Permissible and Prohibited Activities on US Business Visa

Permissible and Prohibited Activities on US Business Visa

Business Visa (B-1) is appropriate for activities, such as:

  • Consulting with business associates. E.g., you are an employee of a foreign company that would provide consultation services.

  • Settling an estate

  • Litigating

  • Soliciting services, negotiating, or finalizing contracts

  • Purchasing goods or materials

  • Appearing as a witness in court trials

  • Participating in short-term training

  • Soliciting sales or investment

  • Discussing planned investment or purchases

  • Interviewing and hiring staff

  • Attending meetings and fully participating in them

  • Making investments or purchases

  • Being a speaker or lecturer

  • Doing business related shopping or placing orders

  • Developing business relationships

  • Visiting U.S. factories, laboratories, offices, shops, etc.

  • Attending a board meeting or annual meeting

  • Observing the conduct of business or other professional or vocational activity

  • Participating in any program of furnishing technical information and assistance under section 635(f) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.

  • Performing services on behalf of a foreign-based employer as a jockey, sulky driver, trainer, or groomer.

  • B-1 in lieu of H-1B 

  • Attend Conference
    Attend a scientific, educational, professional or business conventions, conferences, trade fairs, expos or seminars. You can also present a paper at a conference.

    Those attending technical conferences may be subject to additional administrative processing. It is not possible to provide any guidance regarding how long it may take. Therefore, you should not make final travel plans until you receive your visa. 

  • Participate in an Exhibition
    You can travel on a business visa to the U.S. to participate in exhibitions and set up exhibition booths. You can display samples, sign contracts, and take orders for merchandise produced in and delivered from outside the U.S. 

    However, you can not actually sell or take orders for merchandise produced in the U.S. 

    You can also just attend an exhibition instead of participating in it. E.g., there are many diamond, consumer electronics, automobile, etc., exhibitions throughout the year in Las Vegas.

    As long as you are not a foreign government representative and do not qualify for “A” classification, you can also come to plan, construct, dismantle, maintain, or be employed in connection with exhibits at international fairs or expositions if you are an employee of a foreign exhibitor. 

  • Voluntary Work
    There are many voluntary service programs that are organized projects that are conducted by a recognized religious or nonprofit charitable organization. They provide assistance to the poor or the needy in the local U.S. community or to further a religious or charitable cause.

    If you can establish that you are a member of and have a commitment to any of such organizations, and you want to perform work that is traditionally done by volunteer charity workers, you can apply for a business visa.

    However, you can’t engage in the selling of articles and/or the solicitation and acceptance of donations. 

    Other than in the circumstances described above, you can not do voluntary work (unpaid work) elsewhere. E.g., your brother owns a motel in the U.S., and he would like to visit your native country for six months to find a suitable groom for his daughter. In that case, you can not get a business visa to run his motel in his absence, even if you are not getting paid for it.

  • Servicing
    Some companies in your home country sell commercial or industrial equipment or machinery to a buyer in the U.S., and the purchase contract requires that the foreign company provide the installation, servicing, and repair services.

    In such cases, if you possess the specialized knowledge essential to perform the services, you can travel on a business visa. However, you can not receive any remuneration from a U.S. source, and the company must not receive any payment for these services in addition to that specified in the original contract of sale.

    However, you can not do building or construction work, even if the purchase contract requires the foreign company to provide such services. A temporary work visa must be applied in such cases, if the employee qualifies for one. However, you can come to the U.S. for the purpose of supervising or training other workers who are engaging in building or construction work.

    If the contract of sale specifically requires the seller to provide the services to train U.S. personnel in the installation, service, or repair of commercial or industrial equipment or machinery, you can travel to the U.S., as long as you continue to get paid by your foreign employer.

  • Researcher
    If you are an independent researcher, you can travel on a business visa as long as the results of the research will not benefit the U.S. institution. 

    If you are going to receive payment from a U.S. source, and/or the U.S. institution will benefit from the results of your research, you will require an exchange visitor (J-1) or a temporary work visa.

    This can also be business market research. 

  • Business Venture
    You can travel on a business visa to survey potential sites for a business and/or to lease premises. You can also open a bank account and obtain office space. 

    This category is primarily for international entrepreneurs who would like to investigate investment opportunities in the U.S. Before they get an E-2 visa or decide to get an investment based green card, they may want to explore the market. 

    However, you can not remain in the U.S. to manage the business. In such cases, an L-1 visa will be required to open up and operate a branch, subsidiary, or affiliate office of the business in the U.S.

