For a US legal trial if a foreign witness needs to be presented what visa category is appropriate for this? Anyone know? The witness is NOT a US citizen.

The witness is not herself a victim of trafficking, serious crime or anything. In fact the witness is NOT a victim of crime at all. The witness would be classified as an expert witness and NOT a fact witness. Ergo the witness would be getting paid for their time spent in court as a witness. That would make the Category B iffy? Are you allowed to get paid for on Category B?

I suppose even business persons coming for meetings are technically being paid for their time right? What's the legal situation on this? What differentiates "work" from "business"?

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    If you are a witness in a trial then presumably you were asked to appear by a lawyer, and that lawyer can probably tell you what you need to do to get a visa (or knows an immigration lawyer who does) Commented May 31, 2020 at 15:19
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    @DJClayworth I am not; I am figuring out the strategy for some corporate litigation we have the potential to get dragged into. And of course, there will be a lawyer at some point. But doing my own research before that. Always good to be prepared! :) Commented Jun 1, 2020 at 3:44
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    If you can afford a lawyer in this situation, you'll be much better with their advice than ours. By a miracle, you might find the exact right answer for a certain situation, but then other information the lawyer provides might completely change the situation.
    – jpaugh
    Commented Jun 1, 2020 at 19:58
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    @vsz Exactly my point! The intention is not to self medicate but to be as knowledgeable as I can to be able to have a more productive conversation with a professional! Commented Jun 2, 2020 at 10:16
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    Just to comment on your side note that "[..] business persons coming for meetings are technically being paid for their time" --- usually people going to business meetings are not paid by the meeting organiser. E.g. when I visit a client abroad I am still getting paid by my own employer in my home country. They may invoice my customer and I may get reimbursed for expenses by my employer but I'm not directly salaried by the foreign entity. On the other hand, if you get invited for a guest lecture and get paid for it by the receiving party, you do require a (non-tourist) visa, IIRC.
    – CompuChip
    Commented Jun 2, 2020 at 12:30

2 Answers 2


As described in the Foreign Affairs Manual, an S, T, or U visa could be appropriate depending on the situation (a T or U visa might apply if the witness is a victim of human trafficking or other crimes). Though there are some severe limitations: there are only 200 S visas available per year, plus another 50 for terrorism cases.

Significant Public Benefit Parole could be used in some cases.

An ordinary B-1 (Visitor) visa might apply, such as for giving testimony in civil court in business litigation.

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    (+1) Apparently, the 200-per-year limit isn't really an issue: statistics show that between 0 and 1 S visa were actually issued in recent years. The main limitation would therefore seem to be the requirements to qualify. I am not even sure why the quota is on the books, law enforcement seems perfectly capable of limiting the use of this visa.
    – Relaxed
    Commented May 31, 2020 at 9:01
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    @Relaxed: It gets better: according to past statistics, there have been a grand total of 6 S-class visas issued since FY 1996. Given that the category of S-class visas was only created in 1994, it seems likely that there haven't been 200 such visas issued ever. Commented Jun 1, 2020 at 15:46
  • A victim of human trafficking can't receive a T visa in order to enter the US (this is noted in the linked page). They would have to already be in the US as a result of human trafficking, then apply for T status.
    – Brian
    Commented Jun 1, 2020 at 17:11
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    @MichaelSeifert Offhand, I'd say the legislators were adding a sanity-check to avoid providing a loophole. In other words, 200 per year might be 10x more than needed for the intended case, but far less than would be needed for some other, unintended use that the legislators were aware of.
    – jpaugh
    Commented Jun 1, 2020 at 20:01

Many such witnesses, if they must come to the US, can do so on a B visa or under the Visa Waiver Program.

If the witness in question is coming to testify for the prosecution of a serious crime, other options may be available, such as a T or U visa for victims of some serious crimes, an S visa for informants, or "significant public benefit parole" in certain cases.

  • I feel like a more detailed analysis than I provided here (or that it looks like Zach beat me to providing by about a minute) probably requires an actual attorney to look into it. And it sounds like the parties here have actual attorneys and budgets to fly expert witnesses around.
    – mlc
    Commented May 31, 2020 at 23:31
  • @mic. Of course, there would be attorneys involved at some point if it gets to litigation. This is pre litigation. I am just doing my research before we reach that stage. Cannot hurt to be prepared and ask around if anyone has some insights or experience. :) Commented Jun 1, 2020 at 3:46

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