The “B” Visa for Business Trips and Tourism
The “B” visa category remains the most popular and most frequently issued visa as it facilitates the flow of tourists and business travelers to the U.S. In general, the B visa stamp in a passport is often valid for 10 years, and Customs & Border Protection typically grants periods of stay in the U.S. for six months at a time. However, these general guidelines are subject to country reciprocity guidelines, meaning nationals of certain countries may not be granted the maximum visa validity or period of stay.
The B visa status is divided into two categories – those visiting for business (B-1) and those visiting for pleasure (B-2). While the tourism category is straightforward, the B-1 visa is an important visa that can facilitate short, unpaid business trips to the U.S. to handle contract negotiations or brief training. More importantly, the B-1 visa can serve as a launching pad for the E-2 investor visa and L-1A New Office visas, allowing foreign nationals to enter the United States for the express purpose of seeking out an investment opportunity or starting a business. There are also limited circumstances where a B-1 visa can be substituted in lieu of an H-1, H-3, J-1, or R-1 visa.
B visa holders are not permitted to enroll in school or receive employment authorization. However, it is not uncommon for individuals in B status to want to attend college after exploring the higher education options in the U.S. For foreign nationals interested in pursuing that option, recent changes to the B regulations require that a change of status to F or M student status must be approved before beginning classes. Because U.S. academic institutions only start three times a year (August/January/May) and change of status applications can take several months, timing is critically important in achieving a student visa without having to depart the United States prior to starting school.
The Visa Waiver Program allows nationals of certain countries to travel to the United States without a visitor visa. The regulations governing the “B” visa provided a number of unique provisions for Canadian and Mexican nationals under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as well. However, Palm Global is anticipating the passage of USMCA, which may make substantial changes to those regulations.