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Can You Work on a B-1 Visa?



Can You Work on a B-1 Visa?

Each month tens of thousands of B visitor visas are issued by the American government. Many people pursue a B visa to travel to the United States as tourists. For others, the B visa is the key to unlocking business opportunities in the U.S. 

Can the B visa be used to work remotely from the U.S. or land a job at a U.S. employer? In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about working in the U.S. as a foreign national and what kind of work you can and cannot do on a B visa. 

B Visa Overview

Chances are, you know someone who has a B visa. It’s the most commonly issued U.S. visa and enables non-citizens to visit the U.S. for up to 180 days. 

There are two B visa subcategories: the B-1 for business visitors and the B-2 tourist visa. B-1 visitors typically come to the U.S. for business conferences and events, meetings with stakeholders such as investors or clients, or to conduct market research. B-2 visitors come to the U.S. for various reasons, such as visiting friends or family, touring the U.S., or getting medical treatment at a U.S. institution. 

Although the B-1 and B-2 visas are issued for different purposes, they are nearly identical when it comes to immigration regulations, processing times, applications, and fees.

A common alternative to the B visa is the Visa Waiver Program (also called ESTA), available to individuals from 38 countries. Traveling to the U.S. on ESTA tends to be easier than applying for a B visa. However, ESTA visitors can only stay for 90 days, whereas B visitors can stay for up to 180 days.

B Visa Details at a Glance:

Visa application fee: $160

Years of validity: Up to 10

Period of stay: 180 days

Application process: Apply online, then interview at an embassy or consulate abroad.

Required documents for application and visa interview: Valid passport, passport-style photos, bank statements, documents demonstrating ties to your home country, a letter declaring the purpose of your trip, documents related to previous U.S. visits (if applicable), a letter from your employer, payslips for the past three months.

Get support on your B visa application: You don’t need to figure out the B visa process alone. Learn about our B-1 support packages. 

Can You Work on a B Visa?

The short answer is no. You cannot work on a B visa. But there are quite a few business-related activities that you can be involved in while visiting the U.S. 

What You Can Do on B Visa Status: Passive Work Examples

B visa holders can engage in “passive work,” which includes business activities such as:

  • Attending business events, conferences, or startup accelerators
  • Conducting market research and customer discovery
  • Discussing planned investments and purchases with prospective co-founders
  • Attending and participating in business meetings
  • Developing business relationships, such as meeting with investors and clients
  • Negotiating contracts
  • Incorporating a U.S. company, applying for an EIN, establishing a mailing address, and applying for a business license

What You Cannot Do on a B Visa: Examples of B Status Violations

You cannot actively work for any foreign or U.S. company while in the U.S. on a B visa. Alert to digital nomads and remote workers—whether you’re working remotely for a foreign company or self-employed, you cannot work in the U.S. while on B status

Getting work done while you visit family in the U.S. or attend a business conference might be tempting, but it's not worth it. Working on a B visa violates your status, which can negatively impact future immigration applications. Plus, you may be denied entry if you indicate that you might work in the U.S. when attempting to enter the U.S. on a B visa. 

When in the U.S. on B status, avoid the following:

  • Doing work and getting paid by a U.S. company, online or in person
  • Doing work and getting paid by a foreign company, online or in person
  • Conducting everyday work for a new startup (any tasks other than the tasks listed above under “what you can do on a B visa”)

If you’re unsure whether or not a certain activity will violate your status, consult with an immigration attorney for help.

B Visa Examples;

Oliver just got accepted into Y Combinator, a California-based startup accelerator. To attend YC events in person, Oliver can enter the U.S. on a B-1 visa. However, while he is in the U.S., he can’t be paid as an employee of his new company. After finishing YC, Oliver may choose to stay in the U.S. to build his startup, but he will need a work visa such as the O-1.

Lee works for a foreign company with a flexible remote work policy. He is a digital nomad who loves to travel and is considering working remotely from the U.S. for a few months. Unfortunately, Lee cannot work from the U.S. on a B visa, but there still may be a way for him to work from the U.S. Lee can explore other U.S. visa types like the O-1, H-1B or L-1 visa. 

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About the author:

Annie Blay

Content Marketing Specialist

Before joining the marketing team, Annie helped over 60 Legalpad clients navigate U.S. immigration on the client services team.