The regulations regarding business visitors entering on a B-1 Temporary Business Visitor visa or Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) visa waiver are vague. The B-1 visa permits individuals to come to the United States to conduct activities such as consulting with business associates, negotiating a contract or participating in short-term training. It does not permit visa holders to conduct day-to-day business here.
The line between acceptable and unacceptable activities can be unclear, but there are ways to improve the odds that your employees will not be flagged by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and can avoid being stuck in secondary inspection or placed on the next plane home.
Even though a visitor with an ESTA visa waiver is permitted to remain in the United States for up to 90 days, and a B-1 business visa holder can stay for 180 days, a long stay by an individual who is clearly here for business purposes can garner unwanted attention from CBP. Returning too soon can cause problems and so can coming too often, but the criteria are vague. Bringing children on B-1’s at the start of a school year is a red flag.
Not all foreign employees should travel here on a visitor’s visa. In some cases, they should obtain a United States work visa. Several kinds are available, but none are foolproof in the present political climate. General counsel must remain vigilant: Preventive measures on the front end will spare aggravation and expense on the back end.