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If I am visiting the US with a tourist visa, can I look for a job in the US?

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1) I'm starting to think that the correct answer may be different when you have to apply for a visa versus entering on a visa waiver. If you must apply for a visa you must state your reason. Tourism and job seeking are not the same. 2) It's also starting to look like attending a pre-arranged job interview is fine if that's the reason you state when applying for your visa, but that actively looking for work might be a different case. –  hippietrail Sep 19 '13 at 0:51
    
I've split off a new variant of this question: Is it permitted to look for a job while visiting the US under the visa waiver program? –  hippietrail Sep 19 '13 at 1:11

5 Answers 5

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Contrary to the allegations of some other answers here, CBP (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) does not make up rules on the spot. Here is, quite literally, the letter of the law on who's allowed into the US and who's not:

INA: ACT 212 - GENERAL CLASSES OF ALIENS INELIGIBLE TO RECEIVE VISAS AND INELIGIBLE FOR ADMISSION; WAIVERS OF INADMISSIBILLITY

The vast majority of that is about criminal records and whatnot, but Section 5a is key for us:

Any alien who seeks to enter the United States for the purpose of performing skilled or unskilled labor is inadmissible

Boldface mine. In other words, if you give CBP reason to suspect that you're coming to the United States to work on this visit (say, a plumber rocking up with a box full of tools), you will be denied entry. But you are perfectly within your rights as a tourist or business visitor to enquire about future employment, go to interviews, etc, as long as a) you're not paid money for it, and b) you leave the United States and get a proper work visa before you come back.

Also, as long as your primary purpose for visiting the US is tourism, it's not a lie to state your reason for entry as "tourism" and then do a little job-hunting on the side.

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I've found the terminology "seeking" quite often in official looking stuff too. But I'm voting you up because can quote an official source. I'm not withdrawing my answer. It is what I've heard over the years so if I got it wrong I'm happy to let everybody vote the other answers to the top and vote my down. –  hippietrail Sep 19 '13 at 8:26
    
Contrary to the allegations of this answer here, the other answers do not state "CBP makes up rules on the spot". –  hippietrail Sep 24 '13 at 0:36

I stumbled upon a similar problem about a month ago. There were no clear answers on any of the official web sites. So I emailed my local consulate asking them if it's okay to apply for a B1 visa for the purpose of attending a job interview.

They said that it's okay and I can apply for a visa. So I brought an informal invitation letter from the company and I got my visa approved.

On the border I stated that the purpose of my visit was a job interview. Got usual 6 months.

However, as I mentioned, I had an invitation letter. I suppose that if you want to look for a job while in the US, the rules might be different.

Based on my experience, I would say that asking you local consulate via email might be a good idea. They are typically very responsive.

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Searching for a job

No you can most definitely not legally look for work while on a tourist visa.

If any evidence is found that you are looking for a job you will be denied entry on arrival or could risk deportation at any time.

Things that I've heard of US customs using to deny entry or deport travellers:

  • art folios
  • diary entries mentioning job offers or looking for work
  • letters of introduction, curricula vitae, resumes
  • samples of your work
  • tools of your trade

If you are randomly selected or if you fit some profile they may suspect you of looking for work and specifically look for these things.

For deportation I hear the single biggest reason is being reported by somebody. So if you do entertain the notion of looking for work even vaguely during a tourist trip, don't go around telling too many random people you meet, or don't go around giving people reasons to dislike you.

(The very same tactics apply in at least Australia and the United Kingdom by the way.)

Other sources that say you may not search for a job on a tourist visa

Attending a job interview

This seems to be treated as a separate case. I have no experience with this or anecdotes from friends or acquaintances. Please refer to Pablo's answer.

