Visitors for Business and Pleasure: B-1, B-2, and Visa Waiver (“ESTA”)

  • Visa Waiver Program and ESTA

Persons from certain countries who want to visit the United States for no more than 90 days are not required to have a visa.  The United States Visa Waiver Program currently exempts persons from the following countries from obtaining a visa to visit the United States.  Please note that this list changes periodically.

Andorra Finland Japan New Zealand Slovenia
Australia France Latvia Norway South Korea
Austria Germany Liechtenstein Portugal Spain
Belgium Greece Lithuania San Marino Sweden
Brunei Hungary Luxembourg Singapore Switzerland
Czech Republic Iceland Malta Slovak Republic U.K.*
Denmark Ireland Monaco
Estonia Italy Netherlands


*Does not apply to British overseas citizens, British dependent territories; citizens, or citizens of British Commonwealth countries.

Visitors who enter under the Visa Waiver Program are limited to a stay of 90 days and may engage only in tourist and limited business-related activities.  They may not extend their stay or change to another immigration status, but must return to their home country within 90 days.

To apply to enter the United States under the Visa Waiver Program, the prospective visitor must use the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (“ESTA”), which is accessible on the internet.

  • B-1 and B-2 Visas

Those who are ineligible for the Visa Waiver Program may obtain a B-1 or B-2 visa.  The B-2 is used by visitors coming to the U.S. as tourists; and the B-1 is used by business travelers.  Those who enter on “B” visas are generally admitted for 6 months.  Unlike those using the Visa Waiver Program, the B-1 and B-2 visitors may extend their stays or, while in the United States, change to a different immigration status.

The B-1 category is often misunderstood and misused.  Consequently, those seeking entry to the United States in this category are usually thoroughly questioned by Customs and Border Protection personnel (“CBP”) at the port-of-entry.  The issue arising most commonly is the question of who primarily benefits from the foreign person’s visit. The benefit of the visit should generally inure to the foreign employer.  A U.S. employer should not pay a salary to the foreign person while he or she is in the United States, although a per diem expense charge may be paid.  The foreign person should remain on a foreign payroll and the visit to the United States should, ideally, be of short duration.  Attendance at business or board meetings are typical reasons for use of the B-1 category.  The most troublesome issue for those seeking entry as B-2 visitors for pleasure is proving that they intend to return to their country of residence following the visit to the United States.  Persons with close relatives in the United States and single women with male “friends” in the United States are frequently denied entry as B-2’s, even when they present very strong evidence of ties to their home country.