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B-1/B-2 for Business or Pleasure

The B nonimmigrant category permits temporary entry to the United States for either business (B-1) or pleasure/tourist (B-2). Regulatory citations state:

  • 22 CFR 41.31(b)(2) (i) The term "pleasure", refers to legitimate activities of a recreational character, including tourism, amusement, visits with friends or relatives, rest, medical treatment, and activities of a fraternal, social, or service nature.
  • 22 CFR 41.31(b)(1) - The term "business" refers to conventions, conferences, consultations and other legitimate activities of a commercial or professional nature. It does not include local employment or labor for hire...
Establishing Eligibility for a B-1 or B-2 Visa

The United State Department of State (DOS) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have full discretion in granting visas or entry to the U.S. 

Individuals requesting a B-1 or B-2 visa must schedule a visa appointment with a consular officer at a U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country. The following documents will assist an individual with the visa interview:

  • Evidence which shows the purpose of the trip
  • Intent to depart the United States
  • Financial evidence cover the costs of the trip
  • should be provided.
  • Letter from the Texas State sponsoring department or individual indicating
    • the purpose of the trip,
    • intended length of stay, and
    • the sponsors intent to defray travel costs (not required).

DOS/DHS may not view B-1/WB or B-2/WT Visitor status as appropriate for someone coming to a university to study, conduct research, consult, or lecture. Another immigration category, such as F-1 student or J-1 exchange visitor, may be appropriate for such purposes.

Duration of Stay

B-1 visitors for business are admitted to the United States for an initial period based primarily on the amount of time that the B-1 states is necessary to accomplish the business purpose, but not to exceed 1 year. Although not specified in the regulations, CBP policy has been to admit B-1 visitors for business for a default period of 6 months.

B-2 visitors for pleasure are admitted for standard initial period of 6 months, regardless of the validity of their visa stamp, and regardless of whether their stated length of stay is shorter than 6 months.

The status that the person is admitted in, as well as the expiration date for that particular entry, are recorded by the admitting immigration official in the electronic Form I-94 system, as well as in an entry stamp placed in the traveler's passport.

Visa Waiver Program

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables people from participating countries to travel to the U.S. for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. Nationals of VWP countries must meet eligibility requirements to travel without a visa on the VWP.

The temporary visitor status is a nonimmigrant classification for persons desiring to enter the US temporarily with a waiver of business visa (WB) or waiver of tourist visa (WT).

VWP travelers are required to have a valid authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) before traveling. Travelers are screened at the port of entry into the United States and are enrolled in the Department of Homeland Security’s US-VISIT program."

For more information review the following:

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  • The B-1 category is not intended to facilitate employment in the United States.

    As a general rule, B-1 and WB visitors are not permitted to engage in employment of any kind while in the United States. For example, they may not legally accept part-time, full-time, or temporary teaching or research positions, for which they are paid by a U.S. institution.

    Despite the general rule prohibiting employment, certain reimbursement and honorarium payments are permissible if they arise out of a legitimate B-1 activity.

  • Visitors in B-1 and WB status have traditionally been allowed to receive reimbursements for incidental expenses or per diems related to their B-1/WB activity. The total amount of such payments cannot exceed what is "reasonable" as a business expense.

    • Contact the Payroll and Tax Compliance Office for information on a visitor's eligibility to receive an honorarium and/or travel reimbursement from Texas State University. 
    • Honorariums may only be provided under specific conditions.
    • Please note that for university purposes, it is recommended to request and be admitted to the US in B-1 or WB status rather than B-2 or WT status.
  • 9 FAM 402.2-5(F)(1)

    A nonimmigrant in B-1 status may not receive a salary from a U.S. source for services rendered in connection with his or her activities in the United States.

    A U.S. source, however, may provide the alien with an expense allowance or reimbursement for expenses incidental to the temporary stay.

    Incidental expenses may not exceed the actual reasonable expenses the alien will incur in traveling to and from the event, together with living expenses the alien reasonably can be expected to incur for meals, lodging, laundry, and other basic services.

