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I want to travel to the US for a staff conference. I work remotely from Kenya for a US company. I applied for a B1/B2 visa but they said I should apply for a work visa.

I want to reapply for a B1/B2 as I am going for a one week conference, and I am receiving no income from the conference (even though I receive a monthly income to my Kenyan bank account). A work visa just does not seem like the right category to apply for. Should I clarify this in my application? Does marking my US employer and indicating they are the entity paying for my trip make it look like I am going there to work?

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    who exactly is the "they" who said you should apply for a work visa? embassy officials, your employer, or somebody else?
    – mlc
    Dec 8, 2022 at 23:23
  • Is the income in your Kenyan account coming from a US account? Is that account your employer's? Are you contracting directly with that employer or do you have a separate legal entity? In other words, are you truly an employee of the company or are you a contractor who is going to meet a client?
    – phoog
    Dec 9, 2022 at 10:17

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Generally speaking a B1 visa is all that is necessary for attending a conference. "Business activities" are covered by a B1 visa, and a conference counts as "business activities". (A B1/B2 allows activities from either B1 or B2 visa).

The only possible glitch is that you should not be receiving "income from a US source" while visiting the US on a B1. This is not a problem for normal business visitors - they are usually being paid by someone else. Even those working for foreign subsidiaries of a US company are OK, because the foreign subsidiary is not a US company.

Most "remote workers" are working for subsidiaries or working as contractors. If you are being paid through a contracting company (even a sole proprietorship) then you will be fine - the contracting company is a non-US company and so you are getting money from it, not a US source. This is one reason why almost every company insists on employing its remote foreign workers through intermediate companies.

If for some reason you are directly employed by the parent company ask the company for guidance. Perhaps they can not pay you for the week of the conference and make it up to you some other way. It's also likely that at long as you answer "no" to the question "will you be getting money from a US source" then you will not be asked detailed questions.

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  • Of course they may wonder why the situation changed (or more probably, if it actually did).
    – jcaron
    Dec 9, 2022 at 8:02
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    "This is one reason why almost every company insists on employing its remote foreign workers through intermediate companies": possibly, but the main reason is that labor and employment laws are simply not written to cover the possibility of an employer engaging an employee to perform work in a jurisdiction where the employer has no presence. That the most common solution to that problem also lets foreign remote workers qualify for B-1 visas is more of a coincidence than anything else.
    – phoog
    Dec 9, 2022 at 10:21
  • @phoog Yes, that is absolutely correct. Dec 9, 2022 at 15:04

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