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I'll be visiting the US for a week, and would like to know if the law allows me to continue my regular work during my visit.

I am employed as a programmer by a foreign agency and stationed at a foreign entity, which is a branch of a US based corporation.

All of my work would be done remotely, and not from any US offices of the corporation.

If this is not allowed, will I be able to participate in virtual work meetings? To my understanding bussines mettings are specifically mentioned as part of the B1 visa, but I'm not sure if it applies in this case.

Thanks!

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First, if you have a B-1/B-2 visa, you will be admitted either in B-1 status or B-2 status. As a B-2 visitor "for pleasure," your ability to engage in professional activities will be somewhat less than as a B-1 visitor "for business."

Generally speaking, you can't work remotely from the US in B-1 or B-2 status regardless of who your employer is, though you will have a hard time finding a clear statement of precisely what is permitted and what is prohibited. The distinction between remote work and activities that are permissible for a business visitor is not entirely clear.

On top of that, there is clearly some level of incidental professional activity that is permissible for a pleasure visitor. Nobody expects you to stop all communication with your employer the moment you cross the border. But if someone whose primary duty is, for example, writing user support e-mail messages spends 40 hours a week doing that during their vacation and somehow ends up in court, it's going to be difficult to argue that this was incidental.

"Somehow ends up in court" points to another aspect of this situation: nobody is likely to know. The most likely potential barrier to this plan is not the US government but your employer, who may recognize that they too risk violating US law by paying you to work while they know you are in the US. Why is this? Under US tax law, income that you earn while you are in the US is US-source earned income. It is subject to federal income tax as well as payroll taxes, including social security and Medicare, of which half is paid by the employer. There may also be state taxes due. There is a de minimis exception, but you still have to look into whether the amount of work you're doing falls under this exception or not.

You don't say why you're going to the US, but assuming you're going for vacation, my advice would be to to make a proper vacation of it. Take time off. Reschedule your meetings.

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    IMHO the biggest risk is that during the landing interview (if there is one) one question may lead to another which ends up with OP saying “I will be working remotely”, and then it could become very tricky…
    – jcaron
    Feb 14, 2023 at 12:41
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    @jcaron: Yes, CBP really wants to hear answers like "I will be attending meetings/a conference/etc.," and not "I will be working."
    – Kevin
    Feb 14, 2023 at 16:25
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    This answer just kind of blew my mind. It’s never occurred to me in any way that any work I do for an employer from my own country while travelling abroad could possibly count as working in that country, even if only in a theoretical, technical sense. I don’t know whether this is a general thing or specific to the US, but I’ve been to the US several times (via ESTA) and have done more or less occasional work from laptop while there every time. Never crossed my mind that that could in any way be problematic. Feb 14, 2023 at 17:46
  • @phoog Thanks for the detailed answer!
    – Steve
    Feb 14, 2023 at 20:25
  • @JanusBahsJacquet “business” is allowed, “working” isn’t. Meetings with colleagues, clients, suppliers, partners, training, checking end responding to a bunch of emails are all OK. A lot of the rest is a big gray area.
    – jcaron
    Feb 14, 2023 at 20:31

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