B-1 Visa v. Visa Waiver Programs
For those wishing to enter as business visitors, the procedure will vary based on your country of nationality (the country from which you hold a passport). Note that the information herein provided is general in nature and is only intended for information purposes. No representations or legal advice is herein provided for your specific case situation. No attorney-client relationship is hereby created either.
Visa Waiver Program:
There are currently 37 countries (list provided at http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/without/without_1990.html) that do not require business visitors to apply for separate visas to enter the U.S. Instead, these ‘Visa Waiver’ country nationals have a far simpler process. As can be seen on this Department of State website above there are not many requirements apart from having an ESTA passport, being able to prove the purposes of your visit and that it will be limited to 90 days or less, and proving that you are otherwise admissible to the U.S. It is critically important however, as it is for those not from a qualifying Visa Waiver Country, to have proof of the purpose of your visit. This proof can be in the form of an itinerary of events, acceptance or invitation letters, return ticket verifications, and evidence of your ties to your home country to help assure the immigration officials that you indeed intend to return back to your home country after this event. Evidence of ties to your home country can include an employment verification letter, property ownership evidence, family ties to your home country, evidence that you are enrolled in school in your home country, and so forth.
Note that to get additional information about what your local U.S. consulate/embassy will require of you do a search for the U.S. consulate in your country and click the ‘Visa’ tab on that page. For example, if you were from Germany you would visit this page, http://germany.usembassy.gov/visa/vwp/ for additional insight into the process.
If you are not a national of one of the qualifying Visa Waiver Countries discussed above then you will have to apply for an individual business visitor visa if you do not currently have one. Note that the business visitor visa designation is B-1 with the B-2 being issued to those intending to enter as a visitor for pleasure. The B-1 and B-2 visas are actually issued together. Therefore, if you have traveled to the U.S. before, as a visitor for pleasure, go ahead and check to see if the visa in your passport indicated B-1/B-2 and whether the visa is still valid. If the visa is valid then you can enter using that same visa as long as you can prove to the immigration officials that your intention is merely to enter the U.S. for a valid business visitor purpose. As discussed in the Visa Waiver Program section above this entails proving your ties to your home country, verifying your upcoming itinerary of events, and proving that you are otherwise eligible for admission (e.g. that you have no criminal record that would disqualify you form admission or that you have no prior immigration offenses that disqualify you).
If you do not have a valid B-1 visa in your passport then you will have to process such a visa through your local U.S. Consulate/Embassy. In order to do this you could start by searching for the website of your countries U.S. Consulate/Embassy, for example if you are from Brazil you would visit, http://brazil.usembassy.gov/. Then please click on the “Visa” tab at the top of the page and select “NonImmigrant Visas”. Then on the left side you should find a link regarding how to apply. There you will find the basic instructions for how to schedule an appointment, how to submit the electronic immigration processing form, and how to pay the visa processing fee. As each consulate/embassy is different please review your specific countries consular website to ensure you follow the procedure specified. For example, on the consular website of Brazil one of the steps of application refers to additional documents. Read through all such instructions carefully so that you make sure to be prepared for your visa interview to avoid any delays.
After interview and issuance of your B-1 visa you should still take evidence of the ties to your home country as well as evidence of your upcoming itinerary with you to present to the immigration officer at the airport upon arriving in the U.S.
Visa v. I-94
One important note that I want to make, as I see individuals getting this confused all the time, is that upon issuance of your visa in your passport it will likely state that the B visa itself is valid for 10 years. What that means is that you can present yourself at a U.S. port of entry (e.g. airport) for the next ten years and ask for admission. So it is a multiple-entry visa, assuming of course that you do nothing to violate that B visa stay on any of your trips. It DOES NOT mean that once you enter the U.S. you are authorized to stay in the U.S. on B visa status for the next ten years. Upon presentation of your visa at the port of entry and admission to the U.S. you will receive an I-94 in your passport. That I-94 is what controls your authorized period of stay and can be granted for up to 6 months at a time.
Hopefully this provided some using general information about the VWP And the B-1 visa. Note that this was not legal opinion but just a general overview. If you would like legal help with this process feel free to contact us.