  • Medical elective
    Applicable only to the medical students pursuing a medical degree at a foreign institution only. You can travel on a business visa to take an elective clerkship, which provides practical experience and instruction in the various disciplines of medicine under the supervision and direction of faculty physicians at the hospital of the U.S. medical school. However, the clerkship must be an approved part of the individual’s foreign school education, and you do not receive any remuneration from the hospital.

    However, if you are a student seeking training as physiotherapists, dentists, nurses, or veterinarians, you will require an H-3 visa instead.

  • Telecommuters
    If you are a temporary resident in the U.S who will be working from home as a computer programmer for a foreign-based company, you may be eligible for a B-1 visa if you satisfy the following conditions:
    • You are employed by a company outside the U.S.
    • You will not get any remuneration from a U.S. source, other than expenses incidental to the stay.
    • The work is in an occupation requiring a bachelor’s or higher degree in the specific specialty, and you have that level of education.

    If you are accompanying your spouse on a work or student visa, you can either apply for both the derivative and B-1 visa. You should indicate at the port of entry of your dual intent that you are accompanying your spouse but also intend to continue to work for your foreign employer as a telecommuter.

  • Crew
    • Crewman of a Private Yacht
      As long as the yacht will be sailing out of a foreign home port and cruising in the U.S. waters, the nationality of the private yacht does not matter. 

    • Coasting Officer
      To perform responsibilities as a coasting officer. 

      The services of the coasting officer are used when an officer of a foreign vessel is granted home leave while the vessel is in U.S. ports, the vessel does not remain in the U.S. waters for more than 29 days, and the original officer returns in time to depart with the vessel. 

      The coasting officer may then repeat the process with another vessel of the same foreign line. 

    • Pick Up Aircraft
      An employee of a foreign airline coming to pick-up aircraft if he/she is not transiting the U.S. and is not admissible as a crewman. You must present an employment letter from the foreign airline. 

    • Airline Employment
      To seek employment with a foreign airline engaged in international transportation of passengers and freight in an executive, supervisory, or highly technical capacity, who meets the requirements of E visa classification but is not allowed to have an E visa solely because there is no treaty of friendship, commerce, and navigation in effect between the U.S. and your nationality or because you are not a citizen of the airline’s country of nationality.

  • Sports
    • Professional Athlete – Individual
      Participating in a tournament or sporting event. Receiving prize money is allowed, but no other payment is allowed. E.g., tennis player, golfer, etc.

    • Athlete – Member of a Foreign-Based Team
      If you are member of a foreign-based team who would like to compete with another sports team. 

      However, the following conditions must be met:
      • Both you and your team have your principal place of business or activity in a foreign country.
      • Your team’s income and your salary as a team member accrue mainly in a foreign country.
      • Your team is a member of an international sports league, or the sporting activities involved have an international dimension.

    • Amateur Team Sports Player
      To join a professional team during the course of the regular professional season or playoffs for brief try-outs. 

      You may be paid incidental expenses including try-out transportation costs. 

  • Professional Entertainer
    Under one of the two circumstances:
    • To participate only in a cultural program sponsored by the sending country. The performance must be before a non-paying audience. All expenses, including per diem, will be paid by the sending government.
    • To participate in a competition that has no remuneration other than a prize and expenses. The prize can either be monetary or something else.

  • To participate in the training of Peace Corps volunteers.

  • To participate in the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) internship program, as long as you are not an employee of a foreign government.

  • As an employee of an international bridge commission coming to plan, construct, maintain or operate bridge facilities at a port of entry within the immediate confines of the bridge area.

  • Domestic employee

This is not an all-inclusive list. 

While you are on a business visa in the U.S., you can rent an apartment, open a bank account, get an ATM or debit card, apply for a driver’s license (if the specific state allows it), rent a car, get a phone, get cable/satellite dish TV service, etc.

Prohibited Activities

  • Starting to conduct business in the USA or helping someone in a family business.

  • Performing productive work in the U.S. while on a business visa. You should consider obtaining a temporary work visa instead, such as H1, L1 visa, etc.

  • Working under the supervision of or under an American employer.

  • Accepting paid or unpaid employment.

  • Participating as a professional in entertainment or sporting events.

This is not an all-inclusive list.

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?


For visitors, travel, student and other international travel medical insurance.

Visit or call +1 (866) INSUBUY or +1 (972) 985-4400