U.S. Visas & Self Employment for Foreign Nationals

Johanna M. Keamy - San Diego Immigration LawyerForeign Nationals must be aware of U.S. immigration laws concerning self-employment. There are many highly skilled entrepreneurs from other countries that want to establish a business in the U.S. and essentially become self-employed. Often the business is service oriented and does not require a support staff.

However, this proves problematic for most U.S. visa categories including the H-1B, L-1, E-2 and TN under NAFTA. In fact, self-employment is expressly precluded by statue in some visa categories.
In addition, foreign nationals traveling under the B-1 business visa should be very careful not to engage in productive labor.

A visa for self-employment does not exist. Visa categories such as the E-2 treaty investor must establish a business that is not “marginal” which means that it was not established to provide a living for the investor.

The L-1 work visa has similar requirements and when a new office is established, the office must be of sufficient size to establish the need for an Executive or Manager. Even if the Manager is
overseeing a foreign corporation, he/she cannot transfer to the U.S. unless the office can hire workers.

The TN under NAFTA category expressly precludes self-employment. Sole proprietors in the sciences, arts and business, without a business plan to employ U.S. workers, do not have a path for working in the U.S.

Although there is a real need for a U.S. entrepreneur visa, at this time visa categories do not support self- employment and foreign nationals should be very careful to provide a business plan that includes employment for others. website statistics Applicants should be very careful of small scale business plans and professional services that are formed for “self-employment.”

Johanna M. Keamy

Attorney at Law

  1. Slawomir 17 Nov 2014 | reply

    Hi, I am a citizen of Poland, self-employed here (freelancer). I do not need to hire anybody, all I do takes place online, so I can stay wherever I like and do the same things.

    From what you write, it follows that there is no chance for somebody like me to relocate to the U.S. Or perhaps there is one?

    Kind regards

    • Johanna 17 Nov 2014 | reply

      Dear Slawomir,

      You are correct. The regulations do not provide for “self employment” visas to work in the United States. In order to receive a work visa, available options are E-2 (Poland is a Treaty Nation) with a substantial investment that will make an economic impact in the U.S., L-1A if you are a Manager of a corporation that has a subsidiary in the United States or H-1B if you have at least a bachelor degree in a specialty occupation and have a U.S. offer of employment.

  2. Dushyant 12 Apr 2015 | reply


    I am a self employed person from India, and i am a sole proprietor of a recruitment agency in India, now my friend in US planning for start a recruitment firm in US as a proprietor, and on that proprietorship, he is planning to invite me over there to support their business on temporary business. so is it possible? and how?

    • Johanna 14 Apr 2015 | reply

      If you want to work for the newly formed U.S. company, you will need a visa.

      H-1B: If you have a Bachelor degree or higher and the company wants to employ you in a specialty occupation in the U.S., you may consider applying next April 1, 2016 for employment commencing in October 2016.

      E-2: India is not a treaty Nation so the E-2 is not possible.

      L-1A: The L-1 is for intra-company transferees. If you start a subsidiary or affiliate company in the U.S., you could transfer to the U.S. company as an Executive or Manager as long as you have been on the foreign company payroll for one full year in the preceding three years.

  3. Joe 22 May 2015 | reply

    Hi, and thanks for your service!
    I am an Italian Engineer. For personal and market research reasosn I would like to spend no more than few months in NYC, selling homemade food on the streets.
    Is it possible? What VISA would I need?

    Thank you!

    • Johanna 6 Jan 2016 | reply

      You will need a work visa to sell food in New York City. You may consider the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa. Alternatively, if you are offered an engineering position, you can consider the H-1B skilled worker visa with the fiscal year opening up on April 1, 2016 for employment commencing on October 1, 2016. You can also visit NYC as a tourist but not to engage in U.S. labor.

  4. Vojta Stepan 19 Aug 2015 | reply

    As a citizen of Czech republic and an employee of a Czech travel agency do I need any US work permit to work in US as a tourist guide for our clients only while I and our clients are visiting USA. The only monetary compensation I will receive for this work would be from my Czech employer.
    Thank you.

