Dozy moment - ESTA

Old Aug 27, 13, 3:25 pm
  #1  
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Dozy moment - ESTA

Ok, brain is not functioning. I have an ESTA and I cannot for the life of me remember if there is a section in there where you state whether it is for business or pleasure (I obtained it last year before a vacation trip, and have only travelled to the US since then on pleasure, so it hasn't crossed my mind before)

If you have one of the open ones (valid for 2 years) can you travel for both business and pleasure on it, or do you have to go back in and change things if you ticked one, but intend to do the other (not working there, simply a business trip).

Last edited by emma69; Aug 27, 13 at 4:24 pm
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Old Aug 27, 13, 5:39 pm
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Dozy moment - ESTA

I have been using the only ESTA approval for both business and vacation travel. Never had a problem.
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Old Aug 28, 13, 7:21 am
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ESTA has nothing to do with business travel tbh. If you are planning on travelling for business you will need a business visa.
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Old Aug 28, 13, 7:37 am
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Originally Posted by SheBangsTheDrums View Post
ESTA has nothing to do with business travel tbh. If you are planning on travelling for business you will need a business visa.
ESTA works fine if
You are a citizen or eligible national of a Visa Waiver Program country.
You are currently not in possession of a visitor's visa.
Your travel is for 90 days or less.
You plan to travel to the United States for business or pleasure.
You want to apply for a new authorization for one person or a group of applications for two or more persons.
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Old Aug 28, 13, 8:20 am
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Originally Posted by bruceba View Post
ESTA works fine if
You are a citizen or eligible national of a Visa Waiver Program country.
You are currently not in possession of a visitor's visa.
Your travel is for 90 days or less.
You plan to travel to the United States for business or pleasure.
You want to apply for a new authorization for one person or a group of applications for two or more persons.
Let me clarify from my experience.

I am UK based, have a current ESTA and have been to the states 15-20 during the period of this current ESTA with no problems at all. I work on short-term projects so most of my travel is for 5 working days. When questioned by border control i always state that i am there for a series of meetings, rather than work itself.

However; I have a colleague who is in exactly the same position with regards to the above. He was recently stopped on entry to the states and questioned about why he was travelling etc. He gave the same response as stated above, there for meeting rather than work, and also had a return flight booked for 6 (maybe 7 days later).

He was refused entry, spent the night in the cells and told in no uncertain terms.....if you are going to the states, from the UK, you do require a business visa, an ESTA is not sufficient.

Going back to my experience, i have never had a problem entering, but to be clear, by the letter of the law if you are going to the states for business, you do require a visa.
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Old Aug 28, 13, 2:35 pm
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I agree with SheBangsTheDrums. I had to re-apply for a B1 visa recently, and when I went through the application process a few of the people I spoke to seemed to think that I would definitely need a B1 visa for the kinds of trips I do (meetings and trade shows, not anything that directly earns money), while a few other people thought that I would not need it and should just travel under the visa waiver program.

The guy at the embassy who did the final appointment said "Well, if you think you might need one, it's better to be safe than sorry", and put the application through.

From what I've seen the rules for business travel are inconsistently enforced. The vast majority of people I know who travel for business meetings under the VWP are allowed through, but I do know of two instances of people (real friends, not just stories heard online) who were turned away. They were podcasters travelling to do interviews at a trade show, so maybe they were turned away as "journalists" but it's still worth mentioning.

In my opinion, if you plan to travel frequently for business it might be worth calling the embassy to get some advice about the B1 visa.
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Old Aug 28, 13, 4:23 pm
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The exact wording under the VWP is:

"For the purpose of the Visa Waiver Program, "business" generally refers to business activities other than the performance of skilled or unskilled labor. Examples of activities that are allowed include:

- engaging in international commercial transactions, which do not involve gainful employment in the United States (such as a merchant who takes orders in the U.S. for goods manufactured abroad, or who travels to the U.S. to purchase American-made goods for export from the U.S.);
- negotiating contracts;
- consulting with business associates; and
- participating in scientific, educational, professional or business conventions, conferences, or seminars.

