I have never came across a state that allows "working" (in the meaning of a "doing a job") in its vicinity for tourist visa holders but I have came across many countries that don't allow it.

And yet, when someone works with a laptop for customers outside that country, I don't think it really reflects the meaning of "working" or "doing a job" in that country and therefore a place for interpretation becomes existent.

Is working from a laptop when travelling to countries with a tourist visa formally illegal all over the world?

  • 2
    Why do you consider the laptop important, rather than what the person is using it for? Mar 10, 2020 at 22:02
  • @PatriciaShanahan because it is a gateway to make the work outside the state of residence, remotely; beyond that I assume a work which is globally considered moral and legal (such a a tuition or programming or graphical design work).
    – user89343
    Mar 10, 2020 at 22:10
  • @PatriciaShanahan You could consider the laptop as a "tool" and I assure you that if you try to cross a border with accompanying tools you'll receive scrutiny if you're not allowed to work legally in that place. So far it doesn't seem to be much of a problem. Mar 10, 2020 at 23:04
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    There is usually a distinction between travel for work and business, and some countries even have the same visa for business and tourism. So I would guess that having a laptop could certainly be useful for legitimate activities under the scope of the business/tourist visa.
    – GoodDeeds
    Mar 10, 2020 at 23:07
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    @JohnDoea probably not, at least if you measure by population or by numbers of visitors. On top of that, people nowadays travel with laptops for personal reasons, entertainment and communication being common uses for such devices. The idea that having a laptop would flag someone as an intending illegal worker is puzzling even for a tourist, and all the more so for a business visitor.
    – phoog
    Mar 11, 2020 at 15:13

2 Answers 2


One counterexample is Canada, which explicitly permits this kind of remote work by tourists. From Temporary Foreign Worker and International Mobility Programs: What is work?:

What kind of activities are not considered to be “work”?

Examples of activities for which a person would not normally be remunerated or which would not compete directly with Canadian citizens or permanent residents in the Canadian labour market and which would normally be part-time or incidental to the reason that the person is in Canada include, but are not limited to:

  • long distance (by telephone or Internet) work done by a temporary resident whose employer is outside Canada and who is remunerated from outside Canada;

The key is the differentiation between "work" and "business". Imagine I'm a website designer, or a copy editor, or a software developer.

  • If I come to country A learn about "my thing" -- eg at a conference -- or to meet other people who do what I do, and nobody pays me for that, that's business.
  • If I come to country A and discuss the possibility of doing "my thing" for a client in country A, but no money is involved because it's a "sales meeting" -- that's business.
  • If I come to country A and do some things for my employer in country B, who continues to pay me a regular salary back in country B -- that's business.
  • If I come to country A and do "my thing" for a client in country A, who pays me personally for doing that, especially by the hour spent -- that's work
  • If I come to country A and do "my thing" for a client in country A, who pays my employer in country B, who continues to pay me a regular salary back in country B -- that's probably business but don't count on my opinion

Notice that all of that can involve a laptop and someone local -- that's not what's relevant in whether something is permissible or not. Business is allowed on a business visa. While it is not allowed on a tourist visa, many countries have a single "visitor" visa that covers both business and tourism. Work is only allowed with a work visa or work permit.

  • I think we all agree that not always there terms are well defined in law and in any case the law of the 206 UN states we currently have on this planet.
    – user89343
    Mar 10, 2020 at 23:40