When one enters the United States for business purposes, the type of status he/she will need to acquire will be based on whether the purpose is for “doing business” (which does not require a work visa) or for “being employed” (which requires a work visa) in the United States.
A B-1 Business Visitor, which does not require a work visa, per se, is defined as:
(A)n alien (other than one coming for the purpose of study or of performing skilled or unskilled labor or as a representative of foreign press, radio, film, or other foreign information media coming to engage in such vocation) having a residence in a foreign country which he has no intention of abandoning and who is visiting the United States temporarily for business.
The term “business” is refers to:
conventions, conferences, consultations and other legitimate activities of a commercial or professional nature. It does not include local employment or labor for hire
“Legitimate activities of a commercial or professional nature” include:
- engaging in commercial transactions that do not involve gainful employment in the United States;
- negotiating contracts;
- participating in scientific, educational, professional, or business conventions, conferences or seminars; or
- undertaking independent research.
Certain situations allow for applicants to enter the United States on B-1 status which, normally, might be considered as entering the US to perform skilled or unskilled labor. Exceptions to the above include (but are not limited to):
- applicants entering the United States for the purposes of supervising and/or training of others engaged in building or construction work (but not the actual performance of any such building or construction work)
- various members of religious and charitable organizations and participants in voluntary service programs;
- members of boards of directors of US corporations attending a meeting of the board or performing other functions derivative of board membership;
- personal or domestic servants of US citizens residing outside the US or temporarily assigned to the US;
- personal or domestic servants of non-immigrants (in certain circumstances);
- certain professional athletes; and
- investors seeking investment in the United States that would qualify them for E-2 non-immigrant status so long as they do not perform productive labour or actively participate in the management of the business prior to being granted E2 status;
- alien coming to the United States to install, service, or repair commercial or industrial equipment or machinery purchased from a company outside the United States or to train US workers to perform such services. However, in such cases the contract of sale must specifically require the seller to provide such services or training and the visa applicant must possess specialized knowledge essential to the seller’s contractual obligation to perform the services or training and must receive no remuneration from a U. source;
- applicants coming to the United States merely and exclusively to observe the conduct of business or other professional or vocational activity, provided that they pay the expenses for their trip; and
- certain applicants who might otherwise be eligible for and classified under H1-B or G-3 status whom US companies wish to bring into the United States on short notice, for brief periods of stay, to assist with important technical projects or to participate in training programs. In such cases, the applicant cannot receive a salary or other remuneration from the US source other than an expense allowance or reimbursement for incidental expenses. This category is called “B-1 in Lieu of H1-B or H-3).
Under the benefit of NAFTA, Canadians, the appropriate supporting information and documentation, may obtain their B1 status at the port of entry upon their application for admission to the United States. Non-Canadians may be required to obtain their B-1 status at a US Consulate outside the United States.