I'm an ESTA holder regularly travelling to the US to see my girlfriend. I am a UK resident, in full time employment for a UK company.

This summer, I want to go over to US for 2-3 months (up to 90 days as ESTA permits), but I'd like to carry on working for my UK company over the internet. I would get paid to my UK current account - same way as it currently is. My employer is fine with that. I would go back to the UK within 90 days - as per ESTA's terms.

Is this legal or can I get in trouble? I'm finding very contradicting answers all over the internet.

In case you wonder, I'm the software developer.



2 Answers 2


Even if it is not legal, enforcing such is downright impossible. You sit at the laptop and type. The money is paid out in the UK to a UK account. There's exceptionally little the US authorities can hold on to.


No, it's technically illegal, any sort of work in the United States requires a visa. From the B-1 criteria defining "business", which apply to VWP holders as well:

This covers a wide range of activities such as attending meetings, consulting with associates, engaging in negotiations, taking orders for goods produced and located outside the United States, attending conferences, and researching options for opening a business in the United States (such as locating or entering into a lease for office space). Generally speaking, you cannot engage in any activity or perform a service that would constitute local employment for hire within the United States.

That said, as @chx points out, this is virtually impossible to enforce. The main catch is going to be on arrival: you'll be asked why you're coming to the US and what you intend to do, and answering "working locally" is not going to fly. "See your girlfriend" is also a somewhat risky answer, since they'll presume you're trying to move to the US permanently.

So I'd advise you to come up with a permissible reason. "Training", for example, is generally allowed, and isn't even a lie if you're doing "on the job training".

  • 2
    You are not a lawyer (or not talking as one) and in this case it's not local employment for hire because he is not locally employed!!
    – user4188
    Mar 23, 2015 at 23:31
  • No, the test is not whether they're locally hired, it's where they "perform a service that would constitute local employment". Basically, if what they're doing could be done by a local hire, it's "work" and not allowed. Mar 24, 2015 at 2:03
  • But no, I'm not a lawyer, and nothing on Travel.SE is legal advice. The OP or their company should consult an immigration lawyer if "random dude on the Internets says you can probably get away with it" is not good enough. Mar 24, 2015 at 2:05
  • Thanks both for your answers/opinions. I understand there is no straigtforward answer to what I'm asking, or at least different people interpret this differently. Saying "I'm here to see my girlfriend" is what I've been doing on a fairly big number of times I've entered the US, and it never caused me any issues. This is time is different as I'm planning a longer visit. I will not mention that I'd be working from remote then.
    – Aidas
    Mar 25, 2015 at 14:33
  • If none of us are lawyers here then I'm going to disagree with you and say that local employment would infer a role that could be undertaken by a US citizen, which a role for a foreign UK company cannot be. I would therefore assume given the role requires UK citizenship, is UK based, and has no connection with the US, it doesn't constitute "local employment". If that were the case then anyone on a B1 visa would be deported for finishing off a power point for their job back home.
    – Ari
    Dec 23, 2021 at 9:31

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