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Corporate Immigration:FAQs:B-1/B-2 FAQs

B-1/B-2 Visa FAQs

Q: Do I need a B-2 visa to visit family in the United States?

A: Generally, a citizen of a foreign country who wishes to enter the U.S. must first obtain a visa, either a nonimmigrant visa for temporary stay or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. The B-2 visitor visa is a nonimmigrant visa for persons desiring to enter the U.S. temporarily for pleasure or medical treatment. Travelers from certain eligible countries may also be able to visit the U.S. without a visa through the Visa Waiver Program. Learn more about how to enter the U.S. as a visitor here.

Q: How do I know if I qualify for the Visa Waver Program? How does it work?

A: Citizens of qualifying countries must carry a machine readable passport or a biometric passport to participate in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Click here for a current list of Visa Waiver Program eligible countries.

To travel under the VWP, an individual must be a citizen of a VWP country, have a valid passport issued by the participating country that is valid for six months beyond their intended visit, be traveling for business, pleasure or transit only, and staying in the U.S. for 90 days or less. In addition, there are other limits on use of the VWP. Contact our office to find out more.

Q: I'm planning to travel to the U.S. on the Visa Waiver Program. Do I need to register my trip?

A: Yes. Starting January 12, 2009, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) implemented an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), which is mandatory for all nationals or citizens of the VWP countries. Travelers have to obtain ESTA approval before boarding a carrier that is going to the United States. If this step is not done, a B-1/B-2 visitor visa must be obtained in advance of travel.

ESTA will only authorize a traveler to board a carrier for travel to the U.S. under the VWP and the authorization will be valid for two years. DHS cautions that this authorization is not a guarantee of admissibility to the U.S. at a port of entry. In addition, individuals traveling on valid visas will not be required to apply for ESTA authorization.

The web-based ESTA system is available at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov. There is currently no fee for the application and the DHS is recommending that ESTA applications be submitted no less than 72 hours prior to travel. Eligibility should be determined almost immediately after submission of this application, and approvals are valid for two years or until the traveler's passport expiration date, whichever is sooner. Anyone who is denied ESTA authorization would have to apply for a visa to enter the United States. Please contact our office if you have any questions about the ESTA program.

Q: My employer is requiring that I attend mandatory training in the United States. Do I need a visa? What type of visa do I need?

A: A B-1 visa may be appropriate when attending training in the U.S. The "business" authorized by a B-1 visa typically entails activities such as training, conventions, conferences, consultations and other legitimate activities of a commercial or professional nature, but it does not authorize gainful employment in the U.S. In addition, the individual must continue to be paid by the property or office abroad, the entry must be of a limited duration, the individual must intend to depart the U.S. at the conclusion of the stay and the visitor must continue to maintain a foreign residence abroad. Please note that the Visa Waiver Program is also designed to cover this type of entry without the need for a "visa" if the individual qualifies for the program. Grzeca Law Group can help to evaluate which option would be appropriate.

Q: Do I have to visit a U.S. Embassy or Consulate to obtain a B-1 visa?

A: Business visitors must obtain a B-1 visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad prior to entering the U.S. if they are not from a Visa Waiver Program country.  When applying for the visa, and subsequent entry to the U.S. in the classification, the employee should carry a letter from his or her employer explaining the details of the nature of the employees duties in the U.S.

As with every immigration situation, U.S. consular officers and immigration border officials have expansive discretion in implementing business visitor rules. If there is speculation that the individual may be coming to the U.S. to engage in "services" or that the U.S. entity may have some direction and control over the employees activities, it will be important to supply that employee with appropriate documentation clearly defining the nature of the activity and establishing their ties to their home country.

Grzeca Law Group would be happy to help draft these letters and prepare the foreign national for his or her B visa appointment and subsequent entry to the U.S.

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