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Thank you in advance for any guidance. I've looked around the web but haven't found any clear answers.

I'm an EU citizen and I work in the conference/events industry. I've only ever worked on-site in Europe and Asia.

A UK client is planning a conference, which will take place in a venue in the US. I have been asked to attend, to carry out my normal line of work as part of the conference organization. I would only need to be there for two days.

The end-client is British, the event management company is British, and I would be billing them in GBP to be paid into a European bank account, so no financial dealings whatsoever with US clients, and any "work" I would be doing at the venue would be a continuation of preparatory work I would have been doing in Europe prior to travel to the venue in the US, and it is my normal line of business.

They will confirm next week if the job is going ahead, but I don't know whether it is permitted on the Visa Waiver Program. If I need a visa, it'd be too much hassle for two or three days and I would likely have to turn down the work rather than potentially get into trouble with US authorities. Also, I'm not clear on what the distinctions are between the official definitions of "work", "business" and "employment".

I don't know whether foreign conference staff carrying out tasks at a US conference venue is covered by the circumstances in the top two rows of page 2 of this PDF.

The wording from the above link is:

  1. Purpose of your travel: Conference, meeting, trade show, or business event attendee

About your temporary visit: Will receive no salary or income from a U.S based company/entity. For scientific, educational, professional or business purposes.

  1. Purpose of Your Travel: Exposition or trade show employees of foreign exhibitors at international fairs (excludes government representatives)

About Your Temporary Visit: Will receive no salary or income from a U.S. based company/entity. Will plan, assemble, dismantle, maintain, or be employed in connection with exhibits at international fairs or expositions.

It's not an "international fair or exposition" but a conference/business event for a UK client. Just to reiterate, I would not be there as an attendee but someone sorting out stuff behind the scenes. From the above PDF, it seems possible that it would be permitted, but I'm by no means certain.

Again, thank you in advance for any guidance.

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    Is there any reason they need you instead of a US person to perform that role? What is the specific nature of the role? What kinds of things would you be doing? If it's something general like lighting design or logistics, it's less likely to be okay. – phoog Aug 10 '18 at 17:49
  • I'm not sure they would know where to find or how to employ someone to do my task for two days, and what bureaucracy would be involved. – Daytona B Aug 10 '18 at 17:55
  • Seems to me lines 3-5/6 on p. 2 fit exactly? This is clearly what the B-1 visa (or ESTA) is for, I think. – Tomas By Aug 10 '18 at 18:03
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    You might need to provide more details about the "stuff" you're going to be "sorting out ... behind the scenes". CBP might ask you about it. But if you just say you're going to conference XYZ you're not likely to have any trouble. – Michael Hampton Aug 10 '18 at 23:04
  • I would be involved in a technical aspect of an awards ceremony. – Daytona B Aug 11 '18 at 1:34
1

If you follow the wizard at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/wizard.html, you should get your answer. I followed it through based on what I understand is your information, and it appeared that the Visa Waiver program applied to your visit. Visa Waiver doesn't apply to all nationalities, but it's your UK nationality that qualifies you.

Here's what the wizard results said:

Most citizens of United Kingdom can travel to the U.S.for Business for 90 days or less without a visa under the Visa Waiver Program.

Examples of visa waiver travel: Consulting with business associates, Travel for a convention or conference, Negotiating a contract

Note that these are examples; the general statement also applies to you.

Of course, you should do the wizard yourself.

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    The OP isn't attending a conference, he/she is working at the conference. EG Part of the conference can't happen without him/her being there. – Peter M Oct 9 '18 at 23:02
  • Right, but the wording from the wizard says "travel for a conference" and it doesn't matter what role he has, at least the way I read it. And in any case, I think the broader 90 days of business related travel covers him. – Christian Oct 10 '18 at 14:41
  • Trust me, the US CBP takes a dim view if you mention anything work related when you are on a non-work related visa. Even when I had an L1/L2 visa the authorities weren't always happy. – Peter M Oct 10 '18 at 15:13

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