I am British and live in the UK. I am visiting friends in the USA for 3 months this year and I would like to help out in their friend's shop in Georgia and also get paid while doing so.

What visa do I need to get so I can to do this. I think its a Non immigration visa -but which one?

  • 33
    Forget about it. There’s no visa for that kind of arrangement. Commented May 19, 2019 at 10:55
  • 4
    When you say "can", do you mean can legally or can practically? Of course, there exist people who do things that are not allowed.
    – gerrit
    Commented May 19, 2019 at 15:43
  • 18
    @gerrit We don't give advice on how to break the law, so if the answer is legally no, that's the end of it as far as we're concerned. Commented May 19, 2019 at 20:06
  • 3
    It should be added that should you be found to be receiving remuneration for work without the legal permission to do so, this may result in your expulsion and subsequent denial of re-entry.
    – Dan
    Commented May 20, 2019 at 16:52
  • 5
    Not to mention potential serious problems for your friend. As a small business, they'd be penalized much more hashly than a large company who could afford some serious bribes
    – user61942
    Commented May 20, 2019 at 17:28

5 Answers 5


The only regular non-immigrant visa category that would conceivably allow working in a shop (no matter whether paid or not) would be H-2B for temporary non-agricultural workers. But that is a purely theoretical option, because it will only be issued if the U.S. Department of Labor finds that it is in the interest of the U.S. economy to let the particular work be done by foreign workers. The chances of this happening for ordinary retail work are nil.

A few other types of non-immigrant visas would allow such work incidentally to the main purpose of the visa, but they all depend on you being in extremely special situations (as one example, victim of human trafficking assisting law enforcement with investigation) or a spouse/child/dependent of the holder of certain other visas. Since you write nothing about such things, that is pretty much a non-starter too.

For completeness, getting an immigrant visa also seems to be impossible. You don't write that you have any qualifiying family to sponsor a family-based immigrant visa, and the employment-based immigrant categories are even farther removed from retail work than H-2B is. For many, a final (though unlikely) option would be to enter the diversity visa lottery and hope to get lucky, but if you're born in England, Wales, or Scotland you don't qualify for that, due to the large number of Brits who settle in the US by other routes.

In short, as the comment said:

Forget about it. There’s no visa for that kind of arrangement.

  • 38
    And note that you can't work for free, instead, as that would violate minimum wage law and you can't volunteer for jobs that are normally paid. Commented May 19, 2019 at 15:04
  • 3
    "The chances of this happening for ordinary retail work are nil." Unless the friends' business is highly tourist-oriented, or in a town/area which has substantial seasonal tourist traffic increasing temporary needs for labor. The chances are low, but there is not enough information in the question to determine whether the chances are low, or nil. Commented May 19, 2019 at 17:33
  • 5
    @user4556274 I suppose it's possible, but the paperwork for the H-2B process is going to be a whole thing that takes months, requires paying a lawyer with experience doing these, a labor certification, etc... The H-2B program is capped, and while the cap was just raised last week, that requires attesting to "irreparable harm" if an employee isn't hired. None of this seems like something that's practical for a retail shop to do for a single employee, and the scheduled trip may well be over by the time any of it can happen. Commented May 19, 2019 at 19:17
  • 3
    @ZachLipton there are also companies that sponsor people for J-1 exchange programs for seasonal labor. If the owners of the shop are willing to pay for that, and the position qualifies (which I know nothing about), it would be a realistic possibility.
    – phoog
    Commented May 19, 2019 at 20:48
  • 2
    @GalacticCowboy Again, more assumptions. From my friend's business, they are games, i.e. taking tickets and letting you throw or shoot something. He doesn't even do rides. Other jobs for H2B are stuff like hotel housekeeping and landscaping.
    – user71659
    Commented May 20, 2019 at 16:57

I believe it is too late to apply for 2019, but the J-1 visa summer work travel program allows this sort of work situation if you are a currently-enrolled post-secondary student and your visit is during your academic summer break and within the program dates (which are Jun-1 to Sep-30 for 2019).

Summer Work Travel Program

College and University students enrolled full time and pursuing studies at post-secondary accredited academic institutions located outside the United States come to the United States to share their culture and ideas with people of the United States through temporary work and travel opportunities.

