A B-1 business visa is the most common type of visa to conduct business in the United States. B-1 business visitors are admitted to the United States for a limited period of time for the purpose of engaging in short-term commercial or professional activity, but not for productive employment or so-called “local labor for hire.” With few exceptions, B-1 business visitors are not allowed to receive U.S. compensation for their services.

Foreign nationals must apply for B-1 visa stamps at a U.S. consulate abroad. Once issued, the B-1 visa stamp enables its holder to enter the U.S. for short-term business travel, usually for 3 to 6 months at a time. An immigration officer examining a B-1 visa holder’s arrival in the U.S. is ultimately responsible for assessing how long a stay is necessary to complete the business objectives.

Although most business visitors must apply for a B-1 visa stamp at a U.S. Consulate, foreign nationals of 36 countries can enter the U.S. for up to 90 days in business visitor status without a visa under the U.S. government’s Visa Waiver Program (VWP). However, any visitor seeking to use the VWP to enter the U.S. must pre-register the visit through the Department of Homeland Security’s new Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) program.

Citizens of Canada or Bermuda do not require B-1 visas for short-term business travel. Citizens of Mexico may apply for special border crossing cards in lieu of visa stamps for short-term business travel, the application process is similar in many ways to visa application.