Payroll Services

B1/B2 Frequently Asked Questions

While academic institutions may pay honoraria and/or to provide reimbursement of expenses to foreign nationals who enter the U.S. as tourists (B-2) or visitors for business (B-1), there are certain conditions for payment and not everyone in B-1/B-2 or VWB/VWT is eligible. Please read the information below for details.

Q. Who is allowed to receive reimbursements and honorarium payments?

A. A foreign national in the U.S. in valid "B" visa classification, coming to an Academic institution, or nonprofit research institute, to engage in a "usual academic activity lasting no longer than nine days. The visitor is prohibited from receiving more than five such payments within a six-month period.

Q. What is "B" visa classification? How do I recognize it? What does the "B" stand for?

A. The U.S. government designates letters to denote the various classes of nonimmigrant visas available to foreign nationals. The "B" visa covers those individuals coming to the U.S. as tourists (B-2) or for short-term business purposes (B-1). In general, a foreign national who wishes to enter the U.S. for one of these purposes obtains a visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate prior to departing for the U.S. When the foreign national enters the U.S. s/he is given Form I-94, Record of Arrival/Departure which indicates legal entry into the country. Form I-94 is stamped either "B-1 or B-2" by the Immigration and Naturalization Service at the port-of-entry. Although there are several versions of Form I-94, the most common is a small white card stapled into the passport in the proximity of the visa.

A number of countries have agreements with the U.S. which permit citizens to enter the U.S. as visitors for business or tourism without an actual visa stamp in the passport. This is known as the Visa Waiver Program. Individuals eligible for the visa waiver program are issued a green Form I-94 containing the notations VWB (Visa Waiver for Business) or VWT (Visa Waiver for Tourism). These notations correspond to either B-1 or B-2 visa classification. Therefore, foreign nationals with VWB or VWT notations on Form I-94 are also eligible to receive honoraria or expense reimbursement under the law which governs the "B" visa classification.

Q. How does the new law differ from the old one?

A. Prior to October 21, 1999, reimbursement for expenses was limited to those admitted to the U.S. in B-1 or VWB visa classifications. Reimbursements were not permitted for those in B-2 or VWT visa classifications under any circumstances. No individual in B-1, B-2, VWB or VWT was eligible for an honorarium.

Under the new law, all of these visitors are eligible for reimbursement of expenses and/or honoraria under the conditions outlined above. If the visitor will be at WSU for more than nine days, or if he/she has already accepted payments five times over the preceding six month period, the new law does not apply and we will not be able to issue payments of any kind!

Q. When can I start using this new procedure?

A. The law became effective on the date of enactment which was October 21, 1998. INS is just beginning to work on regulations to implement the law. However, WSU, along with hundreds of other U.S. academic institutions, has made a decision to utilize the law as written until such time as regulations specify differently.

Q. What's the catch? This seems too good to be true. What do I need to look out for?

A. It is never as easy as it looks, is it? Here are where problems may occur.

This law pertains only to the "B" visa classification. An individual already in the U.S. may not necessarily be here in "B" visa classification. For instance, diplomats, employees of foreign governments, military personnel, or others on foreign government representative visas, employees of the World Bank or political officers attached to a foreign embassy in the U.S. hold visa classifications specific to the duties of their posts and are not permitted to earn additional income through activities such as speaking engagements. Similarly, those who hold H-1B, J-1, F-1, O-1 or TN status at another college or university are not eligible for this type of honoraria payment. Don't assume that the international visitor holds "B" visa classification, especially if s/he is already in the U.S. You must look at the individual's passport visa and I-94 card to determine visa classification.

You must obtain a copy of Form I-94 as evidence that the foreign national holds valid B visa classification. If you do not obtain a copy of Form I-94, we have no evidence that the individual was in eligible visa status and, therefore, we will not be able to issue payment. (The only exception to this is for Canadian citizens - see section for Canadians.)

If your international visitor does not have either a U.S. social security number or an ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number -- issued by the IRS) no honoraria payment can be issued.

Nine days is the absolute visit limit -- there are no exceptions! Any activity lasting more than nine days does not qualify!