One needs to apply for this program through a designated sponsor organization.

As the UK is currently a visa waiver country, the sponsor is not required to prearrange employment, as long as applicants can demonstrate they "have sufficient financial resources to support themselves during their search for employment".

Note that the sponsor organization does not need to be (and is generally not) the employer. The sponsor's obligation with respect to employment, for applicants from visa waiver countries, ends with providing "participants with a job directory that includes at least as many job listings as the number of participants in their program who are entering the United States without prearranged employment." Applicants are free to find their own employment, subject to a few exclusions. See the "Program Exclusions" section at the bottom of this page for details.

  • 3
    BUNAC are a long established UK based agency who can help you arrange a J-1 visa, sponsership, etc for students looking to spend a summer in the US (or similar for many other countries)
    – stuart10
    Commented May 20, 2019 at 7:36
  • 1
    Urgh, BUNAC. I wasted around £1,000 going through them when I could done all the paperwork myself for free.
    – Paul Jones
    Commented May 22, 2019 at 11:24
  • 1
    @PaulJones can you provide further info on doing the paperwork oneself, e.g. links to instructions, etc. for the benefit of people reading this question in future? Feel free to edit my answer to include these details.
    – echo
    Commented May 22, 2019 at 23:23

You would need a non-immigrant temporary worker visa. See for instance Wikipedia

To sponsor such a visa one of the requirements an employer needs to demonstrate is that "there are not enough "able, willing, and qualified U.S. workers" to fulfil their vacancy.

For an unskilled position as an assistent in a shop that is unlikely to be either worth the effort or successful.

  • 11
    "unlikely" is an understatement.
    – gerrit
    Commented May 19, 2019 at 15:14
  • 3
    Indeed, even "unlikely is an understatement" is an understatement :)
    – Fattie
    Commented May 20, 2019 at 10:17
  • 2
    @Fattie So gerrit is misunderstating it? Commented May 20, 2019 at 16:09
  • 2
    hi @OscarBravo ; no, what I said, means: "gerrit is extremely correct."
    – Fattie
    Commented May 20, 2019 at 18:13
  • ...I was trying (but failing) to be funny youtube.com/watch?v=w65CSu6Cc4A Commented May 21, 2019 at 8:00

You cannot do this legally. However, it is quite common for people to work in the US on a cash basis. As there are ~10 million undocumented workers in the US, it is likely that during your travels that you will meet someone who is one of these people.

It is possible that your friend and you are interested in this illegal arrangement. However, the penalty if you are caught is extremely high. There are numerous SE Travel questions & answers about deportation and other penalties that restrict the ability to travel to the US. I think if you are from the UK, it isn't worth the risk. If you are starving to death, or are a victim of systemic violence in Central America, perhaps it is.


The current very limited possibilities (apart from Marriage to a US Citizen) or as a child of a US Citizen, immigration, include to be a high skilled employee outside the USA for over a year and be so good at the company's processes that you qualify for an intra company transfer (L1B) as an indispensible specialist knowledge employee transferee. Though shops assistant does not fall anywhere near this category unless you are selling something which it would be exceptionally hard to get a US citizen to be trained at doing. There are further rules effectively barring anyone but larger US corporations from using this route. Another way is to bring lots of money and start a business; invest in the USA and get an E1 Visa. Technically any investment can qualify but realistic chances require at least $100k and leading to the employment of atleast a dozen US citizens, so opening a shop is a better approach. Trump's new immigration points based system will make it even harder for low skilled immigrants, but easier for high skilled immigrants, especially if younger and highly educated. Watch that space. (Also, Last year there was talk of a UK-US post Brexit work immigration exchange deal which would allow for bi directional labour migration but with current politics that is uncertain where that is going at the moment along with the rest of Brexit.) Have you considered Australia? They are more open for UK citizens and if <31 you can even get a working holiday visa.

  • 1
    Read through the question again. E1 visas are beyond the scope of the OP's question, I think. There's also little point in suggesting Australia since the OP's friends are in the US.
    – user90371
    Commented May 20, 2019 at 22:32

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