USA business travel: B1 Business visa or ESTA?

There are many visas to visit the United States, among which, the B1 visa is the Business visa which we will talk about here in more detail. However, you should know that this visa is not essential if you wish to travel to this country for a business trip lasting less than 90 days, as you are probably eligible for the ESTA, which we will also discuss below.

Apply for an ESTA online

B1 Business visa for the USA: Key points

  • The B1 visa is for temporary business travel. It does not authorise paid work in the USA.
  • The duration of the B1 Business visa varies, generally up to 6 months.
  • The government B1 visa fee is $160, plus a processing fee of between $150 and $200.
  • ESTA authorisation is an alternative to the Business B visa for the USA.


What is the Business visa or B1 visa for the USA?

The Business visa for the USA is the B1 visa for business travellers who wish to visit the USA and do not meet the requirements for an ESTA.

With the B1 visa, it is possible to travel to the United States for various reasons including

  • Making investments in the country
  • Negotiating professional contracts
  • Meet in-country partners
  • Attend conferences or professional events

Thus, the B1 or Business visa is aimed at two categories of travellers with :

  • Nationals of countries that have not joined the ESTA visa waiver programme and therefore cannot benefit from this online procedure.
  • Nationals of ESTA member countries who wish to stay longer than 90 days and no longer than 6 months in the USA.


How to choose between the Business visa and the ESTA for a business trip to the USA?

As you will have understood, the choice between the ESTA procedure and the Business visa for the United States will depend on your eligibility criteria for the ESTA. These are :

  • Be a national of one of the member countries of the ESTA system, which includes the United Kingdom and the majority of European Union countries.
  • Travelling to the US for business or tourism
  • Travel to the USA for a maximum of 90 consecutive days.

The eligibility criteria for the Business B1 visa are :

  • Travelling to the US for business purposes
  • Have sufficient funds to finance the trip
  • Prove their intention to return to their country of origin when their visa expires

Of course, the ESTA application procedure has several advantages over the Business visa. First of all, the ESTA can be obtained directly online in just a few minutes with a simple form and without providing any documents. The answer is obtained in less than 72 hours and it is valid for two years and allows several stays in the United States for business or tourism during this period.

Apply for an ESTA online

The application procedure for a Business visa for the USA :

Here is the procedure to follow if you are not eligible for ESTA and need to apply for a Business visa for the USA:

  • Go to a site that provides access to the B1 visa application form, which is the DS-160 form. You will need your personal information and travel details.
  • Pay the visa application fee which is currently $160 plus any additional fees depending on your country of residence.
  • Prepare for your mandatory interview which will take place at the US Embassy in your country. The appointment for this interview can be made online and you will need to go there with the confirmation letter you have received.
  • Prepare the necessary documents for your interview, including the form submission confirmation page, the interview confirmation page, a passport-size photo, a memorandum on the reasons for your stay, bank statements or evidence of your ability to pay for your stay, evidence of your attachment to your home country, a clean criminal record and a letter from your employer as well as your last three payslips.
  • Go to your interview with your complete file and having prepared your answers to any questions you may be asked.

Unlike the ESTA, which is processed by computer and allows an application to be answered in less than 72 hours, the B1 visa does not give applicants any minimum time limit for obtaining it. The processing time will therefore depend on several criteria, including the workload of the embassy.


How to apply for and obtain ESTA authorisation for a business trip to the USA?

As mentioned above, the ESTA also allows travel to the US for business purposes. However, the stay must be for less than 90 consecutive days and you must be a national of one of the member countries of the scheme, such as the United Kingdom.

If you meet these conditions, the ESTA application procedure will be much faster and simpler than the business visa application procedure. Here are the different steps to follow:

  • First of all, go to the official website or the website of a service provider who can give you access to the ESTA application form in English, check it and send it to the US authorities.
  • Access the form and fill it in with your personal details, email address and passport number and answer the list of questions honestly.
  • Validate your request and proceed to the online payment of the fees related to this request.
  • You don't have to do anything else. Your file will be checked by professionals before being sent to the authorities in charge of its study.

One of the advantages of the ESTA over the US Business Visa is that it allows you to get a response within 72 hours. This means that you will receive an email within a maximum of 3 days of the date of your application, telling you whether your ESTA has been accepted or refused.

If your ESTA has been accepted, you do not need to print it. It will be electronically attached to your passport for a period of two years from that date and can be used for multiple business trips to the USA during that time, and even for tourist stays or simple stopovers or transits.

For this application, we recommend a reputable service provider who will enable you to obtain this residence permit quickly and reliably.


What are the advantages of the ESTA over the Business visa?

The ESTA procedure has a number of undeniable advantages over the Business B1 visa application procedure for the USA.

First of all, it is a simplified procedure that is carried out solely online. You will not need to go to the embassy or consulate or even send any documents or proof of your stay in the USA.

This authorisation is also quick to obtain as you will get an answer in less than 72 hours, directly by email, where the delays to obtain a B1 visa are uncertain and generally very long.

You will also not need a letter from your employer or even proof that you have the necessary funds in your account to complete your stay.

Another advantage of this ESTA application is that it will cost you much less than a B1 visa application and you can pay the fee online.

Finally, the ESTA will allow you to make not just one but several trips to the USA, whether for business or tourism purposes, for a period of validity of two years, whereas the Business visa is only issued for a single trip and for a period of only 6 months.

Apply for an ESTA online

As a web writer and globetrotter with a passion for travel and tourism, I have acquired in-depth knowledge of the procedures that are essential for travellers. I help travellers to complete all the formalities required for a successful trip, particularly when it comes to obtaining a visa online. With several years' experience in this field, I'd like to offer you some valuable advice to help you discover the world with complete peace of mind.


Frequently asked questions

How long is the B1 visa valid?

The B1 visa is valid for 6 months once obtained. There is no business visa for the United States that allows you to stay more than 6 consecutive months in the country. Therefore, at the end of this period of validity, you will have to apply for a new visa if you wish to return to the United States on business.

Can I renew a Business visa for the USA?

Once the 6 months of legal validity have elapsed, you will have to return to your home country and will not be able to stay in the USA any longer. However, it is possible to prepare for the renewal of your US Business Visa with your employer. You will need to prove that you were not able to complete all the assignments on the original B1 visa and prepare letters of attestation stating that the longer stay is essential to the company's business.

Is it possible to obtain a Green Card with a B1 visa?

As mentioned above, one of the conditions of eligibility for the B1 visa is that you must be able to prove that you will return to your country of origin once the validity period has expired. You will be asked to prove that you do not wish to remain in the US permanently. Thus, it is of course not possible to obtain a green card in the United States once you are there on a B1 visa or in certain very specific cases.