I work as a contractor (freelancer) for a US company. I'll be visiting them (doing some meetings & training) and doing some traveling for a total of 3 weeks. Is it ok to go using ESTA? Thanks!
This is one of those difficult areas for contractors. The two conditions for being able to visit the US on a business visa are:
- You must not be doing any actual work
- You must not be receiving money from a US source.
It's established that receiving training, attending meetings to discuss and plan for work, and similar, don't count as work. You don't have a problem there. Likewise if you worked for a non-US company, even if you were the only employee, that would not be a problem. You would receive money from your company (a non-US source) and your employer would receive money from the American company.
If you really are receiving money directly from the US you should consult a lawyer to check that you are eligible. You might want to consider forming your own company if this were a frequent occurrence. Another possible way round it might be to not charge the US company for the time you spend in the US, but to increase your rate for the rest of the work to compensate. I would recommend running that past a lawyer before you do it though.
ASIDE: ESTA is just permission to get on a plane. It is the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) that allows you to visit the US.
SECOND ASIDE: VWP explicitly allows you to do everything you could do with a B1/B2 visa. So if you are not able to use a VWP, then you are going to need to go down the complicated road of getting a work visa or similar.