- Statutory and Regulatory Background of the B1 Category
- Permissible Activities for B1 Business Visitors
- FAM Overview
- Commercial Transactions, Negotiations, Consultations, Conferences, Etc.
- Conclusion and Further Reading
In this article, we provide an overview of the different types of activities for which B1 status may be granted. In so doing, we will rely primarily on the guidance on the U.S. Department of State (DOS) Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) at 9 FAM 402.2 [PDF version]. The article will provide links to detailed articles on classes of activities covered by the B1 nonimmigrant classification.
Please see our companion article to learn about the line between permissible B1 visitor activity and unauthorized employment [see article]. Furthermore, please see our similar article on permissible activities for B2 visitors for pleasure [see article]. Finally, please see our full article on when managing an investment may be permissible as a B visitor [see article].
Before examining the things that an individual may be admitted for as a B1 business visitor, it is first important to have a general understanding of the category.
Section 101(a)(15)(B) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) defines as a nonimmigrant “[an alien] having a residence in a foreign country which he has no intention of abandoning who is visiting the United States temporarily for business or pleasure.” In order to be admitted as a B visitor, the applicant must satisfy the consular officer or the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) (in the context of a change of status application) that he or she (1) has a residence in a foreign country and (2) has no intention of abandoning that foreign residence. Under section 101(a)(33) of the INA, “residence” is defined as the place of general abode, or more succinctly as summarized by 9 FAM 402.2(C), the person's “principal, actual dwelling place in fact, without regard to intent.”
In short, the applicant must satisfy the adjudicator that he or she has what is called “nonimmigrant intent.” Without meeting this requirement, the individual will not receive a B visa regardless of the reason he or she is seeking it.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulations in 8 C.F.R. 214.2(b)(1) limits the admission of a B visitor to a maximum period of 1 year, although extensions may be sought in six month increments.
Furthermore, as with all nonimmigrant categories, the alien must be admissible to the United States.
9 FAM 402.2-5(A)-(F) provides DOS officers with guidance on the types of activities that a B1 visitor may be admitted to the United States to engage in. In the subsequent sections, we shall summarize the DOS guidance on the subject.
9 FAM 402.2-5(A)(a) defines “business” for B1 purposes as “business activities other than the performance of skilled or unskilled labor.” As we detail further in our article on the definition of “business” in the B1 context, the B1 category does not authorize employment. In order to actually engage in employment in the United States, the individual must instead seek an appropriate nonimmigrant visa that authorizes the type of employment he or she intends to engage in. However, the line between “permissible business activity” and “employment” is not always clear. This is one of many reasons why it is essential to be fully honest with consular officers or with the USCIS in a change of status application when seeking a B1 visa. The adjudicators will be able to determine if the proposed activity does not fall under permissible B1 business activities, which can in turn save the applicant from serious immigration issues down the line.
In the following subsections, we will examine specifically outlined activities in the FAM.
Under 9 FAM 402.2-5(B), aliens should be classified as B1 business visitors if they are seeking to travel to the United States to engage in one of the following activities:
- Commercial transactions which do not involve gainful employment in the United States (e.g., such as a merchant who takes orders for goods manufactured abroad);
- Negotiation of contracts;
- Consultation with business associates;
- Participation in scientific, educational, professional, or business conventions, conferences, or seminars; or
- Undertaking of independent research.
These cases represent what are possibly the most common cases for B1 classification. In each of these cases, it is important to be cognizant of the limitations of permissible B1 business activities and the general prohibition on employment [see article].
If an individual is unsure what type of visa is appropriate for his or her proposed activities, it is best to first consult with an experienced immigration attorney for case-specific guidance. An attorney will be able to determine whether B1 classification allows for the proposed activities or whether a different type of visa would be necessary. It is important to be forthright with an attorney and immigration adjudicators. Violating nonimmigrant status, including B visitor status, may have serious immigration consequences going forward. Oftentimes, having a full understanding of the applicable rules and regulations will prevent such violations.
To learn about more specific types of activities authorized under B1 status, please see our selection of articles: