Can You Work in the US with a Tourist Visa?

Traveling to the US is one dream that many people across the globe nurture. And, while many do get the opportunity to translate this dream into reality, it is only for a short time period, based on the validity of their tourist visa. However, once they’ve entered America, there also are some who give in to the temptation of staying on in the country and trying to find a way to make it their home.

In a nutshell, if you are found working on a tourist visa, stay prepared to get arrested and expelled from the country.

According to the DHS, in 2015, the rate of suspected overstays for business travelers and international tourists was 0.9%, which represented 416,500 travelers out of about 45 million tourists and business travelers who came to the country that year. So, what happens when you overstay your visa?

Travelers Overstay Visitor’s Visa to Work in the US

The US government issues a visitor’s visa, for which the length of stay for each visit is determined by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP).  Typically, the maximum length of the stay is kept to six months. Visitors are required to return to their home country before the approved length of stay ends.  They can only overstay their visitor’s visa if they have been granted an extension by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Related: How many times can you visit USA on B1/B2 Visa

You might be thinking what might have compelled these 0.9% visitors to overstay their visitor’s visa, which means they remained in the US past the expiration date stated on their Form I-94 Arrival/Departure record. The primary reason for most people overstaying this expiration date is to find work in the world’s largest economy.

Consequences of Working in the US on a Tourist Visa

If you are visiting America on a tourist/visitor’s visa, you should know that it is strictly forbidden to work or study in the United States. This prohibition applies not just to regular, full-time jobs but also to anyone working in the US and receiving compensation for lodging or meals, or even working without a wage. If you do want to work in America, you need to obtain a special work permit visa or an H1, L1 visa.

When you enter the country on a tourist visa, you cannot legally look for work. And, if you are found looking for a job, the immediate effect would be your deportation or even a ban on any future entry into the US.

The Law Offices of Michael J Gurfinkel shared a real life story of Abe, who was caught working on a visitors visa. It wasn’t Abe’s first visit to the US on a tourist visa. However, on his last trip, it was discovered by the immigration officer that he had worked in America on a previous visit. As legal action, Abe was sent back to his home country of the Philippines. His family was waiting outside at the airport arrival area, but he wasn’t given the chance to see them. Even when Abe’s son petitioned on his behalf, Abe was refused a visa. Abe’s wife was forced to migrate alone to the US.

In a nutshell, if you are found working on a tourist visa, stay prepared to get arrested and expelled from the country. However, if you are someone who genuinely wants to work in the US, I strongly would recommend that you apply to change your visa status and obtain a work visa in the US during the validity period of your current status. This can be done by filing an application with the USCIS before the expiration date on your I-94.

About the author

Mani Karthik

Hi, Mani Karthik here. Having lived in USA, India & Middle East, and worked for big MNC's to startups, I have a lot to share with you. My aim is to help people, by sharing everything I've learned in life. This blog is read today, by more than 200K people world over! I'm basically from Kochi, Kerala and spend my time between Los Angeles and India. Here's my full story. Connect with me on FacebookInstagram, Twitter or WhatsApp (+001-408-489-4785). :)

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