B-1 And H-1B Visas: Understand The Differences For Your Employees

Posted on

If you're planning on sending an employee to the United States on business for only a short period, you should consider the differences between a B-1 visa and an H-1B visa to see which meets your needs the best. 

This is what you need to know:

The B-1 Visa

B-1 visas are great for limited purposes. Relatively inexpensive, they're most useful when you're planning on being in the country just for a business meeting, to attend trade shows, to take orders, to do research, during recruiting, or while meeting your prospective investors. The maximum stay, by law, is only 6 months. They also have the advantage of not being restricted to a yearly quota -- which makes them easy to acquire.

You generally cannot use a B-1 if you're going to be working for a U.S. company while you are here. Nor is it appropriate if you'll be actively opening or operating a business within the U.S. It also isn't appropriate if you intend to seek long-term residency in the United States. If that's your goal, using it for that purpose could actually set you back in the process, so don't do it.

The H-1B Visa

H-1B visas are generally for business professionals who have special skills -- especially those that are in high demand and limited supply within the U.S. business world. An applicant's job duties must generally be complex and require a degree.

In contrast to the B-1 visa, the H-1B visa can be much more expensive and difficult to obtain. In large part, that's because the H-1B visa can allow visitors to stay in the country for a total of 6 years (an initial 3 years and then 3 more on extension). It is also subject to yearly quotas, which can be a problem.

The B-1 Visa in Lieu of the H-1B Visa

At times, Immigration may grant a B-1 visa when the H-1B visa is actually more appropriate. In general, that allows companies to take advantage of the cheaper rate for the B-1 visa and get around the limitations imposed by the yearly cap on H-1B visitors. 

In order to qualify for a B-1 visa instead of the H-1B, the most critical things that an employee has to demonstrate is that he or she is coming solely at the behest of his or her employer, will only be here for a limited time period and to achieve a specific goal, and still maintains significant financial ties to his or her homeland. 

If you're trying to decide if a B-1 visa can resolve your work-related immigration problems, talk to an immigration attorney today.