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In what circumstances is a visa required for business visitors?
Visitors who wish to enter the United States for a temporary stay to engage in business activities of a commercial nature must apply for a B-1 visa.
What restrictions are imposed on business visitors in terms of the work that they may undertake and their period of stay in your jurisdiction?
Business visitors must show proof of residency abroad and their intention not to abandon their residence. In addition, they cannot participate in gainful or productive employment and must remain on their foreign payroll.
Business visitors may generally:
- attend business meetings;
- take orders for goods manufactured outside the United States;
- tour a company facility;
- attend a trade show, conference or seminar; and
- negotiate contracts or litigation.
Business visitors may visit the United States for up to six months. A visit extension for an additional six months is possible at the discretion of the immigration authorities. Requests for an extension must be made to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services before the visitor’s existing Form I-94 expires.
Application and entry
How are business visitor visas obtained and what is the typical turnaround time?
A B-1 visa application must be submitted at a US consulate or embassy. Processing time may vary from one consulate to another, however, B-1 visas are typically issued within one to two weeks from the time of submitting the application.
Are any visa waiver or fast-track entry programmes available?
Under the visa waiver programme, citizens of 38 countries are eligible to travel to the United States visa free, for up to 90 days per entry. They must remain on their foreign payroll and cannot engage in productive work activities during their stay.
Visa-waivered nationals must register with the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) and obtain approval from ESTA before travel. Visa waiver admission is granted on arrival in the United States. Extensions of stay beyond 90 days per entry are generally not possible under the programme. US border officials may become suspicious of frequent or repeated long-term visits to the country.
What rules and procedures apply for visitors seeking to undertake short-term training in your jurisdiction?
Foreign nationals may be eligible to receive or conduct training with a B-1 visa or visa-waiver status, depending on:
- the duration of their stay;
- the number of trips required; and
- the actual activities performed.
B-1 visa holders and visa-waived nationals may generally receive training, observe or shadow other employees and provide short-term product knowledge transfer or new product introduction – where it does not lead to a product being sold – as long as it is not their primary job function (ie, the individual is employed as a trainer).
In addition, foreign nationals may be eligible to conduct training with a B-1 visa where an after-sales agreement is in place and conducting training is included as part of the contract of sale for commercial or industrial equipment. A copy of the contract must be provided in support of the B-1 visa application.
Anything beyond these activities may require a work-authorised visa.
In what circumstances is a transit visa required to pass through your jurisdiction? How is it obtained?
There are no transit facilities in the United States. All foreign nationals must comply with the controlling regulation for their country of origin in order to enter the United States.
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