GA Trade Sep-Oct Interactive - page 28

T
he B-1 business visa is often
regarded as a catch-all option for
travelerswho don’t seem tofit into
any other U.S. visa category.While
the B-1 does provide awide array of
opportunities, it also has its clear
limitations. And the U.S. government
has gottenmore aggressive in
enforcingB-1 rules. It has therefore
never beenmore important to
understand the terms and restrictions
of traveling to the U.S. on a B-1 visa.
The advantages of a B-1 visa are
obvious. Obtaining such a visa
normally takes just a few days, the
filing fee is amere $160.00, the visa
may cut down onwait time at the
airport, it allows its holder to stay in
the U.S. for up to 12months at a time
(as opposed to the 90 days permitted
under the ESTA visawaiver program),
it can be usedmultiple times, and it
remains valid for up to 10 years. It
would seem that the B-1 visa is the
perfect fit for anybodywho travels to
the United States frequently and/or
needs to stay in the U.S. for extended
periods of time.
The B-1 is designed for individuals
whowant to conduct certain business
activities in the U.S, but it is not a
permit towork for a business in the
U.S. or to run a business in the U.S.
This is a crucial distinction thatmust
be kept inmind. Paid employment
where the payment comes from aU.S.
employer (including aU.S. subsidiary
of a foreign company) will most likely
violate the terms of the B-1 visa. The
samewill most always be true in the
case of a foreignmanager who runs
the day-to-day operations of a
business in the U.S., even if he or she
is being paid from abroad.
What kind of business activities are
allowed under a B-1?While there is
no comprehensive list, the following
are deemed to be activities permissible
for the holder of a B-1 visa:
n
meetingwith clients or business
associates
n
travelling to the U.S. to set up aU.S.
subsidiary (but not to subsequently
manage the subsidiary)
n
exploring investment opportunities
in the U.S.
n
providing instruction to employees
of aU.S. subsidiary, as long as such
instruction does not amount to
full-timemanagement of the
company
n
attending a boardmeeting as a
director of aU.S. company
n
attending business conventions or
an executive seminar
n
working for a foreign exhibitor at
an international exhibition
n
installing (including service or
repair work) commercial or indus-
trial equipment that was purchased
outside the U.S. or trainingU.S.
workers to handle such equipment,
but only if the sales agreement
specifically lists suchwork as the
seller’s contractual obligation
Of particular interest to the business
traveler is a little-known exception to
the general B-1 visa restriction that a
foreigner cannot perform hands-on
work in the U.S. AU.S. consulate
may, if certain requirements aremet,
issue a B-1 visawith the annotation,
“B-1 in lieu of H-1B.” Thiswill allow
the foreign employee towork in the
U.S. as long as he is still paid from a
“source” abroad. Such assignments,
however, may not be longer than six
months.
Over the last few years the U.S.
government has taken amore narrow
view of the B-1 rules, and it has
started cracking down on violators.
Used properly, however, the B-1
remains a viable alternative tomore
complex and thereforemore expen-
sive visa options. The B-1 should
always be consideredwhen sending
an employee or an executive to the
U.S. for awork assignment.
n
B U S I N E S S T O O L
By LorenzWolffers
For Many but not for Everybody
The B-1Visa:
About theAuthor
LorenzWolffers is an attorney and
heads the immigration and naturaliza-
tion practice at Reiss + Preuss LLP in
NewYork City. He is fully bilingual
(German/English) and frequently
advises corporate and individual
clients fromGermany, Austria, and
Switzerland.
Phone: +1 (646) 731-2774
28
GermanAmerican Trade Sep/Oct 2014
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