My company's plan is to have me travel to the US using my EU passport and the VWP (Visa Waiver Program) as a business visitor to perform work at a customer's office.

In the meantime I'll also get started on the process to get the TN visa for my Mexican passport. The company will be flying me to my home city for consulate appointments and once I have the TN visa I'd return to the US using the TN visa.

This sounds like a red flag to me as I don't think the VWP for business trips is interchangeable with a TN visa. In strict terms, I will be performing the same job while on the VWP as with the TN visa.

EDIT: I have travelled with the VWP in the past. The work that I'll be performing is software engineering for a customer. The length of stay is up to 1 year once I have the TN visa.

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There's nothing in principle wrong with using both the VWP and other types of visa to enter the US at different times, however if you are intending to carry out the same activities on both, then you may be in trouble. The US State Department provides this useful flier about business travel under the VWP (and what specifically isn't).

Without knowing the details of the work you intend to carry out, it's hard for me to say. Looks like it would fall somewhere in between the examples given as acceptable, and the examples that require a H, L, O, P or Q visa. (Assuming your employer is not a US-based company). Remember if you are caught breaking the terms of your VWP-based entry, you will never be allowed to use the VWP again, so there's good reason to be careful, even if you would likley get away with it at the border.

(Also as an aside, note that not all EU passports grant access to the VWP).

  • 1
    The problem is that the type of work that a TN is suitable for is exactly that which an H of L is suitable for, which is not the same as a B1 is suitable for. The OP needs to be really clear about how the pre-TN work is not the same as the post-TN work at the visa interview or this may not go well. – Dennis May 5 '16 at 2:16

Be very, very careful.
'conduct business' is not the same as 'perform work'.
My general rule-of-thumb is that if what you're doing could in any way be thought of as 'billable hours' then you're not 'conducting business', you're 'performing work'.
The VWP allows you to conduct business, not to perform work.

  • 1
    Your rule of thumb is incorrect. A foreign company can send its employee into the US to perform work for a client, and that is allowable under B-1 status (see the linked document in the other answer). That work is clearly billable. – phoog May 4 '16 at 16:59

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