Post #260

Working in America

25th February 2004, evening time | Comments (25)

Let’s say you know a British web developer/photographer. He’s self-employed, has clients in the UK and clients in the States. He’d like to go and spend some time in America.

Ideally he’d like to stay there a year, working for the same clients, photographing the country, generally doing his thing, but doing it there, instead of here.

Because of the complex and inaccessible US visa system, he can’t figure out if he has any chance of getting a visa to live in America as a self-employed person, or if he has to quietly visit under a holiday visa and leave the country every three months.

If such a person existed, would anyone be able to offer him solid, reliable advice on the visa situation?

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Comments (25)

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  1. Alastair:

    I think your approach will work fine (it's what I did), but as far as I know :

    1. Make sure you still invoice out of the UK, or you'll be visibly violating your tourist visa

    2. If you spend more than 180 days of the year (not necessarily consecutively...) then you should pay U.S. taxes for the whole year. You then have to claim back the U.K. ones that you're also paying. Mind you, they never caught me...

    Of course you could get a real job as a porn star. That way you'd be paid in untraceable cash and could just crash on the set (there should be a bed after all)

    Alternatively, if you get over to San Francisco soon you could marry some nice guy and get a green card...

    Posted 1 hour, 5 minutes after the fact
    Inspired: ↓ Jim Reverend
  2. Jim Reverend:

    That person will be seeking, most likely, what the US calls a B-1 visa. This is a visa that allows a person a visit to the United States for business purposes ( That person will be required to specify how long he/she will intend to stay in the US and what he/she will be doing here. In such a case, it would benefit that person greatly to have an actual customer in the region of the US that he/she was travelling to.

    A second option is to obtain what the US calls a B-2 visa. This is a visa that allows a person to visit the United States for personal or medical reasons. In this case, there will be no reason to have an actual customer in the region being travelled to. However, without extensive cash resources, or proof that he/she will be receiving income to sustain him/herself from his/her job overseas, the length of his/her stay will be limited. In this case it would help if he/she had a specific like-gendered US citizen individual that he/she was going to "visit". Because, in this situation, housing and whatnot will be assumed, it is possible that the visitor would be granted a longer stay.

    There are other options if he/she can claim to be employed by a US company, but I won't go into detail there.

    In both of the B-visa cases, the visitor must prove extensive ties to their country of origin. This can be shown with things such as a steady job, a residence that he/she owns, substantial family, a wife or husband, children, utilities in his/her name, etc. Basically, the burden of proof is on the visitor, and the decision lies in the hands of the person performing the interview. The visitor needs to prove, without a doubt, that he/she will return to his/her country at the end of his/her intended stay.

    I'm a bit of an expert when it comes to the US Visa/Immigration system... especially when it comes to finding holes and half-truths to get around the stupid rules that have been put in place.

    Posted 1 hour, 12 minutes after the fact
  3. Jim Reverend:

    I'm pretty sure that it's okay to Invoice an American company as long as you are invoicing them for a product or service, and not for wages. If they "hire" YOU, then you need an H1-B visa, which is much more difficult to obtain. If they pay for services from a UK based company which in turn hires you to do the work, you are working for a UK based company and not a US based company.

    However, my knowledge in that specific area is a bit grey.

    The most important thing is that you have a designated amount of time that you intend to stay, and the resources to afford your trip while you are here. A man and his wife on a 2-week vacation are more likely to be granted a B visa than a 20-something with no job, house, or money on his own wanted to stay for 1 year.

    Posted 1 hour, 24 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Alastair
  4. Jim Reverend:

    And, to answer your question more directly...

    Regardless of how "self-employed" you are or where your customers come from, if you intend to stay for longer than 3 months you'll have to have a very good reason why. And "because I want to" rarely qualifies. You'll need a better story, most likely.

    Posted 1 hour, 26 minutes after the fact
    Inspired: ↓ Dunstan
  5. Stew:

    Speak to the Embassy or the Foreign Office they *should* give you spot on advice.

    But yeah 3 months or more and you need a good reason I belive - looked at Canada for this year but decided against it after cash flow problems (damn my student ass! :P)

    Posted 2 hours, 50 minutes after the fact
    Inspired: ↓ Dunstan
  6. Dunstan:

    They don't, Stew, the US departments in this area are the worst in the world - they basically don't want you to visit, and make it as hard to achieve as possible.

    I've half been down this route before, and given up because they make any kind of progress (even contacting them) as difficult and long-winded as they can.

    I guess, from their point of view, with good reason. But from mine or yours, it's a pain in the ass.

    Posted 3 hours, 31 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Stew
  7. Dunstan:

    It seems under the visa-waiver program, anyone from the UK would qualify for a B1 or B2 visa automatically (unless they're a criminal), so that's the 3-month thing taken care of.

    I guess the only way to stay longer than three months is to apply for a more complex visa, which UK citizens don't get automatically. Green Cards and all that.

    Ho hum, looks like our mystery man will just have to fork out the cost of an air fare back to the UK every three months. Why the UK? Well, I did think you could just nip to Canada, or Mexico, but apparently not:

    "Travelers with onward tickets terminating in Mexico, Canada, Bermuda or the Caribbean Islands must be legal permanent residents of these areas;"

    Bummer :o(

    Posted 3 hours, 47 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Jim Reverend
    Inspired: ↓ Jim Reverend
  8. Jim Reverend:

    I can personally say that the 3-month rule is not at all enforced. Especially if you enter as a "Visitor" and just say you're going to see some friends... or whatever. The only time you are required to leave by a certain date or risk facing a 10-year ban from the US is if they actually give you an I-94(?) or a stamp in your passport with a return date on it.

