B-1/B-2 & WB/WT Visitors

ISSS provides guidance based on current regulatory information and is not a substitute for legal counsel.

The "temporary visitor" status is a nonimmigrant classification for those desiring to enter the US temporarily for business (B-1 or WB), for pleasure (B-2 or WT), or combination purposes. The US Department of State (DOS) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officers have wide discretion in granting B-1 and B-2 visas or entry to the US. 

  • Travelers coming to the US for tourism or business from countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) may be granted permission to enter for 90 days only and may not extend their stay. The list of VWP countries and requirements, including Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), can be found on the US Department of State website.

  • See a helpful visual guide for ESTA 

  • DOS/DHS will most likely not view B-1/WB or B-2/WT Visitor status as appropriate for someone coming to the university to study, conduct research, consult, or lecture. Another immigration category, such as F-1 student or J-1 exchange visitor, is probably more appropriate for such purposes. The B visa could be refused or entry to the US in B status could be denied in such cases.

  • It's the foreign national’s responsibility to obtain a visa and to gain admission to the US as a B-1/WB or B-2/WT visitor. S/he also assumes any risk associated with the decision to attempt entry to the US in this category.

  • See the DOS’s information on Visitor’s Visas for Pleasure and Business for further information and requirements

Reimbursement for Travel Expenses and Honorariums

  • See the Office of the Comptroller’s website for information on eligibility for a visitor to receive an honorarium and/or travel reimbursement from Penn. 

  • Honorariums may only be provided under the conditions specified in 9 FAM 41.31 N11.2 (below).

  • Please note that for university purposes, it is recommended to request and be admitted to the US in B-1 or WB status rather than B-2 or WT status.

Incidental Expenses or Remuneration

[9 FAM 41.31 N11.1]  A nonimmigrant in B-1 status may not receive a salary from a U.S. source for services rendered in connection with his or her activities in the US.

  • A US source may provide the alien with an expense allowance or reimbursement for expensesincidental to the temporary stay.

  • Incidental expenses may not exceed the actual reasonable expenses the alien will incur in traveling to and from the event, together with living expenses the alien reasonably can be expected to incur for meals, lodging, laundry, and other basic services.

If he/she will be receiving any honorarium payment, note the following:

[9 FAM 41.31 N11.2]  ...a B-1 nonimmigrant may accept an honorarium payment and associated incidental expenses for usual academic activities (which can include lecturing, guest teaching, or performing in an academic sponsored festival) if:

  • The activities last no longer than nine days at any single institution or organization;

  • Payment is offered by an institution or organization described in INA 212(p) [includes institutions of higher education];

  • The honorarium is for services conducted for the benefit of the institution or entity; and

  • The alien has not accepted such payments or expenses from more than five institutions or organizations over the last six months.

USCIS has not yet issued regulations to implement this law. USCIS has acknowledged in a memorandum to its field staff, however, that the law is in force and has instructed USCIS inspectors to admit visiting international scholars who meet the conditions set out in the law without new restrictions or documentary requirements.

Scholars arriving in the US in B-1, B-2 or visa waiver status should have with them letters from the institutions that will be providing them with honoraria. The letters should note the services to be provided and the honoraria and travel reimbursements offered. International scholars should be informed in advance of the limitations of the B-1/B-2/visa waiver honoraria rule and cautioned to be careful not exceed those limitations.

For more information on Penn's Corporate Tax Office policies regarding payment of honoraria and reimbursements, please visit here.

A letter of invitation from the host institution to be presented to US officials should only include statements about the applicant that the person signing the letter can verify.

If it is decided that an invitation is appropriate, send it as early as possible and include the following specific information:

  • Name, dates, location and purpose of visit

  • Name, date of birth, and passport number (if known) of the visitor

  • Information on how transportation and local expenses are to be funded

  • Information on the organization sponsoring the visit or meeting and relationship to the visitor

  • Name, title, contact information (phone, fax, e-mail, meeting Web site) of person responsible for the visit or meeting, in case the consular officer has further questions.

If he/she will receive any kind of reimbursement for expenses incidental to the temporary stay, use language from the Foreign Affairs Manual cited below.

It is also important for the individual to note that he or she:

  1. must have a residence abroad to which he or she intends to return

  2. must intend to remain in the US only for a specified limited period of time solely to participate in legitimate activities of B or visa waiver visitors (The individual should carry a return ticket or other confirmation to show US officials that he or she will leave within set period of time.)

  3. should be able to document that he/she has personal funding to support him/herself for the duration of his/her limited stay in US

[9 FAM 41.31 N10.4 ]  Students in a foreign medical school degree program may pursue a medical clerkship as follows:

  • An alien, who is studying at a foreign medical school and seeks to enter the United States temporarily in order to take an “elective clerkship” at a US medical school’s hospital without remuneration from the hospital. 

  • The medical clerkship is only for medical students pursuing their normal third or fourth year internship in a US medical school as part of a foreign medical school degree. 

  • An “elective clerkship” affords practical experience and instructions in the various disciplines of medicine under the supervision and direction of faculty physicians at a US medical school’s hospital as an approved part of the alien’s foreign medical school education. 

  • It does not apply to graduate medical training, which is restricted by 212(e) and normally requires a J-visa.

[9 FAM 41.31 N11.8 ]  A medical doctor otherwise classifiable H-1 as a member of a profession whose purpose for coming to the United States is to observe U.S. medical practices and consult with colleagues on latest techniques, provided no remuneration is received from a U.S. source and no patient care is involved.  Failure to pass the Foreign Medical Graduate Examination (FMGE) is irrelevant in such a case.

[9 FAM 41.31 N8] Aliens should be classified B-1 visitors for business, if otherwise eligible, if they are traveling to the United States to:

  • Engage in commercial transactions, which do not involve gainful employment in the US (such as a merchant who takes orders for goods manufactured abroad)

  • Negotiate contracts

  • Consult with business associates

  • Litigate

  • Participate in scientific, educational, professionalor business conventions, conferences, or seminars

  • Undertake independent research.