I would be grateful if anyone could shed any light on if I will need a business visa or if an esta is OK for my travel to the usa.

So I run a tour operator in the uk, we are setting up a number of trips to the usa this year, ranging from 8 to 15 days in length. We advertise offering places on our trips to people within the uk, all monies taken are to our uk bank account and all of us get paid in the uk.

We accompany our guest on the trips as "tour managers", we hire local guides, drivers and suppliers in general from the countries we visit.

We make no money while in the countries, the financial side of things is dealt with before hand in the uk. The vast majority of money we do make goes into the local economy, hotels, restaurants, sights, coach rental, flights etc.

I would be grateful of any help.

Thanks Lee

1 Answer 1


You should probably consult an immigration lawyer.

This not straightforward and a professional opinion is a good idea.

My belief was originally that you would require a work visa to be a tour manager. You are actually performing work, looking after customers, while in the US. However the reply you quote in comments to an enquiry to the US embassy leads me to doubt that view. However I would still make use of a US immigration lawyer. The downside of working illegal in the US, even if you do it accidentally, are quite large.

You might be able to make a case that only you were capable of acting as tour manager, but that is definitely a question for a lawyer.

Incidentally it makes no difference if you go for Visa Waiver Program (sometimes called ESTA) of business visa - what you are allowed to do is the same in each case.

  • Thanks for the reply, we've actually had an email exchange with the American embassy in the UK which kind of suggests that's it is possible. We are just looking for additional info before we seek any legal advice.
    – Lee Hart
    Feb 7, 2019 at 4:13
  • Please do write your own answer telling us what they said. Feb 7, 2019 at 4:14
  • If your employment is typically based abroad, you will be paid abroad and not by a U.S. source or company, and the attendees are coming to the United States from abroad as well, your travel may be permissible with a valid B-1/B-2 visa or under the Visa Waiver Program/Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). Please note that the determination on each individual's eligibility for admission to the United States, whether traveling with a valid visa or under the Visa Waiver Program, is a matter for immigration officials at the U.S. Port of Entry.
    – Lee Hart
    Feb 7, 2019 at 4:15
  • @LeeHart The American embassy in the UK kind of suggested what is possible? Feb 7, 2019 at 4:49
  • Suggested that travel in the form of my original post is possible with an esta. I am just looking for more advice and opinions.
    – Lee Hart
    Feb 7, 2019 at 4:56

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