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I'm a PhD student with EU nationality studying in the UK. I will be flying to the US in a month or so to collaborate on a research project and give some talks (± 2 weeks). My collaborator has some funding for this from their home university in the US. The funding is only to cover flight and lodging. I would continue to receive my normal salary from my UK institution.

I would like to travel for a bit and my total stay would be less than a month.

Am I eligible for a visa waiver (ESTA), or not?

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  • Will you still be getting your normal salary from your home university during the visit? What is the US-sourced funding to be spent on? – hmakholm left over Monica Sep 21 '18 at 10:11
  • Some EU nationalities are ineligible for the visa waiver program altogether. For example, if you are Bulgarian, Croatian, Cypriot, Polish or Romanian, you cannot use the VWP. There may be others. – phoog Sep 21 '18 at 15:36
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For visiting researchers there's 2 types of US visas that can be used, the B-1 or the J-1. Which one applies to you depends on certain criteria (which i'll outline below). If you're eligible for the B-1 visa you can use the ESTA service, provided you're eligible for the visa waiver program and ESTA (i.e. no visits to Iran etc.)

In order to be eligible for the B-1 visa (and by extension VWP and ESTA), your research and speaking must meet the following criteria:

  • there is no remuneration from a U.S. source for your research (i.e. no one in the US is paying you for your work)
  • the results of the research will not benefit the U.S. institution (i.e. you're doing research for a research project based outside the US)
  • you will receive no remuneration from a U.S. source for your speaking engagements, other than expenses incidental to the visit (honorarium fees are allowed providing they meet the criteria outlined below).

If you accept honorarium fees:

  • Your speaking activities must last no longer than nine days at a single institution
  • the institution must be a nonprofit research organization or a governmental research organization, or an institution of higher education, or a related or affiliated nonprofit entity
  • Your speaking activities are conducted for the benefit of the institution or entity; and
  • you have not accepted such payment or expenses from five such institutions during the previous six month period.

In your question you state that "collaborator has some funding for this from their home university". Presumably this means that their home university will be befitting from your research in some way. If this is the case then you are not eligible for a B-1 visa (nor VWP/ESTA) and must apply for a J-1 visa instead.

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    The funding would cover costs only. The goal of the research project is to publish a joint paper. The paper will have my collaborator's name and institution written on it, as well as mine. In that sense the university will benefit no more than the mention of funding that I receive... – Pete L. Sep 21 '18 at 10:41
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    I believe that counts as a benefit for the US institution. – zeocrash Sep 21 '18 at 10:44
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    To add to zeocrash's answer, look at the "B-1 Versus J-1" section of bechtel.stanford.edu/immigration/visa-types/b-visas: "However, the Department of State has strongly suggested that any visitor to a U.S. academic institution who engages in a collaborative activity or research, and whose activity will benefit the hosting institution should be sponsored for a J-1 visa, particularly if that activity/research will result in a future publication. The Department of State precludes such visitors from entering with a B-1 visa, which allows only for “independent” research, not collaboration." – DCTLib Sep 21 '18 at 13:50

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