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07.07.2015 DO I REALLY NEED A WORK VISA TO WORK IN THE USA? By: Eliot Norman

This seems like an obvious question that only has a “YES” answer.

After all, why do we have all these employment-based visa categories: H-1Bs for professionals, L-1s for intra-company transfers, E-1s and E-2s for treaty traders and treaty investors for their valuable executives or employees with “essential skills”; and J-1s for interns and trainees who can be paid and engage in productive employment.

But the real answer is NO.  Strange but true…

There are a number of important exceptions.  Here are just a few from a very, very long list:

  • Foreign companies can send workers to the United States to install equipment under an international sales contract as business visitors, even without visas,  provided certain conditions are satisfied and without the need to open a U.S. office;
  • Spouses of L-1, E-1, E-2, J-1, and under certain circumstances, H-1B visa holders, can apply for work permits authorizing full or part-time employment or to start a business from home;  
  • Foreign crews can work on a super-yacht  sailing in U.S. waters from a foreign home port using just the B-1 Business Visitor category;
  • You can enter the USA as a business visitor to prepare your new U.S. subsidiary to “open its doors” for business without a work visa if you follow specific guidelines.


Want to know more about these “strange but true” exceptions?  See our FAQ #6 on visas here.