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I wonder what's so wrong about looking for work? –  Hasan Khan Sep 18 '11 at 14:54
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Speculation: 1. you've entered the country under false pretenses, 2. governments are under pressure to lower unemployment rates for people already in the country, 3. it's often cheaper in the long run for companies to hire non-citizen/non-green card which is frowned upon by the government, 4. I'm sure it's cheaper to enter on a tourist visa than on a work permit so you're gaming the systm, etc. –  mkennedy Sep 19 '11 at 18:30
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-1: If you're going to say "most definitely", it would be nice to cite some authoritative sources, rather than "I heard this and that". –  Nate Eldredge Feb 13 '13 at 1:45
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@hippietrail: You're the one making specific extraordinary claims ("you can most definitely not legally look for work", "you will be denied entry", "could risk deportation"). The burden of backing it up is on you, not on someone else to refute it. If you don't know, then you should not be making these claims. –  user102008 Sep 18 '13 at 22:59
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Well in that case all we have is my anecdotal stories with no reference to back them up versus your insistence to the contrary with nothing to back it up and the readers are no better off. It seems currently more people find your unreferenced claim to be extraordinary than my unreferenced claim. There is no "burden of backing up" on travel.SE - anybody finding a solid reference helps the readers. Getting feisty helps no readers. –  hippietrail Sep 19 '13 at 0:31

On the official US government site "Travel.State.Gov" is relevant information

Visitor Visas - Business and Pleasure / Overview

Generally, a citizen of a foreign country who wishes to enter the United States must first obtain a visa, either a nonimmigrant visa for temporary stay, or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. Visitor visas are nonimmigrant visas for persons who want to enter the United States temporarily for business (visa category B-1), tourism, pleasure or visiting (visa category B-2), or a combination of both purposes (B-1/B-2).

Here are some examples of activities permitted with a visitor visa:

Business (B-1):

  • consult with business associates
  • attend a scientific, educational, professional, or business convention or conference
  • settle an estate
  • negotiate a contract

Tourism and Visit (B-2):

  • tourism
  • vacation (holiday)
  • visit with friends or relatives
  • medical treatment
  • participation in social events hosted by fraternal, social, or service organizations
  • participation by amateurs in musical, sports, or similar events or contests, if not being paid for participating
  • enrollment in a short recreational course of study, not for credit toward a degree (for example, a two-day cooking class while on vacation).

These are some examples of activities that require different categories of visas and cannot be done on while on a visitor visa:

  • study
  • employment
  • paid performances, or any professional performance before a paying audience
  • arrival as a crewmember on a ship or aircraft
  • work as foreign press, radio, film, journalists, and other information media
  • permanent residence in the U.S.

(Second part added from the same source by hippietrail, was not present in original answer.)

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7  
Could you stress the part that answers the question? because it's not obvious. –  Vince May 14 '13 at 0:00
    
I think the answer shown here is that "the official rules don't actually make it clear". Which seems to be a disappointing yet accurate answer and quite probably not Ana's fault. –  hippietrail Sep 18 '13 at 18:37
    
@hippietrail actually, it's perfectly clear. A B2 does not allow you to negotiate a contract (and a job interview is that). As you can see, you can't even follow professional training courses on a tourist visa, need a business visa for that. –  jwenting Sep 19 '13 at 9:50

This is absolute drivel. Sad this comes up as the first post on a google search on this topic. So tell me how does one logically come to the USA for a job interview?

It is absolutely OK to travel to the USA on a Tourist visa if you intend to 'look' for work or attend interviews. If asked at the PoE, you state your purpose. I have done that twice now. They typically give you much less than the usual 6 months - say 3 weeks each in my case when I attended interviews for only 2 days. Just be honest about your intentions.

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This post does not cite any references or sources. Please help improve this post by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.

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Do you have a reference / source to cite showing that it is allowed, as opposed to having just been fine for you on two occasions? –  Gagravarr Feb 13 '13 at 10:16
    
So they tell you how long you can stay when you arrive or when you get the visa? How does this affect booking your return ticket? –  hippietrail Feb 13 '13 at 11:45
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If you think my answer is drivel, you should say so in a comment to that answer. As it stands you're making it look like it applies to something in your own answer or in the question. There is no guarantee that these two answers will both remain here or remain in their current order. –  hippietrail Feb 14 '13 at 2:58
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“So tell me how does one logically come to the USA for a job interview?” Well maybe, just maybe, the whole visa system is not extraordinarily friendly to foreign nationals looking for work. I don't have any personal experience with this particular scenario and I don't know what the actual rules are but I have first-hand knowledge of many absurd immigration-related bureaucratic situations in other countries. There is simply no ‘logical’ requirement that an easy solution is available. –  Relaxed Sep 19 '13 at 15:33

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