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B-1/B-2 Visa – Business or Pleasure Visitors

Visitor Visas Overview

B-1 and B-2 visas are used for foreign visitors invited by U-M to engage in temporary business, pleasure, tourism, or vacation activities in one of the following categories:

Or, if the foreign visitor is from an eligible country, he or she may be able to visit the U.S. without a visa, through the:

Other topics:

B-1 Business Category

B-1 visitors must demonstrate that:

  • The purpose of their trip is to enter the U.S. for business but does not entail local employment or labor for hire
  • They plan to remain for a specific, limited time period
  • They have clear intent to maintain a residence outside the U.S., as well as other binding ties to their home country, which will ensure they leave the U.S. at the end of the visit
  • They have funds to cover expenses in the U.S.

The B-1 visa category may be used by individuals who plan short visits to one or several campuses in the U.S. However, it is not intended for individuals accepting any type of formal academic appointment for a term or longer.

NOTE: If a department has any intent to offer gainful employment to an individual, contact the U-M International Center at ICfacultystaff@umich.edu or 734.764.9310 to determine the appropriate visa status for the duration of the visit.

Eligibility

Standard uses for academic business include:

  • Consulting with business associates
  • Participating in scientific, educational, professional or business conventions, conferences, or seminars
  • Undertaking independent research which provides no benefit to a U.S. institution
  • Participating in a required, unpaid medical clerkship (applies to medical students pursuing a medical degree at a foreign institution only)

Examples of appropriate uses for B-1 Business Category for visits to the University of Michigan

  • Professor Thomas has been invited to visit the University of Michigan to give a talk at a scientific conference. He will be provided a hotel room and meals as well as an honorarium for his talk. His visit to the University will be one week.  
  • Mr. Sanjay is attending a three-week seminar at U-M. As a participant, he will receive hands-on training in conservation techniques. There is no fee for the seminar and he is responsible for his own travel, lodging and meals. A certificate of participation will be provided at the end of the seminar.
  • Dr. Chen will be traveling to the U.S. to do research for her new book. Her former classmate has suggested that the University of Michigan has excellent resources for her topic, so she is coming to visit her friend and do some work. While in Ann Arbor, she will spend one month in the University’s libraries engaging in research and writing.   

B-1 business category is not appropriate for visitors engaging in collaborative research with U-M faculty or research which will benefit the University in any way. Visitors involved in exchange programs, formal collaborations between institutions, or joint research projects should use the J-1 Exchange Visitor visa. To determine whether B-1 business category or J-1 exchange visitor is appropriate, contact the IC. The IC, in consultation with the Office of General Counsel will determine which visa status the visitor should use.

B-1 business category is generally not appropriate for activities involving volunteering or internships. Visitors coming to U-M to observe may need to come on a J-1 visa; please consult with the International Center regarding visits for the purpose of observation.

The U.S. Department of State guidance on appropriate use of the B-1 visa: Business Travel to the United States - What Type of U.S. Visa Will You Need?

Length of Stay in the U.S.

B-1 visitors are admitted to the U.S. for the length of time which is deemed by U.S port of entry officials to be fair and reasonable for completion of the purpose of the trip. Generally this is for a period of 6-months or less with the possibility of extension. The length of stay for a B-1 visitor cannot exceed one year.

Honoraria/Reimbursement

  • Visitors may receive a temporary unpaid academic appointment but are not allowed to receive a salary.
  • Reimbursement for incidental expenses (such as travel, accommodations, and meals) is allowed.
  • Honorarium payments are allowed as long as the academic activity at U-M for which an honorarium is paid is no longer than 9 days, and the visitor has not accepted honoraria from more than five institutions or organizations within a 6-month period. Source: Section 431 of American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act.

Dependents

There are no derivative visas for B-1 visitors. Their dependents must each apply for a B-2 visa (see information about B-2 visas below). Dependents on B-2 visas must follow the regulations for that visa. B-2 visa holders are not eligible for employment and are not permitted to enroll in a course of study in the U.S. Visitors may be eligible for casual, short-term classes such as an English Language Class or an arts and crafts class. Incidental classes such as these would not violate the terms of their legal immigration status as a B-2 visitor. For more information, contact the U-M International Center.

