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I plan to visit America for approximately 6 weeks. I intend on flying to the US on an ESTA permit, which will allow me the max stay of 90 days but simply to travel for social or business. However, my intentions are to ‘work’. Is it legit to meet with the guys in charge, sign contracts and then apply for a work permit with the contract whilst I am staying in the US.

To begin with it was going to be a low key thing, which meant the US would simply believe I was there visiting, and cash would be in hand. I disagreed with this and not much has been processed since, as apparently a contract will only been shown if I’m there. This is what unsettles me. Am I right to trust this deal?

Another point is of my sisters concern. A major point is the ‘man in charge’ is in fact my sisters partner. She has visited over the past 8-9 months, 4 times, visiting on her ESTA, maxing out two of her ESTAs staying for odd days (roughly 10-25+) and coming back to the UK for very short visits. I have been made aware me travelling with her will make it easier for her to pass through the border. My main concern is whether I am right to follow through with the ESTA permit and follow these plans? My final concern is I have suspicions with the thoughts of my sister and the POE Official may have said something to her on her previous stay in regards to suspicions.

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    Can't say you've told us much about this "contract," but it sounds sketchy. As to the visa, yes, you should be able to come to the US and sign contracts and apply for a work visa. However, you cannot legally start working without the work visa. I would also venture a guess that you will have to be out of the country to actually get the work visa. – Matthew Herbst Jun 8 '15 at 19:02
  • I have no knowledge of the contracts. Apparently that can only be drawn up when I'm there. – Roxie Jun 8 '15 at 19:16
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    "and then apply for a work permit with the contract" This seems to be vastly understating the amount of effort involved in securing permission for a foreigner to legally work in the US. It's a complicated and slow process, where the answer may be "no that's not possible," particularly if you're not an executive of an international corporation or a major sports star/performing artist/etc... Just how exactly does "the man in charge" plan to secure permission for you to work? The fact that you don't have an answer is a good indication he expects you to work illegally. – Zach Lipton Jun 8 '15 at 21:39
  • Unfortunately I am very much in the dark with things, and the worse thing is its "family" so everything is far too relaxed. This is a real eye opener as to what could happen if i continue to have the wool pulled over my eyes. I've done a lot of research and have discovered the amount of success i must have had to begin with, and unfortunately I do fall short. I'm right in believing this isn't very legit... – Roxie Jun 8 '15 at 22:30
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A technical point: you're planning to enter the US under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). This is the scheme that allows people from friendly countries into the US for tourism or business without a visa. ESTA is a security check that lets you get on the plane; it does not guarantee you entry to the US.

Having got that out of the way, the answer to your question is no. When you enter the US under the Visa Waiver Program you cannot change your immigration status without leaving the US and returning. You may attend job interviews but, if you're offered a job in the US, you must leave, get a visa and come back.

My advice is to have nothing at all to do with this. You were asked to work illegally. It is likely that, if you do agree to work, you will be put under further pressure to do things you don't want to do. Part of the reason for asking you to come along is to lend legitimacy to her n-th reentry to the USA in rapid succession. If the border officer suspects something fishy is going on, you're both in trouble. There is no reason her partner can't send you a contract at home for you to sign and then apply for a work visa. Avoid, avoid, avoid.

  • David, I'm very thankful for this response. I was very much needing this well formed response. I shall click the link and dig deeper. One thing is that my sister isn't actually working there, she's simply there for leisure, however she intends on studying out in the US, and this will be easier for her as her spouse is an American. – Roxie Jun 8 '15 at 20:12
  • I've removed a couple of sentences that were based on my misunderstanding about your sister working in the US. Sorry for the confusion. – David Richerby Jun 8 '15 at 20:17
  • Bless you, thank you very much. I need this hard, clear evidence. – Roxie Jun 8 '15 at 20:18

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