Transcript: What can I do on a B-1 visa?
Hey, my name is Ben Frear. And in this video I’m going to address a question that I hear fairly often in my practice. And that question is “what can I do on a B-1 visa?”
So most of my clients are entrepreneurs who are either looking to start a business in the United States or they’re interested in sending employees to work in the United States. Many of these clients can benefit from a B-1 Visa or ESTA, both of which permit business visitors to conduct limited business activities in the United States.
In this video, I thought it would be helpful to share some information on what you can do as a business visitor. And I’m going to cover the three most common permissible activities that I talk to my clients about.
First of all, the U. S. State Department acknowledges that this is sort of a gray area Right in the Foreign Affairs manual—which is sort of a guidebook for State Department employees. It says…
It can be difficult to distinguish between appropriate B-1 business activities, and activities that constitute skilled or unskilled labor in the United States that are not appropriate on B status.
So I appreciate this acknowledgment from the State Department. And I also appreciate the fact they go on to list a number of different types of permissible activities in the Foreign Affairs Manual. So by looking at these activities you can see what they do not consider to be skilled or unskilled labor.
Here are some—but not all— of the permissible activities that entrepreneurs can engage in as a business visitor as listed in the foreign affairs manual…
Commercial Transactions on a B-1 Visa
First of all, you can engage in commercial transactions which do not involve gainful employment in the United States.
There is a well known case that provides a nice illustration of what would be considered a permissible commercial transaction. This case involved a tailor who was entering the United States as a B-1 business visitor to measure customers, show swatches of material, inform customers of colors and styling, and do all the things that a tailor would do. After gathering this information, the tailor would take this info back to Hong Kong where the suits would be made. This was found by the court to be permissible since the principal place of business and the actual place of eventual accrual of the profits would be in Hong
Now, obviously, this isn’t a very modern example. I mean who really wears suits anymore?
So a modern example of this might involve a software company that is based in Bulgaria. Everything is developed there. A business visitor sent by that company could theoretically come to the United States to speak with prospective customers, and to do demos, etcetera.They just could not do any of the hands on work while in the United States.
The Foreign Affairs Manual also says that you’re allowed to negotiate contracts. And this makes perfect sense when you think about it because contracts are negotiated before any actual work begins. Hands on work will not occur until the contract is executed.
So those two types of scenarios are fairly common. But the third scenario that I’m going to discuss is perhaps the most common of all.
What can I do on a B-1 visa? Business Meetings
The foreign affairs manual says that you are allowed to consult with business associates as a business visitor.
Now this sounds incredibly broad, but let me give you an example of how this may come up. Let’s say there is a foreign company that is related to a U. S. Company. The foreign company wants to send an employee to the United States to attend business meetings where the topic of conversation will be the shared business plan and operations of both companies. This should generally be permissible as long as the visitor is not on the U. S. Company’s payroll.
The Department of State also says that you can look for investment opportunities. And this is something that I see all the time. E2 visa clients oftentimes initially enter the United States as business visitors.
Once they arrive in the United States, they complete all the steps they need in order to set up their business. And after they take these steps, they apply for the E-2 visa. This is acceptable as long as they do not start to actively manage the business before they have E-2 status.
So when you think of all these examples, you see a general theme start to emerge. Hands on work is absolutely not allowed, but preparing for work is generally okay.
Now there are loads of other more obscure scenarios that are mentioned in the Foreign
Affairs Manual. But the activities that I discussed in this video are the types of activities that I see most often in this context.
So I hope this information was helpful. If you are interested in coming to the United States to do some business planning, absolutely check out business visitor status.
Thank you for your time!
Benjamin Frear, Esq.
Immigration Lawyer For Entrepreneurs and High Growth Companies