17

I am planning on going to the US for a month to visit a friend who lives there. The main purpose of this trip is for a vacation. However, my employer (UK based) are happy for me to work remotely from there for a few weeks, so I can extend my stay.

Will an ESTA cover me for this, or will I need another specific visa?

  • UK Citizen
  • UK Employer
  • UK Bank Account
8
  • There are a lot of similar questions already on this site e.g. this. Although the answer seems to be a bit fuzzy, involving tax laws as well as the question of whether you'll actually be caught.
    – Stuart F
    Apr 12, 2023 at 13:03
  • 3
    Anecdotally, I used to travel to Japan a lot, for extended periods. The immigration forms would say 'work' but we would complete a tax form stating that we would receive no remuneration inside Japan, only 'at home'. This worked well for the entirety of the decade I did it.
    – Tetsujin
    Apr 12, 2023 at 14:07
  • I would be more concerned with the UK side of things (labor laws, compliance, etc.) than with the US side. Unless you laptop/equipment screams "official work equipment", you're simply browsing the web on your private laptop while sitting in a privately booked location in the US.
    – Martin Ba
    Apr 13, 2023 at 8:09
  • 7
    "Will an ESTA cover me for this, or will I need another specific Visa?": This question overlooks a third possibility, which is that there is no way for you to do this legally.
    – phoog
    Apr 13, 2023 at 15:20
  • 1
    @brhans I beg to differ. The B1 visa will regularly be issued to and used by employees of foreign companies working for that company by doing business in the U.S. Being employed in your home country and working for that foreign company is clearly not against regulations. On the contrary: It is what B1 is for (and also for self-employed salesmen and the like, but those will be a minority). What the visa regulations are trying to prevent, and what is meant by the term "employment or work in the United State" is, of course, entering the American workforce. Apr 16, 2023 at 19:39

2 Answers 2

28

Technically there is no visa for the US that will allow you to work remotely while visiting. Here is a nice summary of all the potential visas and what is and isn't allowed. While there are some visas that do allow work, you are unlikely to be able to get them without some serious immigration lawyer like effort. And such effort would be overkill for a simple 1 month visit even if you were eligible for such a visa.

With that said, carrying a laptop with you while you travel is no longer an unusual activity. As long as you don't mention anything at all related to work when entering the country, US immigration shouldn't refuse your entry. But of course, never lie to immigration authorities. They've seen it all and can spot lies from a long way away.

I'd also like to point out another question on here that explores what the nature of work actually is in terms of the B1 visa:

Emails and conference calls while in the USA under ESTA (B-1 Waiver)

13
  • 21
    +1, but "never lie", yet "just go on a tourist visa/visa waiver" seem to contradict each other though. Working whilst traveling requires lying (whether by omission or more explicitly). This answer could be improved by removing the "never lie" statement, as it's inconsistent with the rest of the answer and confuses the reader. Apr 13, 2023 at 5:02
  • 3
    @fraxinus what do you mean by "field trip"?
    – phoog
    Apr 13, 2023 at 15:16
  • 8
    @Kevin No, that's definitely a thing in the US. When I was in high school, the language teachers would take a group to Spain, France, Germany, every summer. There's a big company that manages the trips.
    – user71659
    Apr 13, 2023 at 17:46
  • 3
    @Chris: A business meeting is just B1 vs. B2 (i.e. it's almost exactly the same thing as a tourist visa). It's not "work."
    – Kevin
    Apr 13, 2023 at 21:52
  • 10
    @AndrewRay As fraxinus states, the issue isn't the students, it's the teachers who are presumably doing it as part of their employment duties. I do remember the high school language teachers weren't paid directly, but instead received a generous "scouting" trip in advance, was basically a free European vacation or family visit.
    – user71659
    Apr 14, 2023 at 5:06
-1

Let me share my case. Maybe it will help.

I used to spend a year in total in US business trips on B1 visa during 2011-2013. I confirmed at embassy interview and on the border control I will continue work for my company while in US and continue to get salary. I'll attend meeting and will consult with US customer about our company's system. I worked 40h a week par of that time was meetings and part was work for my non-US company (bug-fixing, performance optimization, code-review, etc). Not sure it was important but my company was covering my expenses and provided a cover letter.

I believe B1/B2 business visa covers such activity in case:

  • you will still work for non-US company
  • you will not get salary in US
  • it is temporary visit (months, not years)
6
  • 6
    B1 covers business meetings and signing contracts and a few similar things. There is a finite list of activities it covers; they do not include "working 8 hours per day on a laptop writing computer code for money", as an example.
    – Yakk
    Apr 14, 2023 at 20:20
  • 1
    @Yakk, during that trips I was working 40h a week. Part of this was my remote dev work for my non-US company. So I believe important point is not how much are you working, but who needs and pays for your work. It should be non-US company. Apr 14, 2023 at 20:32
  • 3
    I mean, that is pretty clearly against the B1 VISA requirements, depending on what work you are doing. If you spent 8 hours per day in meetings, signing contracts, and a few other things, you'd be ok. You may also have been in the USA under a different program (like the NAFTA one). And the immigration officer might have let you in despite it being against immigration law.
    – Yakk
    Apr 14, 2023 at 20:35
  • 2
    Yours was a different situation to what the OP up top is proposing. Your primary purpose for visiting the USA was "conducting business" (meetings, training, etc). Doing remote work for your employer back home was secondary, and was not the purpose of your visit. You needed to enter the USA to conduct business, while the OP does not.
    – brhans
    Apr 16, 2023 at 18:13
  • 1
    @brhans, yes situation is different from one side. But doing remote work for an employer back home is secondary, and is not the purpose of the visit for OP too. His main purpose is tourism which is covered by B2 visa. Apr 18, 2023 at 22:11

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .