The Business Executive Program is a joint program between the U.S. and India to improve efficiency for frequent travelers between the two countries with legitimate business to conduct. The BEP program represents the desire of the U.S. to facilitate opportunities to conduct business between the U.S. and India. As such, the BEP’s goal is to make business travel as easy and fast as possible.
The guidelines of BEP make it easy for U.S. consular officials to evaluate U.S. visa applications according to program guidelines.Each visa applicant is still required to undergo a personal interview. BEP applicants will be given a teal (blue-green) folder to give to the U.S. consular office. Inside the folder is proof the applicant works for an already well-established enterprise. To make the process easier, each U.S. Consulate has a dedicated employee whose task it is to manage the BEP with each Consular section. There is a separate Shipping Executive Program (SEP) that applies to airlines and major shipping companies that are also registered with the U.S. Embassy and Consulate.
Determining BEP Eligibility and Enrollment
The BEP is open to all U.S. companies with a major presence in India so long as they have a demonstrated need for 25+ visas per year at a particular U.S. Consulate.
To clarify, if a company processes 10 U.S. visa applications for business reasons at the Chennai U.S. Consulate and 15 more at the New Delhi U.S. Consulate, this does not qualify the business for the BEP. As well, for companies who need B-1 (business) visas, there is a separate set of requirements. You can get more information using these two sections:
For BEP appointments, applicants must be professional, full-time and permanent employees ONLY. No part-time, temporary/casual or contract employees are eligible.
Companies are also prohibited from using the BEP for friends, relatives, domestic help, customers and their personal business associates or clients. It is important to know that the BEP is an invitation-only program. A new company may request an invitation by contacting their regional U.S. Consulate. A rigorous pre-screening protocol will be required before such invitations can be issued.
Continuing The Process
Once the invitation has been received, a company must email BEP directly to request the application package. As part of the application process, you must provide proof that a minimum of 25 U.S. business visas have been applied for and granted through a particular U.S. Consulate during the previous 12 months. For companies without such proof, delaying the application process is highly recommended.
BEP is a nationwide program. As such, membership in BEP through one U.S. Consulate automatically generates the right to request BEP membership through additional U.S. Consulates where the company maintains a presence.The BEP is not designed to include solely U.S.-based companies. Even if a company is a member of BEP, this does not automatically extend to include subsidiaries, which must request an invitation and complete the application process independently.
Members are not charged any dues or fees to participate in the BEP.Once approved to participate in the BEP, the company will be issued a user ID and password by the approving U.S. Consulate. The user ID and password must be used to schedule consulate appointments. For companies previously invited to participate in the BEP who have not yet initiated the application process, all that is required is to re-contact the U.S. Consulate to request the application package.
A Word About Authorized Signatories
Once a member of the BEP, a company can add up to four signing authorities to their membership. This must be provided to the U.S. Consulate in hard-copy form. The form must contain the names, designations, contact phone numbers, emails and signature samples for each contact. When internal company changes are made to this list the U.S. Consulate must be notified immediately and provided with a new list.
Strict Standards for the BEP
The BEP upholds certain set standards all member companies must meet. These standards include the following:
- BEP U.S. visa applicants must be provided with certain documents that include the BEP’s specific security features.
- BEP U.S. visa applications must be legitimate and limited to verifiable company employees who are being transferred to the U.S. for a limited time to conduct business.
- Precise records of all BEP applicants who are issued a U.S. visa through the BEP must be kept and provided to the issuing U.S. Consulate (if requested).
- BEP participant companies must provide samples of the company letterhead plus sample signatures of a maximum of four authorized company signatories for the purposes of comparison (to verify legitimacy as needed).
- BEP participant companies must permit the BEP team to perform site visits as needed (critical for eligibility and legitimacy purposes).
Getting a U.S. Visa Through the BEP
Even for applicant employees of companies that participate in the BEP, each applicant must still qualify independently to be issued a U.S. visa. Employment through a BEP member company is not a guarantee that a U.S. visa will be issued. Employment through a BEP member company does not improve the chances of approval for a U.S. visa application.
In general, all employees employed by BEP member companies will receive assistance from the company’s Human Resources or Travel Departments. Assistance typically includes support for making the appointment at the U.S. Consulate office and completing the appropriate application documents, as well as preparation for the interview.
All BEP U.S. visa applicants must carry a cover letter issued by their employer and signed by a minimum of two company authorized signatories. This letter must detail the applicant’s name, reason for the employee’s application and business travel and anticipated length of U.S. stay. This is in addition to all the typical documents required to be providedfor a U.S. visa application.
During the interview at the U.S. Consulate, the applicant must be able to answer basic questions as they relate to employment, business purposes for the trip, duration of employment and proposed trip and business qualifications to be the one chosen to make the trip. All answers are equally weighed when evaluating a BEP-based U.S. visa application. For employees of BEP member companies who choose to apply for a tourist visa to the U.S. (for reasons of personal travel or other non-BEP business travel), it is not permitted to go through BEP channels to obtain a visa.
For employees who are no longer employed by a BEP member company but still have a valid B1/B2 visa from the period of employment, it is still permitted to use that visa for travel to the U.S. However, employees are cautioned that attempts to use a B1/B2 visa for travel to the U.S. outside of reasons of employment with a BEP company may cause detainment by immigration officers at any port of entry during your travels. If your are detained for visa reasons, you must be prepared to offer an in-depth explanation of your use of the still-active visa for non-company travel.
Beeraj Patel, Esq.
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