    Posted 4 hours, 34 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Dunstan
  9. Seth:

    I would like to get the hell out of the US. I would be happy to switch identies with you and you can stay as long as you like.

    Posted 4 hours, 43 minutes after the fact
  10. David Collantes:

    The UK visa is way more complex and inaccesible than the US visa, I tell you that much. That is the reason I live in Florida and not in London. Try a little harder and you will get visa to US without much complications.

    Posted 7 hours, 5 minutes after the fact
  11. Carp:

    See if you can work in a visit to Goddard, Kansas. Zip code 67052. Just west of Wichita.

    I'm joking of course. We Goddardites even know the bordem quotient of our town.

    Um, yeeha, and all that.

    Ride em' cowboy, I suppose.

    Posted 7 hours, 20 minutes after the fact
    Inspired: ↓ Dustin
  12. MJH:

    You'd have better luck if you were mexican and an illegal immigrant. These days, our president will pardon such folk doing all the jobs we dont want to do.... apparently....

    Posted 8 hours, 19 minutes after the fact
  13. Keith:

    > These days, our president will pardon such folk doing all the jobs we dont want to do...

    All while we pay welfare to those who can work but don't want to.

    Posted 10 hours, 2 minutes after the fact
  14. Jemal:

    Simon could probably help:

    Posted 12 hours, 34 minutes after the fact
    Inspired: ↓ Richard Rutter
  15. Richard Rutter:

    As might this Simon:
    (although he managed to move permanently to the US)

    Incidentally, as I understand it, the visa-waiver program you mention ends this October. After which it is Visa time down at the American embassy.

    Still, at least Florida may as well stop filling out valuable advertising space with glorious visions of DisneyWorld, Miami Vice and the Everglades.

    Posted 15 hours, 37 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Jemal
    Inspired: ↓ Dunstan
  16. Dunstan:

    The visa waiver thing only ends for those people who don't have the little red passports, or for people applying for new passports. As my little red one doesn't run out for years, I'll be okay until then. Unless they change the laws again.

    But thanks for the link!

    Posted 15 hours, 52 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Richard Rutter
    Inspired: ↓ Nick
  17. Spike:

    Er, I'm not Gemma. Don't know what happened there!

    Posted 20 hours, 36 minutes after the fact
  18. Nick:

    If your return ticket is anywhere near the 90-day mark, the Immigration officers will raise their eyebrows at you. When they asked what I did, and I replied "self-employed", the officer said, "So, you haven't got a job?!". And plus, they have no obligation to let you in whatsoever - even if you have a visa (rather than a visa waiver) - they use the metaphor of "knocking on the door".

    And be prepared for them to read every page in your diary, and search all your bags.

    Posted 1 day, 2 hours after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Dunstan
  19. Jim:

    the visa situation is pretty riduculous. on first entry to the united states (I am a fellow Brit) I was asked all sorts of very intrusive questions just because I wasn't completely sure how long I would be staying. the customs officer treated me very suspiciously, and to be honest it scared the hell out of me.

    ideally, you should fall hopelessly in love with an american (as did i) and stay here permanently. then the REAL fun begins - with the hopelessly inadequate immigration system.

    not all bad though, i've found a lot more work over here than i ever did in the uk.

    Posted 1 day, 11 hours after the fact
  20. Tammy Fraser:

    I'm new to your site and love your photos. I just noticed this post and thought I might have a couple of suggestions to add. I live in the Seattle area of Washington state, but was looking into Visa stuff a few years ago for my sister in Edinburgh. I k now some things have changed recently, but there are special visas for artists, photographers are included. If you have clients here and you could say you're working on some project (The Bridges of Madison County have been done already!) I think you coul d do what you'd like. It's worth looking into anyway. You'd have no problem bringing your dog, but you couldn't take her back without her having to go through a hellish quarantine ordeal. Hope this helps. -Tammyr

    Posted 3 days, 7 hours after the fact
  21. Bruce:

    Holiday visa is useless for this situation, if you want to be legal. H1-B is expensive&hard, but it is much better then B type visas for 1 year visit. You are UK citizen, you can get a H1-B visa easily. You can't fly as a "self-employed person". It is really hard. This is what I tried to do, but I could not.

    Posted 4 days, 13 hours after the fact
  22. Ben Poole:

    Getting into America before *that* day was hard enough for people with VISAs going to work for their own employer for two weeks... Ahem. I dread to think how hard the situation is for you. You have my sympathies.

    Once you're in the States it's pretty good though, and worth persevering with the embassies / general jobs-worths over here ;o)

    Posted 6 days after the fact
  23. Rafael B.:

    I've been living in Dallas, Texas for the past (almost) 2 years. I moved here from Israel and started on a tourist visa, B1-B2. That visa was granted to me for 6 months. After those 6 months were over, I applied for an extension and used some friends as "sponsors" to justify my stay, and received another 6 months. From what I understood, it's easy to get extensions. After those 6 months expired, I applied for an F-1 student visa, and used some friends as sponsors. I've received that, but now I'm required to attend the community college in which I sent the applications from, and atleast 12 credits a semester. Right now I'm abit stuck from where to continue in my final goal in which I desire a Green Card, Citizenship or anything that could make me a legal worker in this country. Hope this helps, and if anybody can help me, I'll appriciate it.

    Posted 1 week after the fact
  24. Dustin:

    I assure you, Kansas is not the place to visit. :) Especially the capital city.

    Posted 1 week, 1 day after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Carp
  25. Carp:

    Well, there is Manhattan, where Kansas State University is. And Kansas City has good barbeque and a lot of fountains.

    Posted 1 week, 4 days after the fact

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