The performance of any skilled or unskilled labor - even if it is unpaid - is most always prohibited. This includes performing work in the U.S. as a trainer or consultant.
"

I frequently visit the US under VWP for meetings with my company's global management and have never had an issue. Clearly however anyone who states their profession as "consultant" is going to raise a flag.
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Old Aug 28, 13, 6:26 pm
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Thanks for the input - I have travelled under the VWP before for work (meetings, etc. nothing that would have required a separate visa) with no issue. What Bruceba posted was similar language for the VWP forms - you could travel for pleasure, or for things like meetings and conferences on it - I was never told I needed a visa to attend an internal meeting etc.

I even *think* I did it on an ESTA, but I did it as a single use type one when they first came out.

What I am not sure of is if an ESTA (valid for 2 years) can be switched between business and pleasure - that is, weekend with the girls in Miami one week, trip down for a meeting in LA the next week. I don't believe I require a separate business/work visa, and I don't expect it to be a regular thing.

From reading, it does seem like it can be used for either purpose interchangably, which makes sense, you could use the VWP for both without having to fill in a new one once it was in your passport.

I went through the form, and it doesn't appear to ask the purpose of the trip on the form, so I am guessing it doesn't matter to them - and that they will ask purpose at the airport.

Thanks all!
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Old Aug 29, 13, 6:36 am
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Originally Posted by emma69 View Post
What I am not sure of is if an ESTA (valid for 2 years) can be switched between business and pleasure - that is, weekend with the girls in Miami one week, trip down for a meeting in LA the next week. I don't believe I require a separate business/work visa, and I don't expect it to be a regular thing.
I entered the US at JFK earlier this year and was asked the usual "purpose of visit" and "how long you staying". I told the CBP guy that it was a mix of business and pleasure - meetings at my global HQ and then a week in the south with my wife. He stamped my passport and said "welcome back".
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Old Aug 29, 13, 7:09 am
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another thing to consider if one decides to apply for a visa and it is denied their current ESTA is void, If you re-apply for your Esta you will have to declare the visa denial and Esta will be likely denied for at least 6 months.
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Old Aug 29, 13, 9:59 am
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You don't need a B1 Visa for a business trip if you fall under the Visa Waiver Regulation. Even with a B1 Visa you are not allowed to work in the US. The B1 is just a business visa and you can be rejected on the same grounds from entering the US as someone who comes under the Visa Waiver and states he is on a business trip.

The trick is really do understand the definition of a business trip which is stated in post #7. If you you are not within this definition or at least you can't convince the immigration officer of this you will be denied entry.

Typical Do Nots at immigration are:
"I'm here for work." if you actually mean you have some meetings with a client.
"I work for a client here". if you actually mean you have consult with business partners.
Best thing is not to even mention the word "work".
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Old Aug 29, 13, 3:09 pm
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Originally Posted by SheBangsTheDrums View Post
ESTA has nothing to do with business travel tbh. If you are planning on travelling for business you will need a business visa.
Most VWP country citizens who are visiting the US for business do not need a business visa. Whether or not a visa is required of VWP countries' citizens coming to the US on business depends on the nature of the business trip.
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Old Aug 30, 13, 2:31 am
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It's ok to say you are in the US for business if the work you are going to do there is part of your job back home. Not ok if it's a gig on the side, or if your are self-employed and would be paid there.
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Old Aug 30, 13, 12:06 pm
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This is a perfect definition, MariaSF.
What officers care is the origin of money. The ESTA supports travels for business meetings purpose.
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Old Aug 31, 13, 7:00 pm
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Originally Posted by SheBangsTheDrums View Post
He was refused entry, spent the night in the cells and told in no uncertain terms.....if you are going to the states, from the UK, you do require a business visa, an ESTA is not sufficient.
And going forward, for him, that is correct.

Once you had been denied entry to the country, you can no longer enter under the VWP, and will need to obtain a visa for all future trips.

This will NOT have been the reason them refusing him entry to the country in the first place.

The VWP (what is what you are entering under when using an ESTA) has always allowed for entry for both "tourism" and "business", and they should even mark the class on the stamp in your passport differently for each - "WT" for tourist, "WB" for business.

Originally Posted by MariaSF View Post
It's ok to say you are in the US for business if the work you are going to do there is part of your job back home. Not ok if it's a gig on the side, or if your are self-employed and would be paid there.
Correct - that's the distinction between "business" (which is allowed on the VWP) and "work" (which is not). The rules aren't quick as black-and-white as this, but the distinct is generally fairly clear cut.
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