  5. Oscar 10 Oct 2015 | reply


    i am from Colombia and i am B-1 Business Visitor visa holder, but i want to start my own business in US, so is possible to do that with my visa and then swap to another visa permit?

    thank you very much for your time.

    • Johanna 12 Oct 2015 | reply

      Dear Oscar,

      Columbia is listed as a Treaty Nation. If you would like to start a company pursuant to the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa, you may change status in the United States from B-1/B-2 to E-2.

      This is a very general response and you would need to meet all legal requirements for the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa.

  6. Agnieszka 13 Oct 2015 | reply

    I Am a future graduate from college in the U.S. And currently holding an F1 visa. I was thinking about starting my own company here and therefore becoming self employed. Is that possible? I know about an option of obtaining the work permit for occupational training for 12 months after graduation. Can I open my business then and after 12 months change my visa status so I can legally stay and work in U.S.?
    Kind regards.

    • Johanna 13 Oct 2015 | reply

      If you obtain Optional Practical Training (OPT) through USCIS, you may start your own business and be self employed. You must work full time and be engaged in a business related to your degree program. After the one year practical training period is up however, you will need a work visa where you can show a valid employer-employee relationship. Depending on your Nationality, you may consider the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa.

  7. Ashley 28 Oct 2015 | reply

    Hello! I’m a freelance photographer in the Philippines and also a virtual assistant working home based from my boss in the US. I’m planning to visit / tour in the US but I’m not working in any company. Still, I’m earning enough money from my 2 freelance work. Do you think I can apply as a tourist visa but having no company to support my visit?

    Thank you!

    • Johanna 29 Oct 2015 | reply

      As a National of the Philippines, you will need to obtain a B-2 Tourist Visa from the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines. The tourist visa is not a work visa and you must prove sufficient ties to your home country in order to be approved for the visa. Evidence of sufficient ties may include long term employment, bank account with ample funds to pay for the trip, home ownership, family members, etc.

  8. Sylwia 30 Oct 2015 | reply


    I am originally from Poland, with Polish passport living in London for past 9 years, working as a freelancer. I would like to visit New York for few days on the tourist visa B-2. What documents do i need to prove sufficient ties with UK and that i have my clients and ongoing work in London? Would reference letter from the client help?

    Many Thanks!

    • Johanna 6 Jan 2016 | reply

      As an Applicant for a Visitor Visa to the United States, you have the burden of overcoming the presumption that you are an intending immigrant. In other words, the Consular Officer will assume you are coming to the U.S. to stay unless you prove otherwise with sufficient documentation. You should consider providing proof of employment such as tax returns, pay stubs and invoices of business activity, bank statements and other financial documents indicating your financial ability to take holiday, list of family members and evidence of enrollment or membership in professional and social organizations such as being on the Board or participation in areas of your profession or charitable activities. For example, you may submit proof that you volunteer at your local library or child’s school and you are listed on a calendar for a weekly or monthly position.

  9. Michael 25 Nov 2015 | reply


    Good Day.
    I am based in HK. me and a friend of mine are going to run a start-up, ideally establishing my company in the USA. both of us have no green card nor citizenship of USA. What kind of requirements do you think we have to fulfill in order to be eligible to establish/run a start up in the USA without ?
    Also, if we have one more partner who has american citizenship, does this help? May i know the requirements for with/without an american as a partner?

    Thanks so much in advance

    • Johanna 6 Jan 2016 | reply

      If you are a National of Hong Kong, a Treaty Investor country, you may consider the E-2 Treaty Investor visa which would allow you to establish a business in the U.S. provided you invest a “substantial” amount of capital to start up the company. This amount varies depending on the business but is usually more than $100,000. of “personal” funds. Personal funds are funds that are leveraged in any way but earned through legitimate means such as employment, sale of a house or business or gift money.

  10. Kenny 31 Dec 2015 | reply

    Hi, I am mexican working online as a freelancer. If I have an account in the US, and someone deposits money there in exchange of my services (performed from Mexico), am I violating any immigration law?

    • Johanna 6 Jan 2016 | reply

      U.S. Immigration Law requires you to have a visa for any productive Labor performed in the United States.

