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When do you need a B1 visa?

If you are travelling to the USA for 90 days or less, and are part of the Visa Waiver Program (or VWP) then you could apply online for a Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (or ESTA). If you are not eligible to apply for an ESTA then you may need to apply for a B1 visa. This is a temporary (non-immigrant) visa that will allow you to travel to the USA for work purposes (on a business trip). You would need a B1 visa if you were travelling to the United States to consult with clients or business associates, or to attend a conference, seminar or convention.

You could also apply for a B1 visa if you will be carrying out business related research, or are going to take part in legal negotiations or proceedings that are work related. A B1 visa is valid for up to 6 months and can be renewed after it has expired. A big difference between an ESTA and a Visitor Visa is that you can apply online for an ESTA and be granted one in seconds, whilst the B1 visa must be obtained through an embassy or consulate.

What you need to know when applying for a B1 visa

The main concern that the U.S. Consulate in the USA has is that you will be returning to your home country, rather than staying to live in the States - so it will be necessary for you to prove that you have ties to the UK. This could be by providing information on a property you own, family and friends that you have within the UK and the job that you have to return to. You would also need to provide evidence that the work is of a legitimate nature. Please be aware that B1 visas are highly discretionary and can be denied if sufficient evidence isn’t provided that represents your intent to return home.

If you are applying for a B1 visa ensure you have the documentation required to submit with it.

What is the difference between a B1 and B2 visa?

If you are not eligible to apply for an ESTA then you may need to apply for a B1 visa for a business trip. A B1 visa allows you to enter the USA for up to a period of 6 months, for business purposes with a company in the USA. A B2 visa allows you to enter the USA for an extended period to that of an ESTA of up to 6 months for tourism, pleasure or to visit family and friends. Simply put a B1 visa is for work-related travel and a B2 visa is for a personal trip.

    The following activities can be carried out with a B1 visa:

  • Negotiate business contracts
  • Consult with business associates
  • Settle business financial affairs
  • Attend conferences, conventions and other business events

Important specifications of a B1 visa

Please note that having a B1 visa does not allow you to do any of the following:

  • Become a student (either full or part-time)
  • Perform and be paid for it
  • Work in the press, or within journalism
  • Take up any form of employment
  • Enter an aircraft or a ship, as a crew member
  • Seek permanent residency in the USA

How do I apply for a B1 Visa?

The order of steps you need to take to apply for a visa may vary depending on the U.S. Embassy or Consulate so follow the instructions on the official U.S. Embassy or Consulate website. You may be asked to complete the online non-immigrant visa application Form DS-160. During the online application and you can print the application page to bring to an interview (though please research and follow the correct procedure of the U.S. Embassy in the UK). During the online application you will need to upload a photo following the specific photograph requirements.

Interviews are often required for visa applicants if you are aged 14 years and over; these generally aren’t required if you are below the age of 13 years, or older than 80 years. An appointment should be scheduled for your interview with the UK’s U.S. Embassy or Consulate and the waiting times for the interview can vary depending on your location, the season and the visa category; so make sure you apply for your visa well in advance. The application fee for this is around $160 or £120.

How long does it take to get a visa B1 after interview?

You will be advised at the interview of how long it can take to process your B1 visa. It can vary depending on the country you are having your interview in and, in some circumstances, this could be for a period of up to 6 months or more. This extended period, of between 6 to 8 months, of waiting time is usually if you are advised at the interview that a waiver of ineligibility is required before the visa can be issued. On a positive note though, most administrative processing is resolved within 60 days of the interview.

What is a B1 visa - domestic employee?

A B1 visa domestic employee is a type of visa for domestic or personal employees. This includes cooks, nannies, butlers, maids, chauffeurs and gardeners who are accompanying, or following to join, an employer in the United States. This has strict requirements and there would be an annotation on the visa indicating the purpose of the visa.

The following requirements must be met:

  • The employee has a home in their country that they have no intention of leaving.
  • They can demonstrate at least one year's experience as a personal or domestic worker.
  • They have been employed for at least one year by the employer as a domestic worker, prior to the employer's admission to the USA.
  • They must have an employment contract, signed and dated by the employer and employee; including the following terms - the employee's income must be above minimum wage, and they're allocated free room and board.

To learn about these and further specific requirements visit the offical U.S. Embassy website.

Important advice

It is important to note that the authorities in the country that you are travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you are unclear at all about certain aspects of the entry requirements to the USA, and you need further advice, then you need to contact the embassy high commission or consulate of that country to find out more.