Are you going to travel to the United States for business? Then, you better make sure you are fully prepared. You should have everything in order: your passport, your visa, and what you will say to border officials when you are entering the country. While it’s indeed rare that you may run into any issues while going through immigration, it is always preferable to err on the side of caution rather than regret.
Do I need a visa for a business trip to the US?
Your home country, the length of time you intend to spend in the United States, and the purposes of your trip all play a role in determining whether or not you require a visa for your business trip there.
You are eligible to apply for an ESTA US under the Visa Waiver Program if you are a citizen of one of the 40 countries that are part of the program and will be visiting the United States for business purposes for less than ninety days. Because of this, you won’t have to go through the trouble of applying for a complete B-1 Business Visa to visit the country. As a Swiss citizen looking to travel to the US for business purposes, this should be your case.
Once you have determined whether or not you are eligible, you must pay the processing fee and wait for a positive (or, in rare circumstances, negative) response. After that, all you need to do is show up at the airport with your passport to be cleared for entry into the US.
Generally, an ESTA has a validity of two years. Circumstances can, nonetheless, render it void:
- If you obtain a new passport, such as an emergency or temporary passport, you’ll need to reapply for ESTA;
- If you change your name;
- If you change your gender;
- If you change your citizenship;
- If you wish to change your response to any “yes” or “no” questions on the ESTA application.
You can submit your ESTA application right here (LINK to ESTA SCHWEIZ NEW WEBSITE).
Traveling to the US on a B-1 Visa
If you are not a Swiss citizen (nor a citizen of any of the 38 Visa Waiver Countries eligible for ESTA), you must apply for a B-1 Business Visa before traveling. The design of The B-1 Business Visa allows for:
- Attending meetings or discussions for business
- Attending a convention or a business conference
- Contract negotiations
To get a B-1 visa, you must make an appointment with the nearest US embassy and bring all necessary documentation. That includes proof of your proposed commercial operations in US territory.
With a fully completed application form, full payment, and all relevant documents, your visa process will take about 7 working days. If your B-1 visa is denied or a waiver of ineligibility is required, you may have to wait weeks, months, or even years to finish the procedure.
Therefore, you should prioritize obtaining your business visa way before scheduling any meetings or business arrangements. Citizens of Canada and Bermuda are the two countries with slightly different rules regarding business travel to the United States.
Here is further information on business travel for these citizens.
What should I say to border officials when entering the US on business?
Lying to a border official is a no-no. You may risk being denied entry in the future. Even if you have just one business meeting in the US, it’s always better to state this and ensure you are traveling on a correct visa.
Border officials may also request to check your luggage. If they find suits, business cards, or marketing materials when you are traveling on a visitor rather than a business visa, they may get suspicious.
Because a B-1 visa includes multiple traveling purposes, you don’t need to worry whether you are traveling for a meeting with a business partner or potential client, attending a conference, or conducting a negotiation.
Consider that if you plan to travel to the United States for paid work from a US business, you must apply for a work visa instead of a business visa.
Remember that applying for the incorrect visa may lead to severe issues with border officials as they have the final say on whether to grant you entry into the country. Never assume everything is sorted out, and always be honest and convincing when asked about your plans. Accuracy is paramount. Be sure to check your visa eligibility and leave plenty of time ahead of preparations.