter the U.S. for a limited period of time to take part in certain clearly (and narrowly) defined types of activities.

For this type of visa, it is important that the foreign national applying intend to visit only temporarily and not to remain longer-term or permanently for some other purpose (attending school, working, getting married to a U.S. citizen, or residing permanently with U.S.-based relatives for example).

The interviewing officer both at the embassy or consulate where the visa is applied for and upon entry into the U.S. will make determinations as to the intent of the foreign national which will govern the decision to permit entry. The determinations will be based upon the foreign national's expressed intent and evidence of ties to the home country (such as maintenance of a residence there, other property there, family remaining there, and a job to which to return).

Q: What types of activities are appropriate for a B-1/B-2 visit to the U.S.?

A: For a B-1 visit, there are many appropriate uses including:

  • Short-term visit for participation in business meetings or conferences;
  • Short term visits for the purpose of undergoing training here in the U.S. - This would be primarily a well-defined program of predominantly classroom training, not "on-the-job" training; or
  • Short term visits for the purpose of using facilities unavailable in the home country to perform work primarily benefiting a company in the home country - this assumes not only that the employer abroad continues to be pay the foreign national's salary, but also that the foreign national takes direction and answers to the employer aboard rather than a U.S. employer.

For a B-2 visit, valid purposes for the trip might include vacations, attendance at family events, and temporary care for a relative.

It isn't unusual for individuals intending to come to the U.S. for family-related reasons to run into difficulty either in obtaining the visa stamp from the consulate or while attempting to enter the U.S. - largely because the interviewing officer is unconvinced of the foreign national's intent to return to the home country. It is therefore critical that the intent to return be well documented. Again, we suggest referring to our FAQ on visits by family members.

Q: Can I come to the U.S. on a B-1 Visitor Visa to work for a U.S. employer for a short time?

A: No. The B-1/B-2 visa strictly prohibits employment for a U.S. employer. Employment is generally defined as work for the benefit of he U.S. employer and under its direction and control - so even if wages or salary still come from an employer abroad, work done for a U.S. employer here may still be considered prohibited employment.

Q: What other activities are specifically prohibited under the B-1/B-2 visa?

A: While essentially everything not specifically mentioned above as being permissible is not allowed under the B-1/B-2 visitor visa, the prohibited uses about which we are most commonly asked include:

  • Entering the U.S. to begin a job here before an appropriate nonimmigrant visa has been obtained;
  • Entering the U.S. to provide sales or customer service activities in connection with products or services developed or manufactured in the U.S.;
  • Participating in training in the U.S. that is primarily or exclusively on-the-job training, which results in the development of products or services for the benefit of a U.S. company, and which U.S. workers usually develop;
  • Entering the U.S. to perform productive work which primarily benefits a U.S. company;
  • Entering the U.S. to perform work while on the payroll of a U.S. company;
  • Entering the U.S. to permanently live with U.S. family members (such as retirees coming to live with one of their children and their family); or
  • Entering the U.S. to visit a U.S. citizen fianc√© or significant other with the intention of marrying them and petitioning for permanent residence.

Q: My visitor's visa stamp was issued for ten years - can I actually come to visit the U.S. for ten years?

A: No. Remember that a visa stamp is different from lawful status on a particular nonimmigrant visa - see our discussion of the difference here. While a ten-year B-1/B-2 visa stamp allows a foreign national to seek entry as a visitor at any point during the ten-year validity of the stamp, the foreign national still must convince an interviewing officer that he or she meets the requirements for entry as a visitor for each trip.

Further, the foreign national must convince the officer of the duration of stay needed to complete each trip. Most B-1/B-2 entries are granted three months of lawful status in the U.S., though the interviewing officer upon arrival has discretion to grant a length of time deemed appropriate for the visit.

Contact us here to arrange a consultation, to inquire about retaining us to handle your immigration matter, or simply to suggest topics you would like to see covered on our site.

The above is presented for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship with our firm. The information provided should not be used as guidance in pursuing an immigration matter absent consultation with a qualified immigration attorney.