What do you need to consider when sending a non-German employee on a business trip to the USA

Author: Matthew Hughes, is a US lawyer in Munich, who specializes in US immigration law

What should you know if your employee can’t use ESTA?

Businesses in Germany and elsewhere in Europe frequently send employees to the United States for business trips without a visa by using the Visa Waiver Program, known as ESTA.  But what do companies and employees need to keep in mind if an employee cannot use ESTA? 

Which countries do/don’t qualify for ESTA?

A complete and up-to-date list of countries that qualify ESTA is available here.  Some countries that cannot currently use ESTA and have many citizens working in Germany include China, Croatia, India, Romania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine, among others.  Citizens of these countries need visas.

How can you qualify for a U.S. visa?

Anyone who applies for a U.S. business visa (B-1) must prove that they intend to leave at the end of their visit.  Buying a return plane ticket is not enough – in fact, in most cases you shouldn’t purchase a ticket until you have a visa.  The consular officer at the U.S. Embassy will want to know about the visa applicant’s “ties” outside of the United States.  That is, their family, cultural, political, social and economic connections.  Someone who recently moved to Germany or is only here temporarily is going to have a harder time demonstrating these connections than someone who has lived here many years.  

What are the fees for a U.S. visa?

The fee to apply for a U.S. business visa (B-1) is $160.  Citizens of some countries might also have to pay an additional “reciprocity fee” (e.g. Nigeria – $110) and sometimes their visas can only be issued for a shorter period of time (e.g. Russia – 36 months).  Complete details can be found here.

How long does it take to get a U.S. visa?

Visa appointments are usually available within a week or two and most visas are processed within a few days but sometimes a visa application requires extra screening, called “administrative processing,” which can last for weeks or months.  Sometimes this can be predicted but often it’s seemingly random, so apply well in advance and renew regularly to keep your visa valid. 

What do Chinese citizens need to keep in mind when applying for U.S. visas?

Chinese citizens can now qualify for 10-year visas.  But they must renew those visas every year using the EVUS program.  EVUS works similarly to ESTA except you must first apply for and receive a 10 -year visa to use the program.