B-1, B-2, & Visa Waiver Program Visitors

A foreign national who will travel to the U.S. for a temporary visit may be able to enter on a B-1 business visa or a B-2 tourist visa or, if eligible, without a visa under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) as WB (business) or WT (tourism) visitors. Eligibility for entry to the U.S. in these statuses depends on the kinds of activities the visitor will conduct and also on the length of stay in the U.S. See the nonimmigrant options flow chart and the information below to determine the most appropriate status for a short-term visitor.

B-1 business visitors
B-2 tourists
Visa Waiver Program


B-1 business visitors

B-1 visitors are prohibited from accepting any type of employment in the U.S. They are allowed to conduct the following activities in the U.S.:

  • Participate in scientific, educational, professional, or business conventions or conferences;
  • Undertake independent research;
  • Undertake training in the U.S. at the request of their foreign employer and who will continue to receive their salary from their foreign employer; or
  • Engage in commercial transactions that do not involve gainful employment.

Payments to B-1 visitors:

  • Reimbursements from U.S. sources: U.S. institutions may reimburse B-1 visitors for their actual and incidental expenses incurred by traveling to the U.S. for a qualifying activity. Incidental expenses may not exceed the actual and reasonable expenses relating to traveling to and from the activity (e.g. airfare, meals, lodging, laundry, transportation, and other basic services).
  • Honoraria “9-5-6” rule: May accept an honorarium and reimbursement of associated incidental expenses from an institution of higher education, a nonprofit research organization, or a governmental research organization for academic activities lasting no longer than 9 days at any single institution. A business visitor cannot accept honoraria and reimbursements from more than 5 institutions or organizations in the previous 6-month period.

Pre-departure requirements

The person must first apply for a B-1 visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad (Canadians are excluded from the visa requirement). At the visa interview, in addition to showing adequate financial support for the full duration of the intended stay in the U.S., the visitor will need to provide evidence documenting the purpose for coming to the U.S. and demonstrate intent to depart the U.S. at the end of the visit. A B-1 visa will not guarantee entry to the U.S., but functions as permission to apply for B-1 admission at a U.S. port of entry.

Note: Effective November 29, 2016, each person from the People’s Republic of China who has a 10-year B-1/B-2, B-1, or B-2 visa will be required to enroll in the Electronic Visa Update System (EVUS) prior to traveling to the U.S. EVUS is the online system used by Chinese nationals to update basic biographic information to facilitate their travel to the U.S. The fee to enroll in the system is $8. Enrollments are valid for two years or until the traveler obtains a new passport or visa, whichever comes first. Visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s website for more information on EVUS.

Admission to the U.S.

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at a U.S. port of entry will have the final discretion to admit the person into the U.S. as a B-1 visitor. The CBP officer will review the immigration documents and ask about the purpose of the visit. Generally, B-1 visitors are granted entry for a period of six months or less, though the CBP officer ultimately determines the visitor’s period of authorized stay; the length of the admission period is not dictated by the visa itself. If the visitor is initially admitted for a duration of less than 12 months, they can apply for B-1 extensions up to a total maximum stay of 12 months.

At airports or sea ports, CBP will conduct electronic I-94 processing for travelers; they will not receive paper I-94 forms. The CBP officer should stamp the applicant’s passport with the admission date and annotate the passport with the class of admission (“B-1”) and the expiration date of admission. The visitor should print an I-94 record from CBP’s I-94 website. The admission stamp with notations and the I-94 printout are proof of admission to and legal immigration status in the U.S. The individual’s departure from the U.S. should be documented electronically; they should not need to turn in a document upon leaving the U.S.

At land borders, CBP will continue to issue paper Forms I-94 to visitors. The CBP officer should note the visitor’s status (“B-1”) and the expiration date of the authorized stay. This card is the visitor’s only proof of legal status in the U.S. Upon departure from the U.S., an airline representative or CBP officer should collect the I-94 as proof of the visitor’s departure.

Any questions regarding visa application or eligibility for admission to the U.S. should be directed to the proper U.S. embassy or consulate.

