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WB/WT Visa Waiver Visitor for Business/Pleasure

Overview and Eligibility

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows citizens of certain countries to enter the U.S. for up to 90 days for business or pleasure without using a visa stamp; they are not permitted to change immigration status within the U.S., nor are they allowed to extend their stay beyond the 90 days.  Visitors entering on the Visa Waiver Program can neither engage in employment in the U.S. nor enroll in an academic study program.  The U.S. Department of State expressly indicates that the B-1 and, by extension, the WB, may be used for "independent research."  We always recommend using the J-1 over VWP, however, to avoid situations where persons may be denied entry to the U.S. and told instead that they should be coming in the J-1 classification.

Types of waivers

  • WB status (Visitor for Business): An international visitor entering in WB status holds a permanent residence in a foreign country that he/she has no intention of abandoning, and who is visiting the U.S. temporarily for business, such as consulting with business associates; participating in scientific, educational, or professional conventions, conferences, or seminars; or undertaking independent research.  These must all be short-term, non-salaried academic activities. Persons in WB status may be reimbursed for reasonable business costs where UC San Diego has a business purpose (e.g., inviting an expert speaker to a conference) and, if their activity on campus lasts no longer than nine days from beginning to end of their activity, can be granted an honorarium, provided that they will be granted honoraria from no more than five institutions during their stay in the U.S. The department's letter of invitation should indicate the types of activity that will be pursued, and these activities should correspond to those indicated as acceptable for the B-1/WB classification by the U.S. Dept. of State (see fact sheet).  If activities do not conform to those listed, the U.S. Dept. of State may require a visa, such as a J-1 Exchange Visitor visa, in which case the department will need to go through the J-1 request procedure.   Note that the U.S. Dept. of State indicates the following about student training and B-1/WB status in notes to its Foreign Affairs Manual: "aliens, often students, who seek to gain practical experience through on-the-job training or clerkships must qualify under INA 101(a)(15)(H) or (L), or when an appropriate exchange visitors program exists (J)." It is our experience that language using "internship" will be interpreted by the U.S. DOS as a program activity requiring J status.
  • WT status (Visitor for Pleasure): An international visitor entering in WT visa status has recreational intent, including tourism, amusement, visits with friends or relatives, rest, and activities of a social nature. In ALL cases, we recommend that the department invite visitors in WB, rather than WT, status.

Eligible Countries

Application Process

Visitors apply through U.S. Customs and Border Protection's ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization); Visitors will not be able to submit ESTA applications at a U.S. port of entry or a U.S. embassy or consulate.

A VWP traveler should apply for ESTA at least 72 hours in advance of arrival to the U.S.

Upon entry, VWP applicants will request WB status from the U.S. Port of Entry Officer; the WB (or WT) status indication is stamped in the passport directly by the officer at the port of entry. There is no "visa application process;" no visa (stamp from the U.S. consulate) is required prior to entry.

The following is required to apply for the Visa Waiver Program:

  • A valid machine-readable passport
  • Evidence of intent to return to the home country in 90 days (example: round-trip airline ticket)
  • Proof of financial support (example: bank statement)
  • Invitation letter from UC San Diego (see below for sample)

Template Letter

U.S. Customs and Border Protection

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing on behalf of Dr./Mr./Ms. __________________________________________.

I have invited Dr./Ms./Mr. to (choose one) attend a conference/give a presentation/for a short-term independent research project on the topic of ___________________ at the University of California, San Diego from _____________________ to _________________________.

Dr./Mr./Ms. _____________________ will not receive any salary or compensation from the University of California, San Diego during her/his stay in the U.S. (OR: Dr./Mr./Ms. ______________ will receive reimbursement of business expenses and/or an honorarium in the amount of  __________________.)   During her/his stay at UC San Diego, s/he will be supported by _________________ (personal funds, employer abroad, etc.).

I request that the WB (Visa Waiver-Business) status be granted to Dr./Mr./Ms. ________________________________.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

(Signature)
Professor of _____________________________________