The B Visa and Visa Waiver (ESTA) Categories
The B visa and Visa Waiver (ETSA) are the most commonly utilized visa categories. They authorize nonimmigrant temporary visitors to enter the United States for business (B-1 or WB) or pleasure (B-2 or WT).
Nonimmigrant temporary visitors typically require visas to enter the United States. B-1 and B-2 visas can be either single or multiple entry. B-1 and B-2 visa holders are allowed to remain in the United States for up to 6 months. They are allowed to extend their stay for up to 6 additional months by filing an extension of status with the USCIS. B-1 and B-2 visa holders may change their status to another nonimmigrant visa category.
WB and WT classification is only available to nationals of certain countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program. Nationals of these countries may enter the United States without first applying for a visa at an overseas U.S. consulate. WB and WT nonimmigrant temporary visitors are allowed to remain in the United States for no more than 90 days. They are barred from extending their stay or changing status.
Canadian citizens coming to the United States are not required to possess a B-1 or B-2 visa and may remain in the U.S. for up to 6 months.
General Requirements for B Visas
Applicants for B-1 and B-2 visas must demonstrate that they are:
- Coming to the United States for a temporary fixed and determinable period;
- Have a foreign residence abroad that they have no intention of abandoning and they are likely to depart the United States after their temporary stay;
- Will not work or study in the United States; and
- Have sufficient funds to pay for their temporary visit in the United States.
Permissible B-1 and WB Activities
The B-1 and WB categories do not authorize employment in the United States. However, there are numerous legitimate business and commercial activities in which B-1 and WB nonimmigrants may engage in.
Examples of permissible activities include: soliciting sales for overseas manufacturers; negotiating contracts or taking orders from established customers for work to be performed outside the United States; litigation; engaging in consultations with regard to service or sales contracts already undertaken by a foreign company; attending meetings and seminars aimed at furthering corporate goals of an entity abroad, and many others activities. The vital legal distinction is that a person may not use the B-1 or WB classifications to enter the United States to engage in productive employment, such as salaried work for an employer or services for hire as an independent contractor. B-1 and WB nonimmigrants cannot receive a salary or payment from any U.S. source other than reimbursement for actual expenses accrued.
Participating Countries in the Visa Waiver Program
Nationals from the following countries are eligible for admission into the United States utilizing the Visa Waiver Program: