B1/B2 and Visa Waiver Program

The B non-immigrant visa category and the visa waiver program both permit temporary entry to the United States for either business or pleasure. Please see the sections below for more information on using a B visa or the waiver program to visit LSU. 

The term business, as used in the B regulations, refers to conventions, conferences, consultations, and other legitimate activities of a commercial or professional nature. It does not include local employment or labor for hire.

The Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) lists several examples of uses of the B-1 that the State Department has found to fit within the parameters of the regulatory definition of business. FAM examples that are directly applicable in the academic context include the following:

"Consulting with business associates; … Participating in scientific, educational, professional, or business conventions, conferences, or seminars; or…Undertaking independent research..." [9 FAM 402.2-5(B)]

The FAM also recognizes some special uses of the B-1 category for the medical field:

  • Students pursuing a medical degree can obtain a B-1 visa to come to the United States to engage in a required clerkship (unpaid). The use of the B-1 for this purpose is limited to medical students and does not extend to physicians who have completed medical school.
  • Medical doctors can also obtain a B-1 visa to observe U.S. medical practices and consult with colleagues on the latest techniques, provided no remuneration is received from a U.S. source and no patient care is involved.

The use of the B-1 category is not limited by regulation to the examples in the FAM; however, we base our recommendations for B-1 usage on the FAM categories. 

The B-2 classification can be used for a variety of activities that require a temporary entry to the United States "for pleasure." State Department regulations define the statutory term pleasure to encompass a range of activities: 

"The term pleasure, as used in INA 101(a)(15)(B), refers to legitimate activities of a recreational character, including tourism, amusement, visits with friends or relatives, rest, medical treatment, and activities of a fraternal, social, or service nature." [22 CFR 41.31(b)(2)]

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables citizens of participating countries to travel to the United States for business or tourism for 90 days or less without obtaining a U.S. visa. Those entering for business purposes are admitted in WB status. Those entering for purposes of pleasure are admitted in WT status. For a list of countries currently participating in the VWP, see the US Department of State website. The website also provides information about general VWP eligibility, requirements, and restrictions. 

An applicant for the B visa must satisfy the US Consular Officer that they qualify for the B:

  • The applicant must present evidence which shows the purpose of the trip; proof of residence abroad; intent to depart the United States at the end of the visit; and arrangements made to cover the costs of the trip.
  • The applicant may present a letter from the U.S. business/host indicating the purpose of the trip; the bearer's intended length of stay; and the source of funding for the trip.
  • Documentation from the visitor's occupation abroad should complement any documentation coming from the U.S.

The visa affixed to a successful applicant's passport will bear either the notation "B-1," "B-2," or "B-1/B-2." The notation “B-1/B-2” is most typical.

At the US port of entry, the B-1 or B-2 applicant for admission will present their passport with a valid B-1/B-2 visa and request admission in one of those statuses (as applicable). Usually the interchange between the applicant and immigration official is very quick and will consist of a simple question on what the plans of the applicant are and how long they will be in the United States. 

Even if the individual has a combination B-1/B-2 visa, they can only be admitted either in B-1 or in B-2 status at any particular entry, depending on the purpose of that entry. B-1 or B-2 status will be annotated on the visitor's Form I-94, as evidence of a lawful admission.

B-1 visitors for business are admitted to the United States for a period based primarily on the amount of time that the B-1 states is necessary to accomplish the business purpose, but not to exceed 1 year. B-2 visitors are usually admitted for 6 months, regardless of validity of their visa stamp, and regardless of whether their stated length of stay is shorter than 6 months.

  • B-1 visitors for business and B-2 visitors for pleasure are prohibited from enrolling in a course of study unless they apply for and USCIS approves a change from B status to F-1 or M-1 student status.
  • Because the nature of classification as a WT or WB visitor under the Visa Waiver Program derives from the definition of B-2 and B-1 visitors, WT and WB visitors are likewise subject to the prohibition on enrolling in a course of study.
  • However, several entries in the Department of State's Foreign Affairs Manual suggest that a B-2 visa can be issued to someone "coming to the United States primarily for tourism, who also incidentally will engage in a short course of study during their visit."

As a general rule, B-1 and WB visitors are not permitted to engage in employment of any kind while in the United States. For example, they may not legally accept part-time, full-time, or temporary teaching or research positions, for which they are paid by a U.S. institution.

Visitors in B-1 and WB status have traditionally been allowed to receive reimbursements for incidental expenses or per diems related to their B-1/WB activity. The total amount of such payments cannot exceed what is reasonable as a business expense. 

Visitors in B-1, B-2, WB, and WT status may receive academic honoraria payments and payments for associated incidental expenses pursuant to the criteria set forth in INA § 212(q), which states that anyone admitted under section 101(a)(15)(B) "may accept an honorarium payment and associated incidental expenses for a usual academic activity or activities (lasting not longer than 9 days at any single institution),… if such payment is offered by an institution or organization described in subsection (p)(1) and is made for services conducted for the benefit of that institution or entity" and if the visitor "has not accepted such payment or expenses from more than 5 institutions or organizations in the previous 6-month period." [INA § 212(q)]