Short-Term Commercial/Tourist Visa (B Visa)
A B visa can be used when visiting the United States for short-term business or sightseeing purposes.
Short-Term Commercial Visa (B-1 Visa)
The B-1 visa is very convenient for certain commercial purposes. It is intended for those who travel to the United States for the purpose of business negotiations with business partners, science, education, business meetings, contract negotiations, property processing, etc. However, actual and productive work is not permitted. As a general rule, those on a B visa cannot accept compensation from a U.S.-based source.
Specific examples of commercial purposes permitted under the B-1 visa regulations are: (1) Temporary consulting activities for U.S. customers; (2) Directors attending company meetings; (3) Attending meetings with clients; (4) Engaging in commercial transactions that do not earn compensation within the United States; (5) Contract negotiation; (6) Participating in science, education, professional, and business meetings; (7) Maintenance and repairs for installed equipment sold outside the United States; and (8) Professional athletes participating in sports events while receiving no salary or payment other than prize money.
There are other possible activities for B-1 visas, but some of them are explained below.
Applicants are eligible for a B-1 visa when traveling to the United States for the purpose of investigating potential business sites, rental properties, etc. in preparation for investment (survey of entrepreneurship, etc.). However, in order to be further involved in business operations after starting a business, a separate E-visa for encouraging foreign investment in the United States is required, and a U.S. corporation must be screened and registered as an E visa registered company.
Individual studies are subject to a B-1 visa. This is only allowed in the case of an individual conducting research by themselves, rather than studying at school. In addition, the applicant cannot receive U.S.-based renumeration, and this does not apply if the results of the research contributes to the United States. In this case, an exchange visa (J visa), etc. is required.
Applicants are allowed to participate in exhibitions of Japanese products, construction of exhibition booths, display of product samples, conclude contracts, and take orders while under a B-1 visa. However, it is not possible to sell products which were manufactured in the United States.
If an engineer travels to the U.S. for the purpose of engaging in the installation or repair of a machine sold by their company, they are eligible for a B-1 visa. The contents of the services provided must be specified in the sales contract. Engineers must have relevant expertise and will not receive renumeration or compensation from a U.S. source. In addition, the company is not allowed to collect additional costs from U.S. companies for this service. Service engineers may also educate U.S. engineers on the above services, if stated in the contract.
Applicants traveling to the U.S. to give a lecture are eligible for a B-1 visa. However, unless the following conditions are met, they must not receive any U.S.-based compensation other than required expenses.
- Lectures and related activities last no longer than nine days at any single institution or organization
- Payment is offered by a non-profit research institute, government research institute, higher education institution, or related non-profit organization
- The honorarium is for services conducted for the benefit of the institution or entity
- The lecturer has not accepted such payment or expenses from more than five institutions or organizations over the last six months
Applicants are eligible for a B-1 visa if participating in a program for a specifically licensed U.S. religious group or nonprofit welfare organization. However, volunteers on a B-1 visa will not be able to receive any U.S.-based compensation or monetary rewards other than expenses covering their stay.
Professional athletes, such as professional golfers and auto racers, who participate in events in the U.S. and receive no compensation other than prize money, are eligible for a B-1 visa.
Cultural programs held in the U.S. sponsored by an applicant's home country are eligible under B-1 visa regulations. However, performances must be free, and expenses must be borne by the home government.
Priests traveling to the United States for missionary purposes are eligible for a B-1 visa.
Still photographers traveling to the United States for photography are eligible for B-1 visas as long as they are not compensated by a U.S.-based source.
If a musician records in a U.S. studio, sells the product outside the U.S., and holds no concerts or other events, they will be eligible for a B-1 visa.
B-1 Visa Application Required Documents
・Passport(s): A currently valid passport and any old passports issued in the past 10 years. * If you lose your old passport, you only need to use your current passport.
・Interview reservation confirmation sheet
・Documents demonstrating strong ties with Japan (e.g. proof of employment, school enrollment certificate, certified copy of family register with English translation, etc.)
・Materials demonstrating the necessity of traveling to the U.S. (appoitnment or invitation letter from the United States)
・Financial Proof (in English, US dollars): Proof of sufficient funds to cover the cost of staying in the U.S. without working in the U.S.
