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

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?

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?


  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 countryCitizens 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

  1. Belgium

  2. Brunei

  3. Chile

  4. Czech Republic

  5. Denmark

  6. Estonia

  7. Finland

  8. France

  9. Germany

  10. Greece

  11. Hungary

  12. Iceland

  13. Ireland

  14. Italy

  15. Japan

  16. Republic of Korea

  17. Latvia

  18. Liechtenstein

  19. Lithuania

  20. Luxembourg

  21. Malta

  22. Monaco

  23. Netherlands

  24. New Zealand

  25. Norway

  26. Portugal

  27. San Marino

  28. Singapore

  29. Slovakia

  30. Slovenia

  31. Spain

  32. Sweden

  33. Switzerland

  34. Taiwan**

  35. United Kingdom*

2. ESTA Eligibility

  1. Traveling for business meetings or pleasure (not on federal government business or as members of the media). Transit through the United States is generally permitted, if the total time in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and adjacent islands is less than 90 days.

  2. Staying in the U.S. for less than 90 days (this includes time spent in Canada, Mexico, and adjacent islands).

  3. Traveling on an unexpired machine-readable passport (MRP).

  4. Depending on when VWP travelers’ passports were issued, other passport requirements will apply.

  5. They have complied with the conditions of previous admissions under the VWP, and have not been found ineligible for a U.S. visa.

  6. If arriving by air or sea, they are traveling on an approved commercial carrier and have a return trip ticket to a foreign destination other than the U.S. or adjacent islands.

  7. If arriving by land, they can demonstrate the intent to stay 90 days or less in the U.S. and sufficient funds to support themselves in the U.S.

  8. VWP travelers who have been admitted under the Visa Waiver Program and who make a short trip to Canada, Mexico or an adjacent island generally can be readmitted to the U.S. under the VWP for the original admission period.

  9. They do not have a criminal record.

3. What if I enter on the Visa Waiver Program and then decide I want to stay longer than the 90 days?

You cannot extend the time on the Visa Waiver Program. The 90 days also includes any time spent in Canada, Mexico and adjacent Islands. Therefore, you cannot cross the border into these areas and then return for another 90 days. You can however ask for re-entry on the Visa Waiver Program if you have left the continent.

Eligible nationals of all member countries must obtain an ESTA prior to travel to the United States.

4. Do I Need an Attorney to Help Me Apply for ESTA or the B-1 Visa?

While many people are able to apply for ESTA on their own, if you have a criminal record or history of inadmissibility to the United States, it would be prudent to speak with a licensed attorney before seeking admission to the United States under ESTA, as you could be denied entry to the United States and have to return home immediately.

Since the B-1 visa requires an online application, a packet of supporting evidence, and consular interview, there are more opportunities for a reviewing consular official to find errors and deny your application, which could cost you significant time and money.  For this reason, an attorney can help you prepare the packet, review your forms, and help prepare you for what you should or should not say at the consular interview and at the U.S. border.

Often, applicants are denied because they fail to provide sufficient evidence of ties to return to their home country, cannot show they have enough financial support for the journey, appear to be at risk overstaying the visa, or make the impression that they are going to work or be employed in the United States. A good attorney can help you feel confident in this era when there is so much uncertainty around immigration.

5. When Should I Apply for My Interview?

As a last precaution, you should apply for your consular interview at least a month before your proposed travel date in order to have enough time to book an appointment (the wait time to schedule a consular interview can be 3-4 weeks or more), and to return to the consulate 3-5 days later to pick up your passport before departure to the U.S.

About The Grady Firm, P.C.

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This article is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. This article does not make any guarantees as to the outcome of a particular matter, as each matter has its own set of circumstances and must be evaluated individually by a licensed attorney.

**With respect to all references to “country” or “countries” in this document, it should be noted that the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, Pub. L. No. 96-8, Section 4(b)(1), provides that “[w]henever the laws of the United States refer or relate to foreign countries, nations, states, governments, or similar entities, such terms shall include and such laws shall apply with respect to Taiwan.” 22 U.S.C. § 3303(b)(1). Accordingly, all references to “country” or “countries” in the Visa Waiver Program authorizing legislation, Section 217 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. 1187, are read to include Taiwan. This is consistent with the United States’ one-China policy, under which the United States has maintained unofficial relations with Taiwan since 1979.

*British citizens only with the unrestricted right of permanent abode in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

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