Generally, a citizen of a foreign country who wishes to enter the United States must first obtain a visa. Visitor visas are nonimmigrant visas for persons who want to enter the United States temporarily for business (visa category B-1), tourism, pleasure or visiting (visa category B-2), or a combination of both purposes (B-1/B-2).
Few examples of activities permitted with a visitor visa:
Business Visitor (B-1) can:
- Engage in commercial transactions, which do not involve gainful employment in the United States (such as a merchant who takes orders for goods manufactured abroad);
- Negotiate contracts;
- Consult with business associates;
- Participate in scientific, educational, professional, or business conventions, conferences, or seminars; or
- Undertake independent research.
More over, under specific conditions and limitations, the business visitor could be:
- B-1 visitor in lieu of qualified H-1 or H-3 employee
- Investor Seeking Investment in United States: Foreigner seeking investment in the United States, including an investment that would qualify him or her for status as an E-2 nonimmigrant investor; EB-5 immigrant may be issued a B visa to examine or monitor potential qualifying investments as long as the applicant otherwise establishes qualification for a B visa, including that they do not intend to enter the United States to pursue adjustment of status. Please note, applicants seeking investment, like all B-1/B-2 travelers, are precluded from performing productive labor or from actively participating in the management of the business while in the United States in B status.
- Personal/Domestic Employees (domestic help):
- Personal/Domestic Employees of U.S. Citizens Residing Abroad
- Personal/Domestic Employees of U.S. Citizens on Temporary Assignment in United States
- Personal/Domestic Employees who accompanies or follows to join Foreign Nationals in Nonimmigrant Status
- Personal/Domestic Employees of Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs)
- a foreign citizen coming to United States to Pursue Employment Incidental To their Professional Business Activities
- Ministers of Religion and Missionaries
- Participants in Voluntary Service Programs which benefits U.S. communities.
- Members of Board of Directors of U.S. Corporation
- Professional athletes, such as golfers and auto racers, who receive no salary or payment other than prize money for his or her participation in a tournament or sporting event.
- Yacht Crewmen
- Coasting Officers
- Commercial or Industrial Workers
- An alien coming to the United States to install, service, or repair commercial or industrial equipment or machinery purchased from a company outside the United States or to train U.S. workers to perform such services. However, in such cases, the contract of sale must specifically require the seller to provide such services or training and the visa applicant must possess unique knowledge that is essential to the seller’s contractual obligation to perform the services or training and must receive no remuneration from a U.S. source.
- These provisions do not apply to an alien seeking to perform building or construction work, whether on-site or in-plant. The exception is for an alien who is applying for a B-1 visa for supervising or training other workers engaged in building or construction work, but not actually performing any such building or construction work.
- Foreign Airline Employees who:
- Seek to enter the United States for employment with a foreign airline that is engaged in international transportation of passengers and freight;
- Are working in an executive, supervisory, or highly technical capacity; and
- Otherwise meet the requirements for E visa classification but are precluded from entitlement to treaty trader E-1 classification solely because there is no treaty of friendship, commerce, and navigation in effect between the United States and the country of the aliens’ nationality, or because they are not nationals of the airline’s country of nationality.
- Employees of foreign airlines coming to the United States to join an aircraft for an onward international flight may also be documented as B-1 visitors in that they are not transiting the United States and are not admissible as crewmen. Work on solely domestic flights within the United States is not permissible in B-1 status. Applicants for admission are inspected by a CBP officer to determine their admissibility in the United States.
- Medical Clerkship or Business or other Professional or Vocational Activities
- Aliens who wish to obtain hands-on clerkship experience are not deemed to fall within B-1 visa classification.
- Medical Clerkship: An alien who is studying at a foreign medical school and seeks to enter the United States temporarily in order to take an “elective clerkship” at a U.S. medical school’s hospital without remuneration from the hospital. The medical clerkship is only for medical students pursuing their normal third or fourth year internship in a U.S. medical school as part of a foreign medical school degree. (An “elective clerkship” affords practical experience and instructions in the various disciplines of medicine under the supervision and direction of faculty physicians at a U.S. medical school’s hospital as an approved part of the alien’s foreign medical school education. (It does not apply to graduate medical training, which is restricted by Immigration and Nationality Act and normally requires a J-visa.)
- Business or other Professional or Vocational Activities: An alien who is coming to the United States merely and exclusively to observe the conduct of business or other professional or vocational activity may be classified B-1, provided the alien pays for his or her own expenses. However, aliens, often students, who seek to gain practical experience through on-the-job training or clerkships must qualify under INA 101(a)(15)(H) or INA 101(a)(15)(L), or when an appropriate exchange visitors program exists (J). Provided certain requirements are met, interns at embassies, consulates, miscellaneous foreign government offices (MFGOs), missions to international organizations, or international organizations may qualify for A-2, G-1, G-2, G-3, or G-4 visas. See 9 FAM 402.3-5(D)(1) and 9 FAM 402.3-7(B).
- Participants in Foreign Assistance Act Program
- Peace Corps Volunteer Trainers
- Internship with United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR)
- Participants in the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) program of internship for training and research who are not employees of foreign governments.
- A foreign Employed by Foreign or U.S. Exhibitors at International Fairs or Expositions
- A foreign to come to the United States to perform services on behalf of a foreign-based employer as a jockey, sulky driver, trainer, or groomer.
- Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Employees
- Medical Doctor whose purpose for coming to the United States is to observe U.S. medical practices and consult with colleagues on latest techniques, provided no remuneration is received from a U.S. source and no patient care is involved. Failure to pass the Foreign Medical Graduate Examination (FMGE) is irrelevant in such a case.
- Participants in Cultural Programs
- A professional entertainer coming to the United States to participate only in a cultural program sponsored by the sending country.
- Still Photographers
Note: Immigration laws, policies and procedures are complex and may require a consultation with an experienced immigration lawyer.
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