If your department is planning to bring over a short-term researcher, scholar, or physician, please consult with the Center for Global Health before instructing the foreign national to apply for a visitor visa. CGH can help you determine if the B-1/B-2 visa or Visa Waiver Program is the most appropriate visa classification based on the intended activities and purpose of the visit.
If it is determined that a visitor visa is the most appropriate classification for a foreign visitor, the sponsoring MUSC department should issue an invitation letter to the foreign visitor for the purposes of the individual’s visa application. The letter should outline the purpose of the foreign national’s visit to the US and the scope of the activities at MUSC. It is recommended that departments send this letter to CGH for review before sending the letter to the foreign scholar.
B-1 – Business Visa
B-1 visas can be used by foreign visitors to the United States to engage in temporary business activities. B-1 visas can be used for short-term stays, usually less than 90 days and generally no more than 6 months.
The B-1 category may be appropriate for foreign scholars who wish to visit MUSC for a short period of time to engage in professional activities as long as those activities do not constitute employment. Appropriate activities may include:
- Consultation with professional associates
- Participation in scientific, educational, professional, or business conventions, conferences or seminars
- Negotiation of a contract
- Independent research that does not benefit MUSC and is not funded by a US source
- Guest lecturer/speaker (*see section below on honorariums for foreign visitors in B-1 status)
- Participation in a training program that is not designed primarily to provide employment
- Observation of US medical practices, provided that no remuneration is received from US source and no patient care is involved
The following are examples of activities that would not be appropriate for a B-1 visa:
- Participation in collaborative research that will benefit MUSC or will appear in academic publications
- Enrollment in a program of study for academic credit
- Participation in a structured internship
- Engaging in activities that would normally be considered employment activities
US consular officers have wide discretion in granting visas. A consular officer may not view B-1 visa status as appropriate for someone coming to an academic medical center or university to study, conduct research or consult. Depending on the nature of the program, the consular officer may feel that another nonimmigrant status, such as F-1 student or J-1 exchange visitor, may be more appropriate for the purpose of the trip, and the officer may refuse to issue a B-1 visa on this basis.
B-2 – Tourist Visa
The B-2 visitor visa is intended for tourism, pleasure or visiting. This includes vacations, visiting with friends or relatives, participation in social events, and medical treatment.
Procedures for Obtaining a B-1/B-2 Visa
Foreign nationals must apply for a visa at their local US embassy/consulate. The visa applicant should refer to the website of the embassy for specific procedures on obtaining a visa, such as the forms and fees required. In general, the applicant will need to submit an application for a nonimmigrant visa (usually submitted online) and also schedule a visa interview.
To obtain a B-1 visa, an international scholar must demonstrate eligibility for B-1 status. The visa applicant will need to provide evidence of the purpose of the trip, intent to depart the US, proof of strong ties to his/her home country, and proof of financial support during his/her stay in the US. Providing evidence of a round-trip airline ticket may help to prove intent to return to the home country.
To obtain a B-2 visa, an international visitor must demonstrate eligibility for B-2 status. The visa applicant will need to provide evidence of the purpose of the trip, intent to depart the US, proof of strong ties to his/her home country, and proof of financial support during his/her stay in the US. It is also possible for a family member already in the US to sponsor an applicant for a B-2 tourist visa. This can be beneficial if the B-2 visa applicant does not have sufficient funding to support the trip to the US.
Please be aware that a visa is a document that allows a foreign national to request admittance into the US at a port of entry. Obtaining a visa does not guarantee entry into the US.
Visa Waiver Program
The Visa Waiver Program (WB/WT status) allows citizens of a limited number of countries to visit the US for up to 90 days without a B-1/B-2 visa. Visitors entering for business purposes are admitted in WB status and visitors entering for pleasure are admitted in WT status. Visit the US Department of State for a list of the countries currently participating in the Visa Waiver Program.
Foreign nationals who enter the US in WB/WT status cannot extend their visas beyond 90 days under any circumstances. In addition, foreign nationals in WB/WT status cannot apply for a change of visa status once in the US.
Procedures for Entering in WB/WT Status
The scholar should refer to the website of the embassy for specific procedures on the visa waiver program, such as the forms and fees required.