    If he/she will be receiving any honorarium payment, note the following:

    9 FAM 402.2-5(F)(2)

    A nonimmigrant in B-1 status may accept an honorarium payment and associated incidental expenses for usual academic activities (which can include lecturing, guest teaching, or performing in an academic sponsored festival) if:

    • The activities last no longer than nine days at any single institution or organization;
    • Payment is offered by an institution or organization described in INA 212(p) [includes institutions of higher education];
    • The honorarium is for services conducted for the benefit of the institution or entity; and
    • The alien has not accepted such payments or expenses from more than five institutions or organizations over the last six months.

    Scholars arriving in the US in B-1, B-2 or visa waiver status should have with them letters from the institutions that will be providing them with honoraria. The letters should note the services to be provided and the honoraria and travel reimbursements offered. International scholars should be informed in advance of the limitations of the B-1/B-2/visa waiver honoraria rule and cautioned to be careful not exceed those limitations.

  • An Invitation Letter may support the B visitor's receive a visa and be granted permission to enter the US. An invitation letter is strongly recommended from the hosting department or individual.

    Invitation letters should include the following specific information:

    • Purpose of the visit
    • Biographical information of visitor (name, date of birth, and passport number)
    • Duration of stay (start and end date)
    • Information on how transportation and local expenses are to be funded
    • Contact information of the hosting department or individual sponsoring the visitor
      • Name, title, phone number, email, meeting website (if available)
    • Hosting department or individual's relationship to the visitor

    If the visitor will receive any kind of reimbursement for expenses incidental to the temporary stay, use language from the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) cited below. It is also important for the individual to note that he or she:

    1. Must have a residence abroad to which he or she intends to return
    2. Must intend to remain in the US only for a specified limited period of time solely to participate in legitimate activities of the B status or visa waiver program
      • The individual should carry a return ticket or other confirmation to show US officials that he or she will leave within set period of time.
    3. Should be able to document that he/she has personal funding to support him/herself for the duration of his/her limited stay in U.S.
  • B-2 and WT visitors are not permitted to engage in employment of any kind while in the United States, nor are they permitted to receive any other type of payments or reimbursements (other than "academic honoraria"). They may not legally accept part-time, full-time, or temporary teaching or research positions or other employment for which they are paid by a U.S. institution.

    Visitors in B-2 and WT status may receive academic honoraria payments and payments for associated incidental expenses.

    The payments for honoraria and associated incidental expenses must be made

    1. by an institution of higher education or a nonprofit or governmental research organization, and
    2. for academic-related services provided to that institution, provided that the services do not exceed 9 days and that the person has not accepted such payments from more than 5 institutions in the previous six-month period.
  • The Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) at 9 FAM 402.2-5(B) contains examples of standard business uses of the B-1 category. A number of the examples can clearly be used as the basis for recommending the B-1 category for certain professional academic activity. The FAM states that aliens who wish to enter the U.S. to engage in these activities "should be classified B-1 visitors for business, if otherwise eligible.

    Aliens Traveling to United States to Engage in Commercial Transactions, Negotiations, Consultations, Conferences, Etc.

    • (a) Aliens should be classified B-1 visitors for business, if otherwise eligible, if they are traveling to the United States to:
      • (1) 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);
      • (2) Negotiate contracts;
      • (3) Consult with business associates;
      • (4) Litigate;
      • (5) Participate in scientific, educational, professional, or business conventions, conferences, or seminars; or
      • (6) Undertake independent research.
    • Items (a)(3), (a)(5), and (a)(6) are particularly useful in the academic setting.
  • The Foreign Affairs Manual at 9 FAM 402.2-4(A) describes these very common reasons for use of a B visa:

    • Tourism or Family Visits: Aliens traveling to the United States for purposes of tourism or to make social visits to relative or friends. 9 FAM 402.2-4(A)(3) - Convention and Conference Attendance
    • Participation in Social Events: Aliens participating in conventions, conferences, or convocation of fraternal, social, or service organizations.
    • A prospective student or prospective exchange visitor may be generally eligible for an F-1 or J-1 visa, but timing or circumstances might interfere with the person's obtaining the visa. In some cases, the alien may obtain a B-2 visitor's visa, issued by a consular official with a "prospective student" or "prospective exchange visitor" annotation.
      • Example: An applicant who has neither been issued a Form I-20 nor made a final selection of a school but wants to enter the United States for the primary purpose of selecting a school.