(Examples: salary statement or bank certificate, with English translation)
(The below applies to non-Japanese applicants)
・Valid Japanese residence card, copy of both sides
・Family passport: Whether or not the family members will be accompanying you or applying for a visa (for families residing in Japan, to show proof of ties to Japan)
*The above documents will vary depending on the individual applicant's situation and purpose of traveling to the U.S. The procedures and required documents change frequently, so if you are not using our services, please check the visa application guidance web page carefully.
Tourist Visa (B-2 visa)
This visa can be used by tourists who travel to the United States for the purpose of entertainment and recreation, such as visiting friends and relatives, but also for those who travel to the United States for the following purposes.
- Receiving medical treatment in the U.S.
- Taking short-term program classes at a school when the main purpose of traveling to the U.S. is tourism
- An amateur entertainer or athlete attending an event in the United States. However, no compensation or reward can be received except for necessary expenses.
- The fiancé/fiancée of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident visiting the U.S. for a short period of time
Basic Conditions for B Visa Applications
B visa applicants must prove to the consular officer that they are eligible to receive the visa under the United States Immigration Nationality Act (INA). In particular, Article 214(b) of the INA stipulates that "every alien shall be presumed to be an intending immigrant." Applicants must reverse this assumption by proving the following.
- The purpose of traveling to the United States is to make temporary visits such as business, sightseeing, and visiting acquaintances
- The stay in the United States will be for a limited, fixed time
- The applicant has sufficient funds to cover the stay in the United States
- In addition to having a residence outside the United States, the applicant has strong social and economic ties outside the United States, and that the applicant must leave the United States (return to Japan) at the end of the planned stay
Visa Validity Period and Length of Stay
Normally, Japanese applicants are issued B visas with a validity period of 10 years. This visa cannot be renewed, and you will need to apply for a new visa after the expiration date. The visa is issued under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Embassy in Japan (Department of State) and can be issued by the Tokyo Embassy, the Osaka/Kobe Consulate General, the Sapporo Consulate General, the Fukuoka Consulate General, or the Naha Consulate General. On the other hand, the entry permit is under the jurisdiction of the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP, Department of Homeland Security). Travelers can declare the desired number of days to stay in the U.S., but the immigration officer will make the final decision. The maximum length of stay generally allowed by the B visa is 6 months. If you are found justified, you can also extend your stay. B-1 and B-2 visas are normally issued together as B-1/B-2. Japanese passports are not required to have more than a certain number of days remaining before expiration, as long as the expiration date has not passed. If you have a currently valid B visa in your old, expired passport, you can travel to the U.S. by using it in conjunction with your new, valid passport.
ESTA and B Visas
Japanese nationals are eligible for the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and can travel to the U.S. without a visa, as long as their purpose of travel is recognized under the B visa and they will stay 90 days or less. A B visa is not necessary, but you will need to get an approved ESTA (electronic travel authorization) before traveling.
Those who fall under the following categories must apply for a B visa before traveling to the United States.
- If your ESTA application has been rejected in the past, your U.S. visa application was rejected, or you were denied entry
- If you have a history of illegal stay in the United States
- If you have traveled to Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia or Yemen since March 1, 2011
- If you have a history of arrest or criminal record in the United States or abroad
- If you will stay in the U.S. for more than 90 days
When you enter the U.S. using the Visa Waiver Program, you cannot change your stay status or extend your stay, unlike entering under a visa. If you are going to the U.S. for a special purpose, you can expect smooth immigration by obtaining a B visa separately.
Other Points of Note
The degree of difficulty in obtaining a visa depends on the type of visa, but a B visa has a wide range of consular discretion, so it is difficult to determine whether or not an application will be approved. Of the basic conditions for applying for a B visa, a bank deposit certificate is sufficient to prove that you have the funds to cover your stay in the U.S., but another important matter is the difficulty in proving willingness to return to your country after your scheduled stay in the U.S. Some documents proving this are certificates of employment, certificates of real estate ownership, withholding tax slips showing stable income, etc.
When applying, IMS Legal Professional Corporation will use our past experience and success to propose the best list of documents to submit according to each client's case in order to receive consular approval. We will also provide accurate English translations of Japanese supplementary materials needed to explain the background and reason for the application.
In addition to preparing necessary documents, IMS also provides simulated consular interviews to help our clients feel prepared. By knowing what questions to expect, our clients can answer the consular officer consisely and confidently. After obtaining a visa, will also advise you on how to enter the U.S. for a smooth experience.