      • Annus 7 May 2016 | reply

        Hi Johanna,
        I want to make sure I got your answer right: as long as one does not physically work in the US, they do not need a VISA?
        Actually, I am in a situation similar to Kenny’s and yet different: I currently work for a US company with a J2 VISA and a valid EAD. However, I plan to go back to France soon and my company is willing to pay for my services as a consultant remotely from France. Is this legally possible? Do I need to create a company here in the US before I leave like a sole proprietorship or a LLC?
        Thanks for your help

        • Johanna 9 May 2016 | reply

          I do not know the specific facts. Will you be visiting the U.S. to see the U.S. employer’s clients and perform services requiring a U.S. work visa? Or are you asking whether your employer can pay you in France on a contract and for services sourced in the U.S.? Your employer should seek legal advice.

          • Annus 5 Jun 2016 |

            Hi Johanna, thanks for your answer, and sorry I did not answer earlier, I thought I would receive an email when you answered…

            I work in data analysis so I would do everything on my computer from France, no travels required. All I am wondering is what status can I legally have to go on working for my company:
            – remain an employee while working from France? Is that legal? I don’t think I need a work permit in the US for that but the company being present only in the US, are they allowed to keep me as an employee when I lose my VISA?
            – become a consultant? What status do I need to be able to send bills to my US company while working from France? Anything particular? Do I need to create any kind of company?

            Thanks again

  11. Sharan 6 Jan 2016 | reply

    I am a self employed person can I go to US on visitor visa with my wife and 2 yrs old baby, what do I need to get US visa

    • Johanna 6 Jan 2016 | reply

      If you would like to visit the United States for pleasure and will not be engaged in productive labor, you may apply for a Visitor (B-2/B-1) Visa. If you are not from a visa waiver country such as the UK, Australia, Belgium, Greece, etc., you will need to make application with a U.S. Embassy in your home country.

      Please review the Department of State website that provides guidance on lawful B-2/B-2 activities. In addition, you must prove strong ties to your home country including permanent employment (pay stubs and tax returns), meaningful business or financial connections (bank statements and other financial documents), close family ties (presence of parents, spouse and other relatives), or social or cultural associations (professional or social organizations requiring your continued presence), which will indicate a strong inducement to return to the country of origin. See: https://fam.state.gov/fam/09FAM/09FAM040202.html

  12. Amie 11 Jan 2016 | reply

    Hi there .

    Im from malaysia. I work as a freelance here in mma. I would like to travel in the states and visit mma gyms there . Is said that i can be rejected in getting a visa because i dont have a reconise job here ?

    • Johanna 12 Jan 2016 | reply

      I need clarification. When you say that you work as a Freelance in MMA, do you mean you are a MMA fighter? Or are you a Coach/Trainer? Or involved in writing/blogging MMA? MMA professional fighters can travel to the U.S. on a P-1 Visa. This visa is available for athletes of international recognition coming to fight in a U.S. event. The B-1 Visa is available for visitors of the U.S. As with all tourist visas, you must show sufficient ties to your home country such as a job. If you are a fighter, you will need evidence of prize money and/or fighting contracts in Malaysia.

  13. Amie 12 Jan 2016 | reply

    Thanks Johanna for the reply . Im a trainer in MMA. And ues im having difficulties of understanding ties in my home contry . Such as ? As for job im a frelancer . I have commitment here such as loans and family . Is that enough ?

  14. Annette Chung 9 Mar 2016 | reply

    Hello there, I plan to move into USA this year to look for and to be set up established/ existing or franchise food business with my husband. My husband and I are originally from Singapore. I am 50 years old while my husband will be 64 this June. We have US bank accounts there. Age limit/ barrier is anything under immigrant laws to be permitted to set up business in US? What kind of visa ? Appreciate a reply and thanks in advance…

    • Johanna 9 Mar 2016 | reply

      As a National of Singapore, you may consider the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa and open a food/franchise or restaurant business. You must invest personal funds (not borrowed) and the money must be actually spent (irrevocable commitment of money into the business.) In other words, you can’t just place the investment in a U.S. bank account. You must actually invest the capital on equipment, supplies, lease, etc.

