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Alien - Visa Waiver & Visa Statuses with Special Considerations
Summary: There are programs and regulations that enable nationals of certain countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business without obtaining a visa or allow special considerations due to the type of visa. These are the Waiver Pilot Program, the B1/B2 Visa regulations and the NAFTA agreement. This article explains which foreign nations are covered by these programs, the types of income permissible, and the requirements to obtain one of these particular statuses.

Visa Waiver Program (VWP)

This program allows citizens of participating countries (see note below for list of countries) to travel to the United States for tourism or business for 90 days or less without obtaining a U.S. visa.

To qualify, travelers must:

  • Have a valid passport issued by a participating country and be a citizen and resident of that country.
  • Have received an authorization to travel under the VWP through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA – refer to the link in Related Information for more information).
  • Be seeking entry into the United States for no more than 90 days.
  • If entering by air or sea, have a round-trip ticket issued by a carrier that participates in the waiver program and arrive on that carrier. Travelers should consult carriers to insure that they participate in the waiver program.
  • Have proof of financial solvency and hold a completed and signed visa waiver arrival/departure form (I-94W). These forms will be available from the carrier, travel agents and at land-border ports of entry.

Note: Countries participating in the waiver program: Andorra, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Malta,  Lithuania, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and United Kingdom.

Distinction between WB and WT Status

The immigration status of an individual traveling on under the Waiver program is determined by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the time the visitor is going through customs. The visitor’s status (WB or WT) will be indicated on their I-94W document.

  • WB: Waiver Business
    • Issued to temporary visitors who plan to be in the United States for business purposes.
    • Purpose for entry into the United States cannot be for employment or to study.
    • This designation can only be reimbursed for honoraria and regular academic activity provided that the services do not exceed nine days at a single institution and the individual has not accepted honoraria and/or reimbursement for incidental expenses from more than five institutions in a six month period. Services are limited to regular academic activity, and do not include consulting or professional services.
  • WT: Waiver Tourist
    • Issued to temporary visitors who plan to be in the United States as a tourist.
    • Individuals with this classification cannot be employed.
    • This designation can be reimbursed for honoraria and associated incidental expenses, provided that the services do not exceed nine days at a single institution and the individual has not accepted honoraria and/or reimbursement for incidental expenses from more than five institutions in a six month period. Services are limited to regular academic activity, and do not include consulting or professional services.

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Advantages 

  • Easy way to enter the United States for individuals from participating countries.
  • No need to formally file for a visa status at a Consulate.

Disadvantages

  • Cannot stay in the United States beyond the 90 days, no extensions granted.
  • Cannot change status.

Visitor for Business and Pleasure (B1/B2)

This visa is a nonimmigrant visa for individuals entering the United States temporarily for the purposes of business, pleasure or medical treatment.

To qualify, travelers must:

  • Demonstrate that the purpose of visit is to enter the United States for business, pleasure or medical treatment;
  • They plan to remain for a specific, limited period;
  • They have a residence and binding ties outside the United States that will insure their return abroad at the end of the visit.

Application for Visitor Visa

Applicants should apply at the American Embassy or Consulate which has jurisdiction over their permanent residence. Required documentation:

  1. A completed and signed application form DS-156. The DS-156 must be the March 2006 date “e-form application”. (A Supplemental Nonimmigrant visa application Form DS-157, is required for male applicants 16-45 years of age and applicants over 16 from Cuba, Syria, Sudan and Iran. Form DS-157 can be requested by a consular officer for any applicant.)
  2. A passport valid for travel to the United States with a validity date at least 6 months beyond the intended period of stay.
  3. A picture ID (see Consulate for specific requirements).
  4. Individuals traveling for Business - a letter from the U.S. firm indicating the purpose of the trip, the length of time to complete the purpose, and the firms intent to defray travel costs.
    Individuals traveling for Pleasure - a letter from relatives or friends in the United States whom the person intends to visit or confirmation of a tour group.
    Individuals traveling for Medical Treatment - a letter a doctor or medical facility concerning proposed treatment.

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Distinction between B1 and B2 status

The immigration status of an individual traveling on a B1/B2 visa is determined by the CBP (Customs and Border Protection) officer at the time the visitor is going through customs. The visitor’s status (B1 or B2) will be indicated on their I-94 document.

