Travelling to the US?


Information for AmCham Members travelling on business to the United States


Key resources:  US Customs and Border Protection (Homeland Security)  



Key points:  

  • There are currently more than 26 visa types:
  • Each type is assigned a letter from A-ZZ :
  • At pre-clearance, a traveller is considered an intending immigrant until proven otherwise 
  • When it comes to visas, then answer is ‘no’ until it is ‘yes’ – see above note on intending immigrant
  • A Visa or ESTA is permission to travel & apply for entry into the United States – entry is not guaranteed   
  • Always bring appropriate documentation in support of your request to enter the country 
  • Every individual traveller or applicant is assessed on a case-by-case basis  


 ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) 

  • ESTA is not a visa -  Individuals from certain countries are able to travel to the United States without a visa. 
  • $14 to register –  - if you are paying more than this you are not on the official website  
  • Operated by the Department of Homeland Security  FAQs:
  • If you prefer to have a visa in your passport, you may still apply for a visitor (B) visa 
  • Only difference between B1 (Business)/B2 (Leisure) and ESTA is the time period involved  (B up to 6 months and ESTA up to 90 days)
  • ESTA Travel purpose must be permitted on a visitor (B) Visa  
  • ESTA is a self-certifying programme 
  • Valid for 2 years 
  • For in-and-out travel to the United States 
  • If travel will exceed 90 days, then an appropriate visa is required 
  • Common sense should be used to determine whether it is really business travel 
  • Good practice is to apply for ESTA before booking conferences/meetings/flights 
  • Read forms carefully – mistakes are time consuming to correct 
  • Tell the truth when completing application – otherwise it could lead to permanent ineligibility to enter the United States 
  • Make sure you are up to date - changes to the visa waiver programme were introduced in late 2015 and came into effect in early 2016  
  • expedited processing information for ESTA denials is on the Embassy’s website
  • There are those abusing the ESTA programme, which is why there is an increased vigilance at pre clearance 
  • If purpose of travel isn’t allowed under ESTA, then it won’t be allowed under B1/B2 either – same standards, but different time period 


B1 and B2 visa – usually issued simultaneously as one B1/B2 visa

B1 – Business: conference, convention, to negotiate a contract 
B2 – Pleasure: vacation, visiting family, short recreational course  

  • Cost is $160  
  • Valid for 10 years 
  • Allows for a maximum 6 month stay at a time (can occasionally be extended by applying through
  • Current time period to secure an appointment: 14/16 days  
  • Current processing time: 5 days 
  • When it comes to visas, then answer is ‘no’ until it is ‘yes’ 
  • A visa is not a guarantee of entry put permission to ask to enter - law enforcement (CBP) have the final say  

H, L, O & P visas 

  • Employment purposes 
  • L visas are most common in Ireland – intra-company transfer 
  • Executives or critical skills employees
  • Employee must have worked for company for at least 1 year outside the United States before application – entry and exit dates will be checked 
  • H visas – speciality occupations 
  • Limited numerically – ‘lottery’ 
  • For all petition-based visa applicants, once petition is approved, employee must appear for an interview. Even if petition is approved, employee may not get a visa 
  • Requirement to meet with U.S. officials and for them to make a determination 
  • O visa: Rare - extraordinary ability in sciences, athletics, arts, etc.  – international acclaim, top of their field

B in lieu of H visa 

  • Granted sparingly and in limited circumstances 
  • When an applicant will be in the United States for a limited period of time
  • The employee is not to receive salary or remuneration in the United States 
  • It is inappropriate to use the services of an employee in B-1 status for an extended period of time

E visa  

  • E visa applications are continually increasing in Ireland  
  • E1 is for treaty traders (must be trade between the two countries) and E2 is for a treaty investor
  • E2 investor must be a national of a treaty country; investment must be substantial; irrevocably committed; investment must be a real and operating enterprise; individual must be in control of funds and the investment must be at risk
  • U.S. Embassy is processing a dozen of these a week in Dublin at the moment 
  • It takes a while to evaluate E visa applications 
  • Ensure application is succinct and to the point 
  • Talk to Finola Cunningham, who is the senior representative of the U.S. Department of Commerce in Ireland.  Her team’s remit is to help Irish companies invest in the United States under the SelectUSA program; to help U.S. companies export into Ireland and Europe; and protect U.S. business interests overseas.  


General hints on making a visa application

  • Online DS-160 application – take your time – if someone else completes this on your behalf, review what they have entered before you appear for your interview
  • Information about visa services including application, fee payment, courier/delivery services, and appointment scheduling is available at .
  • Complete fully and accurately 
  • Fill out and pay a fee 
  • 14 day wait time – if you have an urgent need to travel, request for expedited appointment may be made AFTER you select the earliest appointment
  • Book early 
  • Show current passport 
  • 2x2 inch photo of face with full head visible, white background, no eyeglasses
  • Each case is different.Bring whatever you believe provides evidence of your qualification for the visa.Common documents include a letter from your employer or a bank statement.
  • Make sure staff know why they are coming to an interview at the Embassy 
  • Make sure staff know for which visa they are applying and can explain what they will do  

General advice in relation to pre-clearance 

  • It is US Customs and Border Protection under Homeland Security who authorise your entry into the USA, the Visa or ESTA is your permission to ask for entry. Have as much documentation with you as you believe will assist the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officer in understanding why you are travelling and be prepared to briefly and succinctly explain your travel. This could include a letter from HQ in the USA, business cards, a conference schedule, hotel or other lodging address, contact name and position
  • Make sure you can clearly explain why you are travelling to the USA for work 
  • At pre-clearance, a traveller is considered an intending immigrant until proven otherwise 
  • If you have any issue with the professionalism of the officer dealing with you, ask to speak with their supervisor 
  • You can report any issues or feedback at the CBP website -