      You asked if there is an age limit for getting a visa. There is no regulation that provides that an Applicant must be of a certain age only that the Applicant develop and direct the business investment.

  15. Karine 4 Apr 2016 | reply

    Hello Johanna,
    M’y husband and I have a construction company hère in Québec, Canada, but we are not corporated, WE are registered…we do need workers, sometimes only one so.etimes 3-4
    We do want to migrate to USA at short term, with child, do i need to have a corporation to open à subsidaries? Wich type of visa Will bé simpkier for us???

    • Johanna 6 Apr 2016 | reply

      As Canadian Nationals, you may consider the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa where you start your own construction company in the U.S. A Treaty Investor must have personal funds to invest in the business. In other words, the funds can’t be borrowed. However, the regulations do allow for a gift.

      You would need a business plan, a commitment of personal assets that would make the business successful such as purchasing construction equipment, supplies, vehicles, hiring employees, etc.

  16. Becky Webberley 11 Apr 2016 | reply

    Hi Johanna,

    Me and my partner are British citizens, and he is being relocated to the New York offices for the company he works for.

    I currently work full time for a company in the UK but was wondering if I would then be able to freelance for that company when I was in New York, and if not as we are not married what is the best way for me to be able to live in America with him?

    Thank you,


    • Johanna 11 Apr 2016 | reply

      If you are not married according to the laws of your Nation, you will not receive derivative status of your partner’s visa.

      Your options to enter the United States will be independent of your partner such as a F-1 Student Visa or short term B-2 Visitor status.

      If you have capital to invest in your own business enterprise you can consider the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa. If the business that you are currently working for has a subsidiary in the U.S., then you may have the option of the L-1A visa if you have been on Payroll for 1 full year in an Executive/ Manager position.

  17. Alexey 19 May 2016 | reply


    I’m owner of a small IT Consulting / Integration company in Security field and see opportunity to expand activity to USA.

    Initially I will need to establish business environment by myself, but not planning to stay for long times in US.
    In the future, if business activity will rise, I’m planning to permanently relocate.

    What VISA is suitable for me? Can I do that with E1?

    Best Regards,


    • Johanna 25 May 2016 | reply

      Dear Alexey,

      I need more facts. Where are from? How many people do you employ at your IT company? Are you involved in Management duties for the IT company? Do you have a Bachelor or higher degree?

  18. Lovenah 23 May 2016 | reply

    Hi, I am from Mauritius and I am a self-employed/freelance translator. I can fully support myself and my family and all my work is done online. My husband is a small business owner. I want to migrate to the US with my husband and baby daughter. Please advise.

    • Johanna 25 May 2016 | reply

      The Country of Mauritius does not have a treaty with the United States so the opportunity for an E-2 visa to start your own business is not available. There really is not other visa classification that would fit for a self employed translator. If you have a U.S. employer as a sponsor, you can consider the H-1B visa. You will need a bachelor degree in the area of your specialty.

  19. Megan 27 May 2016 | reply

    Hi Johanna,

    I’m a Canadian looking to move to the United States immediately. My partner is American which is of course my main motivation, but I’m trying to figure out which visa I could qualify for. I work full time as a social media specialist but also do a lot of freelance self-employed work on the side in illustration, writing and media/journalism, so I might be able to spin that instead somehow? Any ideas?

    Thank you.

    • Johanna 31 May 2016 | reply


      You stated you are Canadian looking to move to the United States immediately and that your partner is American which is your motivation for moving to the U.S. You would like to know which visa you qualify for. You also stated you work full time as a social media specialist.

      If you intend to marry, you can apply for a fiancée visa and marry within 90 days of entering the U.S.

      If you do not intend to marry but want to enter the U.S. for purposes of starting your own business, you may apply for the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa and establish a social media consulting company in the U.S. However, you will need to make a substantial investment in this company including obtaining rental space, hiring workers, establishing contracts, etc.

      If you have a bachelor or higher degree and have a U.S. employer sponsor, you may be able to apply for the H-1B visa next year.

      If you don’t have a degree or would like to obtain an advance degree or further your study in any way, consider the F-1 Student Visa.

