Business and Tourist Visas
By Masood R. Khan, Esq.

Please note: This column is not to be construed as legal advice. Always consult an attorney for advice on your specific case.

Almost all of us have relatives who visit from overseas often. That means that most of us are familiar with the “visitor visa”, also known as the B visa. There are two types of B visas: B-1 visas for business visitors, and B-2 visas for visitors for pleasure.

The B-1 Business Visitor category is generally for individuals who can show that they have no intention of abandoning their residence abroad and that they are visiting the US temporarily for business purposes. Entry can be granted for up to a year, but usually B-1 visas are approved for the period necessary to conduct business and usually do not exceed 3 months.

Under the B-1 visa, individuals must not be engaged in employment in the US either for a US employer or on an independent basis. Any work done in the US must be performed on behalf of a foreign employer and paid for by the foreign employer and should also be related to international commerce or trade. When applying for the B-1 visa, the foreign consulate will consider certain factors when deciding whether to issue a visa. This includes: 1) whether an American worker could be hired to perform the work, 2) whether the work is predominantly created in the US, and 3) whether the work is controlled mainly by a US, and not a foreign company. If the answer to any of these questions is "yes" then the B-1 visa will most likely be denied. Activities normally associated with valid B-1 visa purposes may include:

· an employee of a foreign company coming to the US for sales transactions and purchases and to negotiate and service contracts · coming to the US to conduct business or market research · coming to the US to interview for a professional position in order to gain experience to help in finding a position in one's home country · business conferences, seminars, or conventions · an investor coming to set up an investment in the US or to open a US office · personal or domestic servants who can show they are not abandoning a residence abroad, have worked for the employer for a year and the employer is not residing in the US permanently · professional athletes who are coming to participate in a tournament, and not paid by anyone in the US · a member of a board of a US company coming to a board meeting · coming to the US to handle preliminary activities in creating a business The B-2 Pleasure Visitors Approximately 20 million non-immigrants are admitted annually to the US and more than three-fourths of those come as tourists. These individuals come on the B-2 visa. B-2 visa includes tourists, visits to relatives or friends, visits for health reasons, involvement in conferences, participation in incidental or short courses of study and participation in amateur arts and entertainment events.

The success of obtaining a B-2 visa will depend on the national origin of the applicant, the age and marital status of the applicant, and the applicant's ties to the US and his or her home country.

Tourists are normally given a six- month visa which can be extended in some circumstances for more time. In order to qualify for a tourist visa, an individual must meet some general requirements necessary to show non-immigrant intent. Non-immigrant intent basically means that the tourist intends to eventually return to his or her home country. The factors that are examined by the consulate in determining nonimmigrant intent may include:

· that the visitor is coming to the US for a specific period of time · that the visitor will not be engaging in work and will engage solely in legitimate activities relating to pleasure · that the visitor will maintain a foreign residence that he has no intention of abandoning during the period of his or her stay in the US.

For a tourist to show nonimmigrant intent and demonstrate compliance with the above factors, the embassy or consulate will look at the prospective visitor’s financial arrangements for the trip, specificity of trip plans, ties to the alien's home country and ties to the US.

More specifically, consular officers are instructed to consider the following factors:
· if relatives or friends are sponsoring, whether the ties between the alien and the supporter are compelling enough to make the sponsorship reasonable; · whether the visitor has specific and realistic plans for the visit and not just vague and uncertain plans for the entire period of the contemplated visit; the period of time planned for the visit is consistent with the purpose of the trip and the prospective visitor has established that departure from the US will take place when the visit is over; · whether the prospective visitor can show reasonably good and permanent employment, meaningful business or financial connections, close family ties, or social or cultural associations in the home country which would indicate the desire to return back to his or her home country when the visit is over.

The application for a B-1 or B-2 visa is normally made at a US consulate. An applicant will normally apply at the closest consular post in their home country. Usually, the application must be made in person, though some consulates allow the application to be made by mail, a travel agent, or drop box.

An application for a B-1 business visitor visa is often accompanied by a detailed letter explaining the reasons for the trip, the itinerary for the trip and, if the trip is on behalf of a foreign company, and the fact that the company is paying all of the expenses to be incurred during the trip. The application should also be accompanied by extensive supporting documentation showing the activities that will take place during the trip, travel documentation and information on the B-1 visitor's employer.

To show arrangement for the trip to the US, the alien can show confirmed hotel reservations, car rentals, internal travel arrangements such as domestic flights or tourist packages, and/or a letter of invitation from a US source.

In order to show that the alien has firm ties to his or her native country, steady employment, substantial business or property interests abroad and close family ties should be shown. Ownership of property or a lease agreement for property in the native country will prove useful for such a showing. These items are extremely important factors, especially if the alien has close ties with the US or has close family members here. The scrutiny in this category is particularly high for persons from "high-risk" countries. These are persons from countries with high rate of visa refusal and a low rate of compliance. These same individuals also usually happen to be single, young and well educated.

Shortly after September 11, the U.S. State Department began requiring that all male nonimmigrant visa applicants between the ages of 16 and 45 from Muslim counties be subject to increased security checks and they are now subject to an additional 20-day waiting period during which the State Department checks their names against an FBI database.

Usually, successful applicants for a B-1 or B-2 visa will be given a multiple entry visa stamp that stays valid for ten years. The stamp will often say “B-1/B-2,” indicating the person can use the visa to enter to conduct activities falling under either classification. The multiple entry, multiyear visa does not mean that a person can stay in the US for as long as the visa is valid. Rather, the US has a “two tier” system to entering. The visa is the first tier and allows you to seek admission at a US point of entry. The INS inspector at the point of entry will be the second tier, the white I-94 card authorizing the visitor to stay in the US for a specified period of time (normally less than six months). Thus, the 10-year visa would allow a person to seek admission multiple times over the 10 years. But an inspector wi ll determine the length of time authorized for each visit.

(Masood Khan is an attorney with Khan & Associates. He is a graduate of UCLA and the UC Davis School of Law, and a member of the State Bar of California. He can be reached via email at or phone at 818 994-0347)

Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 . All Rights Reserved.