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B-2 tourists

B-2 tourists cannot engage in employment, business activities, training programs, or enroll as students in most cases (unless course of study meets the guidelines below) in the U.S. They are allowed to conduct the following activities in the U.S.:

  • Conduct leisure activities, including tourism, social visits to friends or relatives, recreational activities, participating in amateur musical, sports, or similar events.
  • Seek medical treatment.
  • Accompany another visitor as spouses or children, as relatives of a J-1 exchange visitor, or non-spouse partners.
  • Participate in short courses of recreational, non-academic study for less than 18 hours per week. The primary reason for being in the U.S. must be tourism or social activities; studying must be incidental to such activities. For instance, they may take a two-day cooking class while vacationing in the U.S.

Payments to B-2 tourists:

  • Honoraria “9-5-6” rule: May accept an honorarium and reimbursement of associated incidental expenses from an institution of higher education, a nonprofit research organization, or a governmental research organization for academic activities lasting no longer than 9 days at any single institution. A tourist cannot accept honoraria and reimbursements from more than 5 institutions or organizations in the previous 6-month period.

Pre-departure requirements

The person must first apply for a B-2 visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad (Canadians are excluded from the visa requirement). At the visa interview, in addition to showing adequate financial support for the full duration of the intended stay in the U.S., the visitor will need to provide evidence documenting the purpose for coming to the U.S. and demonstrate intent to depart the U.S. at the end of the visit. A B-2 visa will not guarantee entry to the U.S., but functions as permission to apply for B-2 admission at a U.S. port of entry.

Note: Effective November 29, 2016, each person from the People’s Republic of China who has a 10-year B-1/B-2, B-1, or B-2 visa will be required to enroll in the Electronic Visa Update System (EVUS) prior to traveling to the U.S. EVUS is the online system used by Chinese nationals to update basic biographic information to facilitate their travel to the U.S. The fee to enroll in the system is $8. Enrollments are valid for two years or until the traveler obtains a new passport or visa, whichever comes first. Visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s website for more information on EVUS.

Admission to the U.S.

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at a U.S. port of entry will have the final discretion to admit the person into the U.S. as a B-2 tourist. The CBP officer will review the immigration documents and ask about the purpose of the visit. Generally, B-2 visitors are granted entry for a period of six months or less, though the CBP officer ultimately determines the visitor’s period of authorized stay; the length of the admission period is not dictated by the visa itself. If the visitor is initially admitted for a duration of less than 12 months, they can apply for B-2 extensions up to a total maximum stay of 12 months.

At airports or sea ports, CBP will conduct electronic I-94 processing for travelers; they will not receive paper I-94 forms. The CBP officer should stamp the applicant’s passport with the admission date and annotate the passport with the class of admission (“B-2”) and the expiration date of admission. The visitor should print an I-94 record from CBP’s I-94 website. The admission stamp with notations and the I-94 printout are proof of admission to and legal immigration status in the U.S. The individual’s departure from the U.S. should be documented electronically; they should not need to turn in a document upon leaving the U.S.

At land borders, CBP will continue to issue paper Forms I-94 to visitors. The CBP officer should note the visitor’s status (“B-2”) and the expiration date of the authorized stay. This card is the visitor’s only proof of legal status in the U.S. Upon departure from the U.S., an airline representative or CBP officer should collect the I-94 as proof of the visitor’s departure.

Any questions regarding visa application or eligibility for admission to the U.S. should be directed to the proper U.S. embassy or consulate.

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Visa Waiver Program

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) permits citizens of the participating countries listed below to apply for entry to the U.S. in WB status for business or in WT status for tourism without first obtaining a visa at a U.S. embassy/consulate. However, citizens of these countries are not eligible to enter the U.S. under the VWP if they were present in Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions for travel for diplomatic or military purposes in the service of a VWP country) or if they are dual nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria. If a participating country’s citizen is disqualified from the VWP, they must first apply for a visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate before attempting to enter the U.S.

If the visitor qualifies for a diplomatic/military exception, they may still be eligible for VWP entry to the U.S. These exceptions include travel to:

  • The seven countries listed above on behalf of international organizations, regional organizations, and sub-national governments on official duty;
  • The seven countries listed above on behalf of a humanitarian NGO on official duty;
  • The seven countries listed above as a journalist for reporting purposes;
  • Iran for legitimate business-related purposes following the conclusion of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (July 14, 2015); and
  • Iraq for legitimate business-related purposes.

VWP admission is limited to a maximum stay of 90 days. Changes of status and extensions within the U.S. are not permitted. Spouses and/or children may qualify as WT tourists if they meet the VWP requirements. The primary VWP visitor is responsible for all expenses of any accompanying family members.

