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When Do I Need a B-1 Temporary Business Visitor Visa? Can I Just use ESTA to Visit the US?

If you are coming to the United States to establish a U.S. presence of your foreign business; investigate whether you want to open a business in the U.S.; or attend conferences, look for commercial space, or interview potential investors or employees; you may be eligible for the B-1 Temporary Business Visitor Visa.

I. B-1 Temporary Business Visitor Visa

1. Real Examples of When to Use the B-1 Visa

For example, if you own a business abroad but want to come to the United States to speak at conferences, meet potential clients, and conduct marketing activities, but have no plans to live or work in the U.S., the B-1 visa would be a good option for you.

In addition, if you have a business abroad and are looking to open an office in the United States, you can come to the US for several months to look for an office or warehouse space, interview potential employees, meet with investors, and do research for the business.

You can also use the B-1 while you are in the process of establishing U.S. business before applying for the E-2 Treaty Trader Visa, or L-1A Intracompany Transferee Executive or Manager Visa (which has the option to lead to a Green Card).

2. How Long Is the B-1 Valid?

B-1 visas can be valid for ten (10) years at a time, with an initial period of stay from one (1) to six (6) months. The maximum total amount of time permitted in B-1 status on any one trip is generally one (1) year.

3. Who is Eligible for the B-1 Visa?

You may be eligible for a B-1 visa if you will be participating in business activities of a commercial or professional nature in the United States, including, but not limited to:

  1. Consulting with business associates;

  2. Traveling for a scientific, educational, professional or business convention, or a conference on specific dates;

  3. Settling an estate;

  4. Negotiating a contract; and

  5. Participating in short-term training.

4. Eligibility Criteria

You must demonstrate the following in order to be eligible to obtain a B-1 visa:

  1. The purpose of your trip is to enter the United States for business of a legitimate nature;

  2. You plan to remain for a specific limited period of time;

  3. You have the funds to cover the expenses of the trip and your stay in the United States;

  4. You have a residence outside the United States in which you have no intention of abandoning, as well as other binding ties which will ensure your return abroad at the end of the visit; and

  5. You are otherwise admissible to the United States.

5. Can I Bring My Family on the B-1 Visa?

Your spouse and children are not eligible to obtain a dependent visa. Each of your dependents who will be accompanying or following to join you must apply separately for a B-2 visa and must follow the regulations for that visa.


  1. What is it?

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables nationals of certain countries, including Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and many European countries, to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa, if certain requirements are met. In order to be able to use ESTA, you must be a citizen of a treaty country. Citizens of countries that are not on this list, or who want to stay in the US longer than 90 days, should consider applying for a B-1 Visa.

Currently, citizens or nationals of the following countries are currently eligible to travel to the United States under the VWP:

  1. Andorra

  2. Australia

  3. Belgium

  4. Brunei

  5. Chile

  6. Czech Republic

  7. Denmark

  8. Estonia

  9. Finland

  10. France

  11. Germany

  12. Greece

  13. Hungary

  14. Iceland

  15. Ireland

  16. Italy

  17. Japan

  18. Republic of Korea

  19. Latvia

  20. Liechtenstein

  21. Lithuania

  22. Luxembourg

  23. Malta

  24. Monaco

  25. Netherlands

  26. New Zealand

  27. Norway

  28. Portugal

  29. San Marino

  30. Singapore