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I'm a Canadian going to work in the US for 5 months starting in May. My employer said that due to the fact I'm being hired a little late in the game, and the H1B work VISA takes several months to complete, and given the fact that this is an internship, he said to simply come for 90 days and work as a contract worker, go back to Canada shortly, then come back again for the remaining period.

Now he said the company lawyers said this is completely fine, and I have no reason to think otherwise, but just to make sure: is this okay/common practice? When I get to the border and they ask my reason for travel, am I able to say work?

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closed as off-topic by vartec, Vince, Mark Mayo, Dirty-flow, Karlson Mar 31 at 17:55

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"this is an internship" - that is what J-1 is for. Much easier to get than H-1B. –  vartec Mar 31 at 9:59
    
I forgot to mention I haven't graduated yet, and this is an internship during the summer between my third and fourth year. Does that not stop me from being able to get a TN-1? And are developers/programmers covered by NAFTA as well? It only seems to indicate graphic designers. –  Doug Smith Mar 31 at 16:03

2 Answers 2

Your employer is full of it and sounds dodgy as hell. Canadians do not need a US visa to visit or study in the US, but they most certainly need one for any sort of work, including unpaid internships.

Now of course you could lie and say you're visiting the US for some other reason, but like the embassy link above says:

All Canadians are reminded that U.S. law requires all foreigners to qualify for the desired stay and purpose at the time of their initial entry. A visitor who intends to live, work or study in the U.S. without disclosing this information beforehand may be permanently barred from the U.S.

I'm also a bit surprised they're talking about applying for an H-1B. Is there some reason you don't qualify for a TN-1, J-1 or H-3, which are all much easier to get?

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They might also be clueless, not necessarily dodgy ;) –  Mark Mayo Mar 31 at 5:30
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They're claiming the "company lawyers" approved working without a visa, which means the employer is either lying about checking (=dodgy), or is not lying, but has really dodgy lawyers. –  jpatokal Mar 31 at 5:32
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Or clueless lawyers ;) –  Mark Mayo Mar 31 at 5:42
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In immigrationese, a "temporary worker" is a non-immigrant approved to work in the US, eg. a H-1B visa holder. –  jpatokal Mar 31 at 11:12
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@MarkMayo: Clueless lawyers who give advice are by definition dodgy (the phrase wilful carelessness comes to mind from court reports). –  TimLymington Mar 31 at 12:18

To answer the original question, you would be working illegally. Period. Full stop. Do not pass "Go" and do not return to the USA for 5 years. Go to Detroit from Windsor ( walking distance ) play in a club, get your hotel room and bar bill covered -> also working illegally.

Your employer will also come to the attention of INS (and possibly homeland security), so it's just a bad idea for everyone involved.

To answer the other question, a journalist, trainer, technician etc. may be doing work while in the other country, but if they are directly employed in their home country it is not considered local work. So a reporter for the Windsor Star could cover the club performance, arrest and deportation back across the bridge because they are still working for a Canadian company. This happens all over the world - most countries allow this kind of work on a visitor visa as it does not impact the local job market (but would severely impact international trade if you needed a work visa to go to a meeting).

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