The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) facilitates the entry of certain citizens of Mexico and Canada into the U.S. NAFTA affects four categories of visas (1) business visitors (B-1); (2) traders and investors (E1, E2); (3) intra-company transferees (L-1); and (4) professionals (TN).
Business Visitor Under NAFTA (B-1)
A B-1 visa holder is allowed to engage in commercial transactions in the U.S. Such activities may include negotiating contracts; litigation; consulting with a business; participating in scientific, educational, professional or business conventions, conferences, or seminars; and undertaking independent research.
NAFTA also includes a list of activities that are allowed under B-1 status:
Research and Design including technical scientific and statistical researchers conducting independent research or research for an enterprise located in the territory of another Party.
Growth, manufacture and production including harvester owner supervising a harvesting crew admitted under applicable law (applies only to harvesting of agricultural crops: Grain, fiber, fruit and vegetables.)
Purchasing and production management personnel conducting commercial transactions for an enterprise located in the territory of another Party.
Marketing including market researchers and analyst conducting independent research or analysis, or research or analysis for an enterprise located in the territory of another Party. Trade fair and promotional personnel attending a trade convention.
Sales: sales representatives and agents taking orders or negotiating contracts for goods or services for an enterprise located in the territory of another Party but not delivering goods or providing services. Buyers purchasing for an enterprise located in the territory of another Party.
Distribution including transportation operators transporting goods or passengers to the United States, or loading and transporting goods or passengers from the United States to the territory of another Party.
Customs brokers performing brokerage duties associated with the export of goods from the United States to or through Canada.
After-sales service including installers, repair and maintenance personnel, and supervisors, possessing specialized knowledge essential to the seller’s contractual obligation, performing services or training workers to perform services, pursuant to a warranty or other service contract incidental to the sale of commercial or industrial equipment or machinery, including computer software, purchased from an enterprise located outside the United States, during the life of the warranty or service agreement(the commercial or industrial equipment or machinery, including computer software, must have been manufactured outside the United States.)
NAFTA also allows for financial services, management, public relations and tourism personal under a section called “general services.” Generally, a B-1 visa holder must be compensated from a source outside the U.S.
A B-1 visa is an excellent option for many Mexicans and Canadians because there is no prior visa petition or labor certification that must be filed, nor is there a work permit that must be obtained before engaging in business.