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I am a sole trader and am based in the UK as a freelance kitchen fitter. I have been asked to fit a kitchen for a client in the US. The kitchen is being built in the UK and shipped over. I have fitted kitchens for the manufacturer for around 8 years, which is why my services have been requested. The fit will take a week, is there anyway this can be done on a visa-free visit? Thanks in advance!

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    probably best for your UK client to use an immigration lawyer to ensure you have the right paperwork. It's tempting to think that as long as you're being paid by the UK firm it's fine, but there's enough on the line that it's worth paying someone to be sure. – Kate Gregory Mar 24 '17 at 20:00
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    Are you being hired by the customer, or are you employed by the UK based kitchen company? – DJClayworth Mar 25 '17 at 2:11
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    The customer as it stands, I'm guessing that is a problem @DJClayworth? – Lucas Mar 25 '17 at 8:24
  • Are you willing to lie to the immigration officer? – JonathanReez Apr 2 '17 at 20:02
  • @Lucas Please let us know what the CBP tells you – Crazydre Apr 2 '17 at 20:16
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I believe this situation is covered by the business visa flyer but as @KateGregory said, actually talking to a lawyer is probably advisable. Here:

Engineer(s) install, service or repair commercial or industrial equipment or machinery sold by a non-U.S. company to a U.S. buyer, when specifically required by the purchase contract.

This is a very specific exception and the only one possibly applying to your situation and while cursory reading would say "hey that's me" there are at least two reasons this does not apply to you:

  1. You are not an engineer.
  2. This is neither commercial nor industrial

So my reading of the B1 reasons is that you can't do this.

You want to read http://blog.cyrusmehta.com/2016/05/the-b-1-visa-trap-for-the-tailor-bricklayer-and-tesla-motors.html however.

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    3. The OP does not work for the manufacturer, and his services are not "specifically required by the purchase contract". – hmakholm left over Monica Mar 24 '17 at 22:25
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    Thank you @chx and Henning Makholm. In the UK the kitchen manufacturer normally provide the fitting service too. It's quite a complex process but it isn't part of the purchase contract I guess I need to seek some legal advice! – Lucas Mar 24 '17 at 22:43
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    Legal advice would be best, yes. I think another important part comes after the bit @chx quoted: "Installation cannot include construction work, except for supervision or training of U.S. workers to perform construction." A lawyer might advise that you cannot perform the work yourself, but could come to supervise or train US workers so the job is done to your standards. But you'd want to get a legal opinion based on the specifics of your situation. – Zach Lipton Mar 24 '17 at 23:53
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    @Lucas I added a recent, extremely relevant blog post to my answer. – chx Mar 25 '17 at 2:04
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    Extremely helpful @chx , thanks for taking the time. Pretty much confirms I cannot do the practical portion of the installation but possibly the supervision. – Lucas Mar 25 '17 at 8:35
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Besides contacting an immigration lawyer, also call the CBP at 1-202-325-8000. They're the ones checking you on entry to the US and as such they have the final word.

Explain your situation in great detail to them, and ask whether you can enter visa-free or if you need some type of employment visa. If they sound even slightly unsure, ask them to ask their supervisor

Preferably call them two or three times, in case different people were to give different answers (which sometimes does happen)

  • Thanks @Crazydre, I'll give them a call or three on Monday! Experienced a similar issue taking my tools on a flight to Ibiza, ended up with three different answers from the same airline!? – Lucas Mar 25 '17 at 8:41
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I believe you cannot do this under VWP or B1/B2 visa. However it is complicated, and I think a consultation with a lawyer or CBP is well advised.

The issue is that you cannot received payment from any US source under a B2 visa. If you were working for a UK kitchen company who had sold the kitchen and were paying you to install it you would be fine. And technically you might argue that you are being paid by your own contracting company (which is being paid by the customer). Unfortunately US laws tend to treat situations like that as if you are being paid directly, and this would make you ineligible.

An immigration officer will look at this and say "is he taking a job that could be done by an American", and the answer is "yes". There is no reason why your customer could not hire a US based contractor to do the job. This is going to make it very hard to justify your admission.

As I say, only a lawyer or CBP are going to give you a definite answer.

  • Thank you for taking the time @DJClayworth! I am going to seek legal advice and make contact with CBP. It would seem clear now that even if I establish a legal way of being paid for the work it could only be on a supervisory basis. – Lucas Mar 26 '17 at 7:04

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