Participating countries:

Andorra Liechtenstein
Australia Lithuania
Austria Luxembourg
Belgium Malta
Brunei Monaco
Chile The Netherlands
Czech Republic New Zealand
Denmark Norway
Estonia Portugal
Finland San Marino
France Singapore
Germany Slovakia
Greece Slovenia
Hungary South Korea
Iceland Spain
Ireland Sweden
Italy Switzerland
Japan Taiwan
Latvia United Kingdom

WB visitors are prohibited from accepting any type of employment in the U.S. They are allowed to conduct the following activities in the U.S.:

  • Participate in scientific, educational, professional, or business conventions or conferences;
  • Undertake independent research;
  • Undertake training in the U.S. at the request of their foreign employer and who will continue to receive their salary from their foreign employer; or
  • Engage in commercial transactions that do not involve gainful employment.

WT tourists cannot engage in employment, business activities, training programs, or enroll as students in most cases (unless course of study meets the guidelines below) in the U.S. They are allowed to conduct the following activities in the U.S.:

  • Conduct leisure activities, including tourism, social visits to friends or relatives, recreational activities, participating in amateur musical, sports, or similar events.
  • Seek medical treatment.
  • Accompany another visitor as spouses or children, as relatives of a J-1 exchange visitor, or non-spouse partners.
  • Participate in short courses of study incidental to tourist or social activities, including language classes in a short course of study of under 18 hours per week.

Payments to WB visitors and WT tourists:

  • Reimbursements from U.S. sources: U.S. institutions may reimburse WB and WT visitors for their actual and incidental expenses incurred by traveling to the U.S. for a qualifying activity. Incidental expenses may not exceed the actual and reasonable expenses relating to traveling to and from the activity (e.g. airfare, meals, lodging, laundry, transportation, and other basic services).
  • Honoraria “9-5-6” rule: If a WB or WT visitor is receiving an honorarium, reimbursement of associated incidental expenses from an institution of higher education, a nonprofit research organization, or a governmental research organization for academic activities lasting no longer than 9 days at any single institution may also be paid. A visitor cannot accept reimbursements of incidental expenses from more than 5 institutions or organizations in the previous 6-month period.

Pre-departure requirements

At least 72 hours prior to traveling to the U.S., all VWP visitors must obtain travel authorization using the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), which costs US$14.00. Once issued, authorization is valid for up to two years or until the passport expires (whichever occurs first) and can be used for multiple entries into the U.S. throughout the two-year validity period.

Additionally, a VWP traveler must have a machine-readable passport from a VWP-participating country. Additional passport security features may be required depending on the date of issue. See the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s VWP FAQ for more information. Evidence of intent to depart the U.S. within 90 days (e.g. roundtrip/onward airline ticket) and evidence of financial support for the full duration of the visit (e.g. letter of invitation, bank statement, credit card, traveler’s checks, etc.) are essential. VWP travelers will need to provide all of these documents at the U.S. port of entry for admission in WB or WT status.

Admission to the U.S.

After arriving in the U.S., the visitor must present the above documents to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer). The CBP officer will review the traveler’s documents and ask about the purpose of the visit. Generally, WB and WT visitors are granted entry for a period of 90 days, though the CBP officer ultimately determines the visitor’s period of authorized stay.

At airports or sea ports, CBP will conduct electronic I-94 processing for VWP travelers with ESTA authorization; they will not receive paper I-94W forms. The CBP officer should stamp the applicant’s passport with the admission date and annotate the passport with the class of admission (“WB” for business visitors or “WT” for tourists) and the expiration date of admission. The visitor should print an I-94 record from CBP’s I-94 website. The admission stamp with notations and the I-94 printout are proof of admission to and legal immigration status in the U.S. The individual’s departure from the U.S. should be documented electronically; they should not need to turn in a document upon leaving the U.S.

At land borders, CBP will continue to issue paper Forms I-94W to VWP visitors. The CBP officer should note the visitor’s status (“WB” or “WT”) and the expiration date of the authorized stay. This card is the visitor’s only proof of legal status in the U.S. Upon departure from the U.S., an airline representative or CBP officer should collect the I-94W as proof of the visitor’s departure.

Any questions regarding eligibility for admission to the U.S. should be directed to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate or U.S. CBP office.

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