Can a foreigner work for a U.S. employer while here on a B-1 business visitor visa?

Visas are issued for limited purposes. If you apply for a student visa, you cannot enter the U.S. and obtain full-time employment instead. Similarly, if you obtain a B-1 business visitor visa, your business visa was issued for a business-related purpose, not to allow you to seek or gain employment with a U.S. company. 

B-1 Business Visitor Visa Rules

You may stay in the United States as long as is authorized by your B-1 business visitor visa. Usually the time frame allowed for a business B-1 visa is a reasonable amount of time to complete your business. While here on a B-1 business visitor visa, a foreigner cannot work for a U.S. employer, he or she can only do business with the employer. This distinction sometimes creates gray areas.

The key here is whether the alien will be paid a salary from a U.S. company or otherwise engages in activity here that results in payment to the foreigner of a fee for services rendered in the United States. For example, if you work for a consulting firm, you may obtain a B-1 business visitor visa to come to the United States and provide services to a U.S. company. You are providing a service; when the service is concluded, the U.S. company should tender compensation to the consulting firm for which you work. 

If the U.S. company tenders a check to you directly in the form of a payroll check, it could be construed as you working illegally for the U.S. company. Before you enter the United States for a business-related purpose that is expected to generate an income, make sure that both parties understand how payment will be tendered, so as to avoid any confusion with your business visa requirements. 

B-1 Business Visitor Visas and Immigration Laws

Immigration laws do provide some very limited exceptions for working while in the U.S. on a B-1 business visitor visa. However, they are for more specialized types of occupations. If a U.S. company offers you a regular employment position and you would like to accept it, you should apply to change your non-immigrant status to one that allows you to work for a U.S. employer. This will prevent the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) from accusing you of violating the terms of your B-1 business visitor visa.  

Getting Help from an Immigration Attorney

If you have questions about your eligibility to apply for a change of status or about whether you can work under a particular set of circumstances, you should consult an immigration attorney. An immigration attorney can help you decide which options are best for your business visa and business related goals.