B Visas are available to foreign nationals who enter the U.S. for a limited duration for business (B-1), pleasure (B-2), or both business and pleasure (B1/B2). The B category was designed to promote international travel that would produce cultural, social and economic benefits but it was not designed as a means to secure employment.
There has been considerable debate as to which activities fall within the scope of legitimate B-1 business activities and which cross the line into “employment.” As per the Foreign Affairs Manual, if one is travelling to the U.S. to engage in any of the following then they would be properly categorized as a B-1 Visitor:
- Commercial transactions;
- Negotiate contracts;
- Consult with business associates;
- Participate in scientific, educational, professional, or business conventions, conferences, or seminars; or
- Undertake independent research.
The above list is not exhaustive but rather the most common B-1 activities. What business activities a foreign national may engage in without violating U.S. immigration laws are determined on a case-by-case basis and counsel should be sought to ensure full compliance. Canadians enjoy several U.S. immigration benefits and one of the most notable ones is that they can apply for B status directly at a port-of-entry, as opposed to a U.S. consulate.