B-1 Visa Business Activities
With rare exceptions, the B-1 visa for business is not to be used for any activity that could be construed as meaningful work or employment in the United States. The distinction between “meaningful work” and “business activity” is not a clear one. However, the Department of State (DOS) and USCIS have provided some guidance on this issue, which appears below.
Generally, in the B-1 visa regulations, “business” refers to “conventions, conferences, consultations and other legitimate activities of a commercial or professional nature” that do not include US employment or labor for hire.
B-1 Visa Business Activities: USDOS’s Interpretation
The US Department of State (DOS) has interpreted the regulations to allow B-1 visa holders to:
- Engage in commercial transactions that do not involve gainful employment in the US (i.e., a merchant who takes orders for goods manufactured abroad).
- Negotiate contracts.
- Consult with business associates.
- Settle an estate.
- Participate in scientific, educational, professional or business conventions, conferences, or seminars.
- Participate in short-term training. Or,
- Undertake independent research.
Permissible B-1 Visa Business Activities: State Department Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) and USCIS Operations Instructions (OI)
The US Department of State (9 FAM §41.31) and USCIS (Operating Instructions §214.2(b)) list specific activities approved for admission to the US on a B-1 business visa. These contain useful examples of permissible B-1 visa business activities not obviously within the FAM definition or Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) test of permissible B-1 visa business activities that nevertheless qualify:
- Religious ministers and missionaries under limited circumstances.
- Board members of US corporations to attend meetings.
- Servants of nonimmigrants (temporary US visa holders) or US citizens who are in the US on temporary US assignment; the source of payment to the servant is not material.
- Professional athletes competing for prize money.
- Entertainers (for certain cultural or competitive occasions).
- Still photographers coming to the US to take shots, but who are not paid by a US source.
- Musicians for recording only, recording to be sold only outside the US.
- Certain employees of foreign airlines.
- Workers coming to install, service, or repair commercial or industrial equipment purchased outside the US, or to train for such services, pursuant to a contract of sale, and who receive no remuneration from a US source, but not including persons who are actually performing building or construction work.
- Individuals normally classifiable as H-1B or H-3, customarily employed and still paid by a foreign office, and receiving no remuneration from US source except expense allowance or other reimbursement for expenses.
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