      Also, if the company you work for in Canada has a U.S. subsidiary or branch, you may qualify for a L-1A intracompany transferee if you are involved in managerial duties in Canada.

  20. Ashwin 6 Jun 2016 | reply

    Hey Johanna,
    I’m self employed and reside in India. I’ve registered my LLC company in USA few months ago through an online firm without visiting US. Now I wonder which visa is preferable for moving to USA.

    Thanks and Regards

    • Johanna 6 Jun 2016 | reply


      The United States does not have a Treaty with India so the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa is not an option for you to come to the U.S. to oversee a business investment.

      If you have been on payroll with your company in India for 1 full year as a Manager or Executive, then you may transfer to the U.S. company as a Manager/Executive under the L-1A visa provided the company is of such a size and nature as to warrant a Manager.

      Other than the L-1A and the E-2, there really are no other alternatives as a visa for self employment does not exist in the U.S. under current regulations.

      Hope that helps.

  21. Jitendra 23 Jun 2016 | reply

    Hello, I am working as a freelance personal trainer in Mumbai, India. I want to work as fitness trainer or Personal trainer in gyms located in USA. What visa applies to me. Please help me through, Thank you.

    • Johanna 24 Jun 2016 | reply

      The United States does not have a treaty with India so you would not be able to invest in a United States gym or other personal training facility.

      If you have a bachelor degree in a specialty area such as Physical Therapy, Kinesiology or Occupational Therapy, there may be an option for a H-1B Visa but you would need a U.S. sponsor.

      Unfortunately you are limited with U.S. visa options as a fitness trainer.

      Hope this helps.

  22. Jitendra 25 Jun 2016 | reply

    @Johanna, Thank you so much for useful information. Sorry to bother you again but i had some queries and there are not really many counselors or consultants available here in India for fitness trainers.
    If i apply to other position than a personal or fitness trainer in a gym USA for example as a housekeeping staff. If i start working as a housekeeping staff, later can i be accepted as a fitness or Personal trainer?
    I have some of my friends who are from new jersey not graduated High school but having ACE/ACSM certification of fitness training and working as a fitness trainer in New jersey. How that works?

  23. Faye 2 Sep 2016 | reply

    Im Indonesian and my husband is British, we are freelance food stylist and food photographer. We plan to visit New York and do some freelance work as food stylist and food photographer. What kind of visa that we need to apply ?. And if just one of us gets approved for working visa, can the other help with the work without getting paid? Thank you for your kind advice.

    • Johanna 6 Sep 2016 | reply

      1. You mentioned you and your husband are freelance food stylists and food photographers. Since he is a British citizen, he may consider opening his own business under the E-2 Treaty Investor program. As a spouse of a Treaty Investor, you would be eligible for work authorization. However, you would need to invest more than $100,000 of personal funds into the business.

      2. B-1 Business Visa may be an option as long as you are not doing productive labor and getting paid in the U.S.

      3. See our August 26th post on new news for International Entrepreneurs.

      The proposed rule would allow the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to use its existing discretionary statutory parole authority for entrepreneurs of startup entities whose stay in the United States would provide a significant public benefit through the substantial and demonstrated potential for rapid business growth and job creation. Under this proposed rule, DHS may parole, on a case-by-case basis, eligible entrepreneurs of startup enterprises:
      •Who have a significant ownership interest in the startup (at least 15 percent) and have an active and central role to its operations;
      •Whose startup was formed in the United States within the past three years; and
      •Whose startup has substantial and demonstrated potential for rapid business growth and job creation, as evidenced by:◦Receiving significant investment of capital (at least $345,000) from certain qualified U.S. investors with established records of successful investments;
      ◦Receiving significant awards or grants (at least $100,000) from certain federal, state or local government entities; or
      Partially satisfying one or both of the above criteria in addition to other reliable and compelling evidence of the startup entity’s substantial potential for rapid growth and job creation.

      We hope this helps.


  24. Harrison Howes 10 Sep 2016 | reply


    I am currently a student on an F1 VIsa. Looking to use my OPT with a company, however they are unwilling to sponsor my H1B vsia after my OPT is up. If I was to start my own business while on OPT, as well as working at a company, what visa would I need to apply for once my OPT is up to continue my own business venture?

