B-1/WB Observer

B-1/WB is a type of nonimmigrant visa for persons entering the United States temporarily for business. At Northwestern University, this category is used for all visitors who will come to campus for 90 days or less for the purpose of participating in scientific consultation and observation.

Note: The B-1/WB category is not used for independent contractor's who come to campus for 9 days or less to perform services and then leave.

B-1 vs. WB

The WB category is for individuals from one of the 37 countries who participate in the Visa Waiver Program. These individuals are eligible to enter the U.S. without obtaining a visa at their home embassy/consulate.

The B-1 cateogry is for all other individuals who need to obtain a B-1 visa at their home embassy/consulate before coming to the U.S. 

*Regardless of whether someone will come as a WB or a B-1, Northwestern University requires paperwork to be filed with the International Office.  Please see below for information on how to apply. 


All forms associated with the B-1 can be found here under the 'Departments' heading.

Before inviting a visitor, the department must verify that all compliance requirements listed below have been met and submit a B-1/WB Request Form and any supporting documents the request form may require, to the International Office (IO) for approval. All forms can be found on the "Important Forms" page.

For the most recent list of countries who participate in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), please visit the Department of State website.



  • The visitor is limited to a stay of 90 days or less without extension.
  • The nature of the visit is solely for the purpose of consultation and observation.
  • The position of the visitor cannot displace US workers.
  • The visitor will not have a research appointment through Northwestern University.
  • Liability and legal issues prohibit the participation of the visitor in any exercise essential to departmental operations.
  • The visitor may not volunteer his or her services or expertise toward departmental operations.
  • If the visitor will be observing the use of lab equipment, a supervisor must be present. 
  • The visitor may not be involved in any patient contact or interact with any other research subjects, either directly or indirectly.
  • The visitor cannot be paid for their services by Northwestern University, but may be reimbursed for travel expenses and/or provided assistance with accommodations for no more than 9 days out of a 6 month period.
  • The visitor cannot intend to obtain employment within the US, including a change of status to J-1 or H-1B.
  • The department must report any changes to or violations of the specifications established for the visitor's stay to the IO within five business days.


  • The visitor must have an institutional affiliation in his or her home country or country of residence.
  • The visitor must have adequate finances to support himself/herself for their duration of stay in the US.
  • The visitor must have sufficient health insurance coverage for the entire duration of stay in the US. (See the Office of Risk Management's website for the Visiting Scholar Health Insurance Application and Lab Waiver)
  • The visitor must abide by the intent of his/her visit throughout the stay.


  • The department submits the required documents to the IO.
  • An IO advisor will review the request and will notify the department that:
  • The request has been approved and the visitor may come on a B-1/WB category
  • The request has been denied and provide other visa options
  • Once the visitor has been approved by the IO, then the department must send the visitor a letter of invitation so that he or she may apply for visa stamp.


Please take into consideration that any invitation for citizens and nationals of non-visa waiver countries will require additional time to apply for a B-1 visa at the US Embassy or Consulate. We recommend that all requests be submitted at least two months prior to the visitor's arrival. It should also be noted that the rate of denials for the B-1 visa (for first time applicants) is very high, therefore, departments should use this category judiciously.

All B-1/WB visitors must check in with the IO once they arrive in the United States.