B-2 Pleasure or Tourism Category

B-2 visitors must demonstrate that:

  • The purpose of their trip is to enter the U.S. for pleasure, tourism, or medical treatment.
  • They plan to remain for a specific, limited time period
  • They have funds to cover expenses in the United States  
  • They have clear intent to maintain a residence outside the U.S., as well as other binding ties to their home country, which will ensure they leave the U.S. at the end of the visit

Eligibility

Standard uses for the B-2 category include:

  • Tourism
  • Social visits to friends/relatives
  • Participants in conventions of social organizations
  • Family members accompanying B-1 aliens
  • Cohabitating partners (opposite or same-sex) who are not eligible for dependent status (F-2, J-2, H-4 for example)
  • Medical treatment
  • Incidental study (see below)

Incidental study with B-2 status

If a visitor is coming to the U.S. primarily for tourism, but wants to take a short course of study which is recreational, and the course is less than 18 hours per week, he/she may be able to do so on a visitor visa. As an example, if a visitor is taking a vacation to the U.S., and during this vacation he/she would like to take a two-day cooking class for enjoyment, and there is no credit earned, then this would be permitted on a visitor visa. If the course of study is 18 hours or more a week, a student visa is required. Furthermore, any kind of study that would earn credit or certification is not permitted on a visitor visa. A consular officer will determine the visa category the visitor will need based on the purpose of the trip and supporting documentation.

Length of Stay in the U.S.

B-2 visitors are usually admitted for a standard period of 6 months. If more time is needed an application for an extension must be made to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), but admission cannot be extended for longer than 1 year. The admitting immigration official at the port of entry will record the length of stay allowed on the admission stamp or I-94 card. If an extension within 1 year is needed, an application for extension must be made to USCIS prior to the expiration of the current status.

Honoraria/Reimbursement

Academic honorarium payments and reimbursements for incidental expenses are allowed, if the visit meets the same eligibility criteria as a B-1 visa holder. Source: Section 431 of American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act.

Visa Waiver Program

Visa Waiver visitors must demonstrate that:

  • The purpose of their trip is to enter the U.S. for business, pleasure, or tourism
  • They plan to remain for a specific, limited time period
  • They have a residence outside the U.S., as well as other binding ties to their home country, which will ensure they leave the U.S. at the end of the visit
  • They have funds to cover expenses in the United States

Eligibility

  • The foreign visitor must be a citizen of one of the countries determined by the Department of Homeland Security as eligible for the Visa Waiver Program.
  • If the foreign visitor is entering the U.S. for business, the visitor will receive WB status upon entry (eligibility same as B-1 visa).
  • If the foreign visitor is entering the U.S. for pleasure or tourism, the visitor will receive WT status upon entry (eligibility same as B-2 visa).
  • All visitors requesting entry under the Visa Waiver Program must meet the passport requirements listed below:
    • Passports issued after 10/25/06 or issued by the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, the Slovak Republic, or South Korea must be an e-passport
    • Passports issued between 10/26/05 and 10/25/06 must contain a digital photo and be machine-readable
    • Passports issued prior to 10/26/05 must be machine-readable

ESTA Registration

Effective January 12, 2009, all Visa Waiver Program visitors are required to register for online travel clearance through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). It is suggested that individuals who plan to take advantage of VWP apply for ESTA authorization when they begin planning their trip to the U.S. and no later than 72 hours before their flight. In many cases authorization is available within seconds, but cases that receive an “Authorization Pending” response may require the full three days. Individuals that may make short notice trips to the U.S. may apply for ESTA authorization without specific travel plans. ESTA approvals are generally valid for two years. However, there are a number of cases in which a new ESTA approval may be required, such as issuance of a new passport. See the complete ESTA Frequently Asked Questions for more information.

To register, the visitor must submit an online application at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov. The application requires submission of biographic and passport information, and also requests travel details. Once submitted, the application is reviewed against appropriate national security and law enforcement databases. There is currently no fee for ESTA applications.

If the application is approved, an ESTA travel authorization will remain valid for up to two years or until the visitor's passport expires, whichever comes first. While it is valid, the authorization may be used for multiple entries to the U.S.

Although a visitor's ESTA registration may be approved, it does not guarantee that he/she will be admitted to the U.S. All visitors are subject to inspection upon arrival and may be denied entry at the discretion of U.S. border officials.

If the ESTA application is denied, or if the visitor does not apply for ESTA clearance, then the visitor must obtain a B-1/B-2 visa stamp at a U.S. consulate in order to enter the U.S. for short-term business or tourism.

Length of Stay in the U.S.

In order to adhere to the requirements of the Visa Waiver program, the visit must be no longer than 90 days. If the visit will be longer, the visitor should obtain a B-1 or B-2 visa stamp or perhaps another visa classification.

Honoraria/Reimbursement

Academic honorarium payments and reimbursements for incidental expenses are allowed for visitors in both WB and WT status, if the visit meets the same eligibility criteria as a B-1 visa holder. Source: Section 431 of American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act.

For more information, go to the official U.S. Department of State Visa Waiver Program web site.

