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June 28, 2019

Business Travel 101: Canadian Visitors to the United States

Canadians can generally enter the United States for brief business (B-1) and pleasure (B-2) purposes with a fair amount of ease. However, we often get questions from business professionals with respect to their limitations—that is, when does the scope of their activity go beyond that of a B-1 visitor to the point where a work permit is needed?

Canadian business visitors can typically enter the United States to participate in activities of a commercial or professional nature, including but not limited to:

  • Business meetings, conferences, and trade shows
  • Attending scientific, educational, professional, or business conventions, conferences, or seminars on specific dates
  • Commercial transactions that do not involve gainful US employment (e.g., taking orders for foreign goods, but not filling the orders from the United States)
  • Negotiating a contract
  • Litigation
  • Settling an estate
  • Researching options for starting a business or investing in the United States (e.g., activities that may eventually qualify you for E-2 Treaty Investor or L-1 New Office nonimmigrant status)
  • Installation, service, or repair of commercial and industrial equipment purchased from outside the United State and/or providing training to US workers to perform those services
  • Independent research or professional artistic activity (e.g., music recording, artistic work such as painting, sculpture, or photography) that does not involve income from a US source

In short, B-1 visitors cannot engage in any activity or perform a service that would constitute “local employment for hire” within the United States; the activity in the United States must be directly connected with and part of the entrant’s work abroad. It may be permissible to conduct business activities on behalf of a foreign employer, but compensation may not come from a US source.

Further, an inspecting Customs & Border Protection (CBP) officer’s analysis of a Canadian’s admissibility does not stop there. The B-1 category is not meant for extended, long-term, or sustained activity in the United States. Therefore, a frequent business traveler to the United States who develops a regular pattern of travel or whose periods of stay in the country tend to be lengthy may be flagged and denied entry. In the event of being denied entry, that person may be told to get a work permit or to prove stronger ties to Canada.

If you, your sales personnel, account managers, or other key employees make frequent or lengthy trips to the United States annually, contact our immigration team at Barclay Damon. We’ll help ensure the best practices are in place to safeguard your continued B-1 business travel to the United States.

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