    • Johanna 12 Sep 2016 | reply

      Dear Harrison,

      You stated that you are in a period of Optional Practical Training (OPT) and that you would like to know about possibilities to work in the U.S. in your own business venture because your employer does not want to sponsor an H-1B skilled worker petition.

      In order to respond, we need more information to see if you qualify for the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa.

      What country did you enter the U.S. from?
      Do you have savings sufficient to start a business in the U.S.?
      Are the savings personal and not borrowed?
      What type of business?
      Have you ever had any criminal or immigration law violations?


      • Harrison Howes 12 Sep 2016 | reply


        I have no criminal convictions or anything of that sort.

        I will be investing funds into starting my own business but knowwhere near the $100,000 amount that E2 treaty requires. It will be more like $5000.

        I am a citizen of the United Kingdom.


  25. Swani 16 Oct 2016 | reply

    Hi, I am a professional photographer based in UK. I have been to USA few times on normal ESTA as a tourist. However, I am thinking of travelling to USA for a wedding exhibition to exhibit my photography work. In return hoping to pick up future wedding clients either in USA or anywhere in the world. If I end up getting clients for work in USA, what visa would I need to apply for? or normal business ESTA is sufficient enough? I am not planning on staying in USA for more then few days at a time. Any advise will be helpful. Thank you in advance.

    • Johanna 17 Oct 2016 | reply

      Dear Swani,

      You mentioned you will be travelling to US for a wedding exhibition to exhibit photography. You may do so under the ESTA program.

      However, if you then decide to take on U.S. clients and work in the U.S., you will need a work visa. Since you are from the UK, a Treaty Country with the U.S., you can apply for the E-2 Visa and start your own company but you will need to actually open up your own business and employ U.S. workers as this visa does not allow for self employment. There is no visa category for self employment. The ESTA program does not allow you to do productive labor in the U.S., only visits for pleasure or business activity such as attending a conference or lecture that benefits your UK business. Many people do not understand this distinction under the ESTA program and that a Visitor under ESTA is not a work visa category that allows you to get paid for productive labor in the U.S.

      Hope this helps.

  26. Erika 12 Jan 2017 | reply

    Hello, I’m a Canadian and am interested in becoming a real estate agent in the U.S.
    Although real estate agents work for a real estate company, they are technically considered “self-employed”.
    Is there any visa that could somehow allow me to obtain a contract with a real estate company and thus be allowed to work in the U.S.
    I also have a bachelor’s degree in Urban Planning, but have no experience in the field.

    • Johanna 14 Feb 2017 | reply

      In determining whether it is better to change status in the U.s or file for Consular processing of your H-1B, we need more information on your current status and when it expiries. We also need to know if you are apply for a cap exempt employer or not.

  27. Ken 6 Feb 2017 | reply


    Is it advisable to apply status from B1/B2 to H1B visa within USA or is it better if just apply the H1B outside of the USA?

  28. leyci 12 Mar 2017 | reply

    I’m a self employed UK citizen and coach and mentor other people from around the world within their businesses.
    I’m part of a company that is based in the US, and will be looking to move to the US to live in the future, is it possible to do this or do I need to gain an offer of full time employment from a company in order to do so?

    • Johanna 13 Mar 2017 | reply

      What does “part of a company in the U.S. mean?” Shareholder? In order to do productive labor in the U.S. for this company, you will need a U.S. work Visa. I need more information on your credentials to see if you qualify for the H-1B but given the position of “Coach” it will be difficult. You may need to consider establishing your own business under the E-2 Visa Category and the U.S. based company could contract with your company for consulting services.

  29. serge 12 Mar 2017 | reply

    I’m freelancer in France. I just find a job in USA ( H-1B with an university employer). Can i continue my freelancer activity during my spare time despite my new job?

    Is it possible to work in 2 country (USA – h-1b / France -self employed) ?

  30. Johanna 13 Mar 2017 | reply

    Thank you for your question. This is a very case specific question and a response would require a complete review of the file so we are unable to respond.