How to Apply for a B-1/B-2 Visa

  1. Determine if your visitor will receive an honorarium or reimbursement for incidental expenses.
  2. Download one of the following Sample B Visitor Letters. Use this model to draft an invitation letter on U-M departmental letterhead. The sample letters include appropriate wording that will help U.S. consulates and embassies to clearly understand the nature of the visit to support the request for the B visitor visa.
  3. Send the completed invitation letter (on U-M letterhead) to your visitor.
  4. The foreign visitor schedules a visa interview appointment at a U.S. consulate or embassy in his or her home country.
  5. The visitor presents the U-M letter of invitation at the U.S. consulate or embassy. It is at the discretion of the U.S. consulate or embassy to grant a visa.

Processing Times

Visa processing times vary, depending upon the circumstances of each U.S. embassy and if the individual is required to schedule a personal interview as part of the visa process. For many applicants, a personal appearance interview at the U.S. embassy is required as a standard part of visa processing. If an interview is required, the visitor will need to set up an appointment at the U.S. embassy or consulate. The actual interview may be very short, maybe even less than five minutes. If additional processing is needed after the appointment, visa applicants will be informed at the time they submit their applications. While most additional processing takes 30 days or less, a small percentage may take considerably longer.

  • To find the web site for a specific consulate or embassy, refer to the U.S. Department of State List of Embassies.
  • To see current wait times for getting a visa interview appointment and for visa processing at each U.S. consulate or embassy, refer to the U.S. Department of State Visa Wait Times. NOTE: B-1/B-2 visitors should plan to obtain their visa stamp well ahead of their visit to the U.S. It is recommended that a visa is obtained prior to booking an airline flight.

Fees

Visitors are required to pay up to two fees: the visa application fee and the visa issuance reciprocity fee.

Documentation Needed

To apply for a B-1 or B-2 visa, you will need to provide the following documentation for each applicant:

  • Proof that an applicant is properly classifiable as a B-1 visitor for business or a B-2 visitor for pleasure.
  • Evidence of financial ability for all expected expenses for the duration of the visit
  • Proof of residence in foreign country and intent to return to the home country (i.e. employment to return to, house mortgage, etc.)
  • Compelling evidence of economic and social ties abroad
  • Passport or travel document valid for 6 months beyond the visitor's intended period of stay. If more than one person is included in the passport, a visa application must be made for each person.
  • Form DS-160: Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application
  • Form DS-157 Supplemental Nonimmigrant Visa Application if applicable. This form provides additional information about the individual's travel plans. While the specific U.S. consulate may require this form for all visa applicants at its own discretion, it is always required for:
    • Male applicants between 16-45 years of age
    • Individuals age 16 and over, irrespective of gender, from countries designated as state sponsors of terrorism. Five countries are now designated as state sponsors of terrorism, including North Korea, Cuba, Syria, Sudan, and Iran.
  • One 2x2 photograph of each applicant.

There may be additional documentation requirements established by individual U.S. embassies. Refer to the U.S. Department of State List of Embassies to determine specific requirements.

What to Do When the Visitor Arrives at U-M

  1. Review the visitor's passport and locate the admission stamp or I-94 Arrival/Departure card (if the visitor entered at a land border).
    • If the individual entered using a B-1 or B-2 visa stamp, the admission stamp in the passport or I-94 card should have “B-1/B-2” or “B-1” or “B-2” written on it.
    • If the individual entered under the Visa Waiver Program, the admission stamp or green I-94 card should have “WB” or “WT” written on it. If the visitor was issued an I-94 card, confirm that the name on the I-94 card matches the name on the passport.
  2. Confirm that the name on the I-94 card matches the name on the passport. If the two documents do not match, contact the U-M International Center at 734.764.9310 or ICfacultystaff@umich.edu.
  3. If the visitor will receive payment for incidental expenses or an honorarium:
    • Complete Form G. This form is available at PeoplePay, a website available through Wolverine Access, under "University Business".
    • Ensure that the visitor completes a Form G Visitor Attachment. This form is available on the U-M Payroll Office web site.
  4. If the visitor does not already have a U.S. Social Security number, he or she will need to obtain an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) to ensure that the payment is reported to the U.S. Department of Treasury Internal Revenue Service. Refer to Getting an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).

Travel Outside the U.S. and Re-entry

If a foreign national in B-1 or B-2 visa status wishes to leave the U.S. temporarily and return, he or she must carry appropriate documentation to gain re-entry to the U.S. Re-entry documentation generally includes:

  • Passport with validity 6 months beyond end of proposed visit and with valid U.S. visa stamp.
  • Evidence of financial ability to stay for the period of the visit in the U.S. and to return to their home country after the visit.
  • Invitation letter from the University of Michigan.
  • If a traveler was issued an I-94 card, it will be collected prior to departure and the visitor will be given a new one upon re-entry to the U.S.

Last reviewed: 01/14