News report | | 24/03/2023 | ±4 minutes reading time

For most British travellers visiting the United States for a transfer or a short stay of up to 90 days, the ESTA is sufficient. The ESTA is suitable for tourism and for business trips, but not for working for a US employer. In fact, that requires a visa.

Working in America with an ESTA or visa

Most British travellers need only an ESTA to visit the US for tourism, business or for a transfer. To apply for this American travel authorisation, travellers must meet all the ESTA requirements. The ESTA is not only suitable for tourism, but also for several business-related activities in America, such as attending conferences. You may also work in America with an ESTA, but only for employers based outside the USA. In fact, working for an American employer requires a visa.

If you are travelling to the USA for tourism business, you may apply for a B-2 (for tourism) or B1 (for business) visa instead of an ESTA. Applying for a visa is more expensive and takes more time than applying for an ESTA. Therefore, it is only recommended for travellers not eligible for the ESTA, due to their nationality or due to not meeting all the ESTA requirements.

Conducting business in the United States

Both with and ESTA and with the B-1 visa for America, travellers are allowed to carry out various business-related activities. However, neither may be used to work for a US employer. With an ESTA, each stay in the United States may last up to 90 consecutive days. The B-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa, so it allows only temporary stays in the US.

Visa needed to work for an American employer

Holding an ESTA or a B visa doesn’t allow travellers to work for an American company or organisations, which requires a different visa. Several non-immigrant visas are suitable for temporary employment, such as the H-1B, L-1 or O-1 visas. Immigrating to the USA to permanently settle down in the country requires an immigrant visa instead.

Staying in the US after termination of employment: the grace period

Once you have obtained a visa to work in the United States, it should stay valid as long as you are employed in the US. Under certain circumstances, you may stay in the USA up to 60 days after termination of employment. This is the so-called grace period. During the 60-day grace period, it is possible to apply for a new temporary visa.

For instance: you have a temporary work visa (a non-immigrant visa) valid for 2 years because your employment in the USA also lasts 2 years. In theory, you are supposed to leave the US as soon as your employment ends. If you work for the same employer for 2 full years, there is no grace period. However, if you quit within the 2 years, you are still allowed to stay in the USA for up to 60 days. Nonetheless, you may never stay in America longer than the original validity period of your visa (so you would still have to leave by the original end date of your employment). For example, if your employment is terminated 40 days before the expiry date of your visa, you are still allowed to stay up to 40 days in the United States.

Applying for a new status

In most cases, the grace period begins automatically the day after termination of employment. It is not relevant whether the termination of employment was voluntary or not. Depending on the non-immigrant visa holder’s situation, they can make use of a number of options during the grace period:

  • Change of status: in this case, the traveller applies for the same non-immigrant visa during the grace period (if another US employer submits a visa application for the traveller), or for another type of non-immigrant visa.
  • Adjustment of status: in this case, the traveller (with a non-immigrant visa) applies for an immigrant visa. This is only possible under certain circumstances. In fact, this opportunity is usually given to certain investors and to individuals with extraordinary skills.
  • If an applicant is not satisfied with the duration of the grace period, they may apply for an Employment Authorisation Document, which is only issued under special circumstances.

If you have already left the USA

Workers may only make use of the grace period if they are still located in the United States. If you have already left the USA, you need to apply for a new travel authorisation for travelling to the USA. If you are going to the US for a transfer, for tourism or for business, you may easily apply for an ESTA online. However, you must meet all the ESTA requirements.

Please note: this news article about the ESTA for the USA is more than one year old. It might contain outdated information and advice, and no rights can therefore be derived from this article. Are you going on a trip soon and do you wish to do know what rules currently apply? Read all about the up-to-date information about the ESTA for the USA.

e-Visa.co.uk is a commercial and professional visa agency, and supports travellers in obtaining, among others, the ESTA USA. e-Visa.co.uk acts as an intermediary and is in no way part of any government. You can also apply for an ESTA directly with the immigration service (21 USD per ESTA, via esta.cbp.dhs.gov). However, not with our level of support. If you submit your application via e-Visa.co.uk, our support centre is available to you 24/7. In addition, we manually check your application and all the documents you provide before submitting it to the immigration authorities on your behalf. If we suspect any errors or omissions while doing so, we will personally contact you to ensure that your application can still be processed quickly and correctly. To use our services, you pay us 21 USD in consular fees, which we pay to the immigration service on your behalf, as well as £33.08 in service fees as compensation for our services, including VAT. Our services have saved many travellers from major problems during their trip. Should an application be rejected despite our support and verification, we will refund the full purchase price (unless an application for a previous ESTA USA was rejected for the same traveller). Read more about our services here.