  31. Andrew 10 Apr 2017 | reply

    I am an English national working full-time in the U.S. on an O-1 Visa. I’m pretty sure I can’t legally freelance for another company in the U.S… (?). But can I freelance for a company in the UK, and declare that income in my U.S. tax return?

    • Johanna 3 May 2017 | reply

      You should consult a tax attorney concerning the question of declaring foreign earned income on U. S. tax returns.

  32. Jane 3 May 2017 | reply

    Good Afternoon,

    I am a UK citizen and am in full time employment with a UK company as a General Manager. My job can be done from anywhere as it has the ability to be done virtually. I would like to move to the USA for at least a year, but can’t find out what kind of visa I would need or if one even exists, given that I would be working for a UK company and being paid and taxed in the UK, so would be spending money in the USA without taking any payments from US companies, so in that sense would not need a work permit as I’d not be working for a US company or being paid in the US, as that would all still be handled in the UK

    Any advice you can give would be appreciated!


    • Johanna 3 May 2017 | reply

      Perhaps you should consider a visitor visa as you will not be working in the U.S. However, this type of visa (B-2) is only available for 6 months/ You may also enter on visa waiver for up to 90 days.

  33. Paul Staples 3 May 2017 | reply

    Hi there, I am a self employed landscape gardener in the UK wanting to move to the USA in the near future, can i set up the same business over there and obtain the necessary visa to do so and do I need a work permit to do so?

    Thanks for any help you can give me


    • Johanna 3 May 2017 | reply

      In order to obtain a work visa in the U.S., you would need a visa. However, the U.S. does not have a visa category for self employed individuals. You may consider the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa if you establish a business that can hire U.S. citizens.

  34. Rafal 3 May 2017 | reply


    I am a polish citizen. Can I visit US on B1 visa as a wilderness/survival/hiking guide?

    The company hiring me would be located in Poland, the clients would be polish citizens as well, and all the transactions/payments would be made in Poland. The labor (guidance) would be done on US soil, however.


    • Johanna 3 May 2017 | reply

      B-1 Visas are granted for travelers to the U.S. engaging in activity such as attending trade shows, seminars, conferences, etc. that benefits the foreign National’s business in their home country. In order to respond to your question, we need additional information.

  35. Sol 18 Jun 2017 | reply

    Hi there,

    I am designer who resides in Toronto and has also has a full-time job in Toronto. I freelance on the side as a means of building up my portfolio. Today I arrived at a Canadian airport hoping to a board a flight to NYC. However I was denied entry because I told the officer my reason for visiting was to do research with a client and apparently that requires a Visa/permit. I don’t know what kind of Visa this requires as the work is on a casual basis and is done from my home country. My client simply wanted me to come down for 4 days to attend a couple of meetings and to establish direction for upcoming projects. I will not be getting paid for this time. Can you please advise on what kind of Visa I would need and if this denied entry is going to affect my future entry attempts (I have a vacation planned next month).



    • Johanna 19 Jun 2017 | reply


      This question is outside the scope of this forum as it requires review of the written denial notice. We cannot determine who your client is and if it is a United States design company. You mention that the “work” is done on a “casual basis” from your country of Canada. Customs may have concluded that when you direct your client for upcoming projects while you are present in the U.S., you are working in the U.S. without a visa. Please note that the TN Visa would allow you to “work” in the United States as a Designer and receive compensation. In order to qualify, you would need a Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or Post-Secondary Diploma or Post-Secondary Certificate and three years experience. We would need a complete transcript of what was said. Since you now have a denial on your record, you will be subjected to future delays.

Leave a Comment

  1. Please use the form below to leave a comment on this article, or to send our attorneys a private note. Be specific, but leave out any personally identifiable info.
  2. *
  3. *
  4. *
  1. The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form. By clicking “Submit” I acknowledge, understand and agree to the following: I may receive a response to my inquiry from an attorney; I am not forming an attorney-client relationship with Keamy Tavares & Assoc., APLC (KTA) and understand this law firm does not represent my legal interests; Keamy Tavares & Assoc., APLC has no duty to keep confidential the information I am now sending to the law firm; and I may only retain this firm or any of its attorneys as my attorney by entering into a written fee agreement and I am not hereby entering into a fee agreement.
  2. Send