  • B1 Status
    • Issued to temporary visitors who plan to be in the United States to engage in commercial transactions, participate in scientific, educational, professional or business conferences/seminars, conduct independent research or participate in litigation.
    • Individuals with this classification cannot be employed or be in the United States for the purpose of study.
    • This designation can be reimbursed for incidental expenses associated with their visit.
    • This designation can only be reimbursed for honoraria and regular academic activity provided that the services do not exceed nine days at a single institution and the individual has not accepted honoraria and/or reimbursement for incidental expenses from more than five institutions in a six month period. Services are limited to regular academic activity, and do not include consulting or professional services.
  • B2 Status
    • Issued to temporary visitors for the purpose of tourism or social activity.
    • Individuals with this classification cannot be employed.
    • This classification may engage in a short course of study (no more than 18 hours per week).
    • An F1 or M1 student can gain entry into the United States under this visa 90 days prior to the registration date shown on their I-20 forms.
    • This designation may receive honoraria and/or reimbursement for incidental expenses provided that the services do not exceed nine days at a single institution and the individual has not accepted honoraria and/or reimbursement for incidental expenses from more than five institutions in a six month period. Services are limited to regular academic activity, and do not include consulting or professional services.

Advantages

  • May be able to extend visit while in the United States beyond the 90 days. Must contact U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to do so.
  • May be able to change status while in the United States by contacting USCIS and completing form I-539.

Disadvantages

  • Must obtain the visa status from a Consulate prior to their arrival at a port of entry and the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has the authority to deny admission.
  • Length of stay in the United States is determined by the CBP at their discretion.

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Professional Under the North American Free Trade Agreement (TN) 

This status is available to citizens of Canada and Mexico.

To qualify, a citizen of a NAFTA country may work in a professional occupation in another NAFTA country provided that:

  • The profession is on the NAFTA list
  • The visitor has the necessary criteria for the profession being hired for
  • The position requires someone in that professional capacity
  • The visitor will be working for a U.S. employer

Application for TN

  • Citizen of Canada: The requirements are as follows:
  1. A request of a TN status.
  2. Documentation that establishes qualification for job (i.e. copy of college degree).
  3. Proof of ability to meet any applicable license requirements (if necessary for job).
  4. A written job offer from a U.S. based employer. This must include a description of the job and the job must be listed on the NAFTA job series list.
  5. Proof of Canadian citizenship: (Canadian citizens traveling to the United States from outside the Western Hemisphere are required to present a valid passport as documentation).
  6. A $50.00 fee (in U.S. dollars).

Canadian citizens are not required to obtain a visa to enter the United States. They may receive a TN status with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) at the port of entry. The TN status is only granted if the stay in the United States is temporary.

  • Citizen of Mexico: The requirements are as follows:
  1. Mexican citizens would need to apply for a TN visa. An interview at the embassy consular section is required for most visa applicants. Interviews are generally conducted by appointment only. An ink-free digital fingerprint scan can be expected.
  2. A completed and signed Nonimmigrant visa application Form DS-156. The DS-156 must be the March 2006 “e-form application”. (A Supplemental Nonimmigrant visa application Form DS-157, is required for all male applicants between 16-45 years of age, and may be requested by a consular officer for any applicant.)
  3. A passport valid for travel to the United States with a validity date at least 6 months beyond intended stay in the United States.
  4. One photograph, 2 x 2 inches in size: (requirements can be found at the NAFTA link in the related information section on the right of this page)
  5. A Letter of Employment indicating evidence of Professional Employment for a U.S. Employer. If necessary proof of licensure to practice a given profession in the United States, can be submitted with offer letter. Letter or contract from U.S. Employer should contain:
    • Description of employment,
    • Purpose of entry into the United States,
    • Anticipated length of stay,
    • Educational qualifications or appropriate credentials demonstrating professional status,
    • Evidence of compliance with DHS regulations, and
    • State requirements and arrangements for pay.
  6. Payment of applicable nonimmigrant visa processing fee.
  7. Payment of Visa Insurance Fee.

Dependents 

A spouse and unmarried minor children of the principal alien are entitled to the derived status but may not accept employment under that status while in the United States. Generally, though, the designation will be a TD.

Extension of Stay 

Canadian or Mexican citizens admitted as NAFTA Professionals may seek an extension of stay for up to one year by either of these options: 

  1. The U.S. Employer files Form I-129 “Petition for Non-immigrant Worker” with the USCIS, Nebraska Service Center. The visitor does not have to leave the United States to obtain approval. 
  2. Visitor may return to their country of Citizenship (Canada or Mexico) and apply for a TN status, at a port of entry using the same application and documentation procedures required for initial entry.

More information regarding the NAFTA Agreement is provided in Related Information.

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UCLA Payroll Services: Nonresident Alien Compliance
Phone: (310) 267-5774 | Fax: (310) 794-8751 | Mail Code: 141648

Address
10920 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 620
Los Angeles, CA 90024-6505
  Office Hours
Monday – Friday 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday Closed

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