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US Visitor Visas (B-1/B-2 Visas and Visa Waiver 'ESTA' Travel)

Persons coming to Tufts for short-term visits may be able to come to the US using either a B-1/B-2 visitors visa or under the Visa Waiver Program, which allows 'visa free' travel to the US.

Appropriate Uses of Visitor Status

The B-1/B-2 visa and Visa Waiver Program are designed to allow individuals to travel to the US for short-term business and personal travel. In the academic context, typical activities include participation in academic conferences or festivals, meeting with Tufts faculty, campus visits, and related activity of a limited nature.

Visitor classifications should not be used for persons coming to Tufts for purposes of employment or formal study in a credit-bearing program. In addition, persons coming to Tufts to engage in collaborative research, including research involving human or animal subjects, must have an appropriate visa that allows such activities, such as the J-1 Exchange Visitor visa.

Differences Between the B-1/B-2 Visitors Visa and the Visa Waiver Program

The B-1/B-2 visa requires a visa application with a US consulate. Once issued, the visa allows the individual to travel to the US for short-term business visits (B-1 status) or for tourism and recreational travel (B-2 status). The Visa Waiver Program is only available to citizens of certain Visa Waiver approved countries and allows visa-free visits to the US. A traveler from a Visa Waiver country must have ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) prior to boarding their flights.

In either case, upon arriving at a US border crossing or port of entry, the visitor would request one of the following, depending on their primary purpose for visiting the US:

  • B-1 status (or WB status under the Visa Waiver Program) - business travel, including travel for academic events, meetings, and workshops
  • B-2 status (or WT status under the Visa Waiver Program) - personal travel for tourism and/or short-term medical treatment

Entry into the US under these classifications is generally limited to a non-extendable maximum of 90 days under the Visa Waiver Program, or six months under B-1/B-2 status. Stays may also be limited to the expected duration of visit.

Allowed Payments to Visitors

Persons who enter the US on a B-1/B-2 visa or on the basis of the Visa Waiver Program (WB/WT status) may not be hired as employees. Visitors are also not permitted to receive per diem. However, under Section 212(q) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, B visitors (and by extension, Visa Waiver visitors) are permitted to receive the following types of payments as long as certain conditions apply (see the information below on the 9/5/6 Rule and Allowed Payments)

  • Reimbursement for incidental and travel expenses
  • Honorarium payments for "usual" academic activities such as delivering a lecture, giving a talk at an academic event or festival, etc., provided that the visitor meets the "9/5/6 Rule" described below.

9/5/6 Rule and Honorarium Payments. Under this provision, visitors may receive honorarium payments provided that the payments are made for 'usual' academic activities such as those described above and the visitor's stay in the US conforms to the 9/5/6 honorarium rule as outlined in Section 212(q) of the Immigration and Nationality Act:

  1. The proposed activity is related to the academic purposes and is for the benefit of the University
  2. The visitor's activity or activities for which payment is being made will last no more than nine (9) days
  3. The visitor has not received more than five (5) similar payments from Tufts or other US higher education institutions within the last six (6) months

If the visitor's activities do not conform to the 9/5/6 rule, then honorarium payments are not permitted. For more information on how to arrange an honorarium payment to an eligible visitor, contact TSS.

Visa Process

Unless eligible for visa-free travel to the US, visitors to the US must obtain or already have a B-1/B-2 visitors visa in order to enter the US as a B-1 visitor. Visitors coming to Tufts do not require or receive prior processing through the International Center and are expected to make their own arrangements for applying for a B-1/B-2 visa at a US consulate. Visa Waiver Program eligible visitors are similarly required to understand and comply with Visa Waiver Program rules, including having an unexpired Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) clearance. Note that the University is unable to play any role in expediting visitor visa applications, as these are considered personal applications by private individuals.

Procedural Considerations for Pre-Arranged Activity. Persons coming to the US for pre-arranged academic activities should enter as a B-1 business visitor or as WB (Visa Waiver - Business) visitor under the Visa Waiver Program, since the intention of travel to the US is business related. To facilitate a visitor's travel and entry into the US, the host department or sponsor may issue an invitation letter to the visitor. The invitation letter should be on official letterhead and communicate, at minimum, the following details:

  • The name and title of the visitor
  • The expected start and end dates of the activity at Tufts
  • The academic nature and purpose of the visit (e.g., giving a lecture or talk, participating in a workshop, meeting with colleagues, etc.)
  • The visitor's department host, including contact name, email, and department address
  • Information about any specific payments that will be provided to the visitor, e.g., honorarium amounts, reimbursement for travel and related incidental expenses, etc.

Department hosts are responsible for knowing and complying with any department and school policies for inviting individuals to campus for academic activities. Consult with your department chair and/or school's dean of academic affairs for further information.