There are academic butterflies that flit from school to school. These individuals can easily exceed the limit of five schools in six months. If WSU is school number six, the visit does not qualify and no payment will be issued.

Q. What kind of documentation do I need to supply to the Accounts Payable/Travel Office so that payment can be authorized?

A. When an international visitor in "B" visa classification arrives at WSU, the department must:

  • Make a copy of:
    • The identification page of the passport
    • The expiration date of the passport (may not always be on the ID page)
    • Form I-94 Front and Back (usually a small white card stapled in the passport, or a small green card - if the visitor arrives without an actual visa);
    • If the visitor has an actual "B" visa in the passport, make a copy of that visa.
  • Assist the visitor to complete the declaration form on which they confirm that they are eligible to receive payment.
  • In order to receive honoraria, the visitor must have either a social security number, or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). Individuals in "B" visa classification are not eligible to apply for a social security number. (However, they may have one from a previous visit to the U.S. in a different visa category.)
  • No Social Security Number or ITIN are necessary for reimbursement of expenses only.
  • An ITIN number is available from the Internal Revenue Service. The international visitor must complete Form W-7 (PDF) and take that form, with his/her passport, visa and I-94 to the IRS. Once the visitor has made an application for an ITIN, he/she should obtain a stamped receipt. This stamped receipt must be included with the request for payment. The visitor must instruct IRS to send the number to the WSU Accounts Payable/Travel Office. Accounts Payable or Travel will issue the check based on the receipt.When that office receives the number, it will file the appropriate forms with the IRS.

Q. What about Canadian citizens? They often don't even carry passports and often arrive with absolutely no documentation.

A. It is true that Canadian citizens do not need visas or passports to enter the U.S. However, they are required to carry some form of identification confirming their Canadian citizenship. Often this will be a credit-card size version of their birth certificate The law permits us to accept documentation other than a passport as proof of Canadian citizenship. INS regulations indicate that any Canadian citizen admitted to the U.S. without Form I-94, is "presumed" to be in "B" status. Be aware, however, that in the absence of a passport or Form I-94, you must obtain some kind of proof of Canadian citizenship.

However, in order to make the process much smoother and easier for all concerned, we recommend that you instruct your Canadian visitor to stop at the border crossing and request Form I-94 from the Immigration Official. There is currently a charge of $6.00 for this document.

If the Canadian visitor does not obtain From I-94, you will have to submit proof of Canadian citizenship with the check request in order for payments to be made.

Q. This sounds very confusing to me. How am I supposed to know all of this? How will the visitor know all of this? Who is going to collect all of this information?

A. Payroll Services is aware that not everyone is familiar with immigration documents. Our web site contains a section on immigration documents to help you.

Visitors are responsible for completing the declaration form. Departments are required to ensure that the declaration is completed in full and signed by the visitor. Send the completed and signed declaration form along with the back-up documentation (copy of passport, visa, I-94, etc.), and your request for payment, to Accounts Payable/Travel.

Departments are also responsible for assisting visitors to apply for an ITIN as necessary. No payment will be issued unless the declaration form is completed properly and submitted with appropriate backup documentation.

Q. What is meant by "usual academic activities"? Is anything other than giving lectures included? What about demonstrating techniques, master classes, collaborative research, attending a meeting, sitting on a dissertation committee?

A. The law leaves it to the Immigration and Naturalization Service in consultation with the Department of Education to define the term "usual academic activity". INS has not yet issued regulations or defined the term "academic activities". Until regulations are published, any type of academic activity which could be considered "usual and customary" will be acceptable.

Q. If the "B" honoraria rules do not apply for the visitor due to the length of the activity, or s/he has exceeded the number of payments, what are the existing regulations related to B-1/B-2 visa holders?

A. Foreign nationals entering the U.S. in B-1/WB visa status may only be reimbursed for expenses. No honoraria may be paid. Individuals in B-2/WT visa status may not be reimbursed for expenses or paid honoraria under any circumstances.

If you must pay an honorarium, you will need to utilize a different type of visa.

Payroll Services, PO Box 641024, Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164-1024, 509-335-9575, Contact Us