Business and tourist visas

B-1 visas are for business visitors, and B-2 visas are for tourists.

Immigration and Nationality Act Section 101(a)(15)(B) describes a person who qualifies for B status as: “An alien (other than one coming for the purpose of study or performing skilled or unskilled labor or as a representative of foreign press, radio, film, or other foreign information media coming to engage in such vocation) having a residence in a foreign country which he has no intention of abandoning and who is visiting the United States temporarily for business or temporarily for pleasure.”

The Code of Federal Regulations gives the following definition for business:

“The term ‘business,’ as used in INA 101(a)(15)(B), 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.”

Students coming to the United States for a short-term stay for activity related to educational programs may be required by a U.S. consular officer to use a J visa, which is designed partly for educational exchange. Any visitor conducting activity such as research, consultation or observation that generally is appropriate for a B-1 visa may require a J visa if the applicant is a student. The consular officer makes the decision.

Students coming to the U.S. for a long-term stay related to their educational programs must apply for student visas.

To apply for a visa

The visitor must go to a U.S. embassy/consulate abroad to apply for an entry visa stamp. The U.S. Department of State recommends that visa applicants apply in their home countries. If the entry visa is granted, the visa stamp is placed in the applicant’s passport.

A Canadian citizen, instead of going to the U.S. embassy/consulate, can go to the U.S. border and request entry into the U.S. as a visitor for business. At the U.S. border, the Canadian citizen should present a letter of invitation from the hosting MU department and proof of Canadian citizenship (passport or birth certificate).

Entering the U.S. on a B-1/B-2 visa

  1. Visitor receives a letter of invitation from the MU department (sample letter). The letter of invitation must include:
    • Statement of invitation
    • Exact dates of visit
    • Information about the purpose of the trip
    • Description of activities during visit
    • Funding source information
  2. Visitor goes to the U.S. embassy/consulate outside the U.S. to apply for a B-1 or B-2 visa. The visitor must bring:
    • MU letter of invitation
    • Proof of funding or support
    • Passport
  3. Visitor arrives at the border. The visitor needs to present to the customs official:
    • MU letter of invitation
    • Proof of funding or support
    • Passport and B-1/B-2 entry visa

For more information about claiming tax benefits, tax treaties, paying for B/VWP visitors, etc., consult the Nonresident Alien Taxation Office.

Criteria for appropriate payment to visitors with B visa status

Payment of an honorarium for an individual in B status is regulated by INA section 212(q): “Any alien admitted under section 101(a)(15)(B) may accept an honorarium payment and associated incidental expenses for a usual academic activity or activities (lasting not longer than nine days at any single institution), as defined by the attorney general in consultation with the secretary of education, if such payment is offered by an institution or organization described in subsection (p)(1) and is made for services conducted for the benefit of that institution or entity and if the alien has not accepted such payment or expenses from more than five institutions or organizations in the previous six-month period.”

Therefore, a visitor in B status may accept only honoraria and associated incidental expenses (not salary for employment), if all of the following criteria are met:

  • The payment is for usual academic activities (lectures, conferences, teaching, presentations, etc.) conducted at an educational or nonprofit research institution.
  • The payment is for activities conducted for the benefit of the paying institution.
  • The activities last no longer than nine days at a single institution.
  • The visitor has not accepted payment from six or more institutions during the preceding 180-day period.