How do you know if I need a work visa for the US?

This is a very good question and is asked a lot. The answer may seem somewhat strait forward. After all you would think that if you  intend to work in the USA then you would need a work permit. But like everything with immigration, it isn’t that simple. There are certain exceptions that you should know about  where even when you are entering the US for business reasons you do not necessarily need a work visa.

We call these entries “B1 status”

B1 status falls under the Visitor category for US entry not the work category where you would normally need a work permit.

What kind of activities can you perform while on B1 status?

The following is considered as legitimate B-1 Visa activities for which a US work permit is not required:

  • Attend business meetings
  • Consult with associates
  • Attend business conferences and conventions
  • Negotiate contracts
  • Investigate business opportunities
  • Purchase property in the US
  • After-sales service, including installers, repair and maintenance personnel, and supervisors possessing specialized knowledge essential to the seller’s contractual obligation, performing services or training workers to perform such services pursuant to a warranty or other service contract incidental to the sale of commercial or industrial equipment or machinery, including computer software purchased from an enterprise located outside the country, during the life of the warranty or service agreement.

So do I need a B-1 Visa or a US Work Visa?

The answer is well…it depends. Basically, activities, which “engage the U.S. labor market” are not permitted, that is, you are not supposed to engage in productive activities, which are normally performed by US workers. In practical terms if you are being paid for services directly by a US employer, chances are you will need a US Work Permit. However, there are exceptions.

B-1 status is always temporary

It is important to note that like the TN Visa and L-1 Visa, a B-1 Visa status is for a temporary period and the applicant is required to leave the United Status when the B-1 activity is completed.

How long are B-visas valid for?

B-1 visas are typically valid for up to 6 months but in most cases visits to the US on B-1 Visas are not that long. If you are Canadian you don’t need a  visa in your passport but rather can how up at a Canadian/US border and request entry as a B-1 visitor and you will likely get a stamp in our passport and you are ready to go.

How can I get a B-1?

Canadian Citizens may obtain a B-1 Visa at a U.S/Canadian port of entry. B-1 applicants may be advised to present the following documentation in support of their B-1 case:

  • Evidence of ties to Canada such as bank records
  • Evidence of close family relatives
  • Property deeds and any other documentation that shows that the applicant will return to Canada before or upon the expiry of B-1 status.
  • Documents showing that the applicant will be engaging in permissible B-1 activities.
Michael Niren

About Michael Niren

Michael is a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. He is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada, the Canadian Bar Association’s Citizenship and Immigration Section and the Associate Member of the American Bar Association. Read more

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