The U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Affairs Manual provides a detailed overview of the U.S. visitors rules at 9 FAM 402.2, which includes permissible visitor activities, exceptions to the general work authorization requirement for certain travelers, and restrictions of visitor entry. Further restrictions may be found in 8 CFR § 214.2(b), including the general prohibition on studying.
Visitor Visas, Visa-Exempt, & ESTA Visa-Waiver
Visitors to the United States generally must possess a B-1/B-2 visa issued by a U.S. consular post abroad. Exceptions include Canadians who are visa-exempt, which means that they can stay in the U.S. for up to six (6) months without a visa, as well as citizens from certain countries that qualify to travel “visa waiver” under the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). ESTA is for “clean records” only, and if an ESTA application is denied, generally an otherwise visa-waiver traveler would need to apply for a visitor visa.
Proof of Nonimmigrant Intent and Visitor Purpose
When applying for a visa and upon arrival to the United States, visitors must be ready to present proof of the permissible visitor purpose of their trip along with proof of their “nonimmigrant intent,” which is defined as an unabandoned residence outside of the U.S. to which they intend to return. Common evidence includes a round trip flight itinerary within a short period, proof of hotel accommodations, documentation for the business meeting or entertainment activity, employment verification letter, recent paystubs for overseas employment, deed or lease agreement to residence, and recent utility bills.
It’s important to check that CBP properly completed the Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record after arrival.
The above is informational and not intended to be legal advice. Please consult with an experienced business immigration attorney on your specific facts and circumstances before proceeding with any U.S. immigration strategy.