by Alexandra LaCombe, Guest Blogger for DBusiness
Technology is so immediate and efficient that today’s corporate pace rarely has reason to pause. Unfortunately, the often snail speed of the government, especially in the area of immigration, has not adapted to the urgent flow of today’s business world.
Panic by corporations often sets in when told to wait days or even weeks for the U.S. Department of State to approve visas for foreign professionals who need to travel to this country on business purposes. It happened recently when the Department of State’s computers had a glitch and were not issuing visas at all, except for urgent humanitarian reasons.
Today’s 24/7 solutions-driven professionals might be tempted to find a way to “work around the system” so their business travels aren’t disrupted due to glitches or slow government pace. For example:
A Russian employee needs to travel to the United States for a major two-week long seminar where he will provide training to his American colleagues on new technology developed in Russia. He’s ready to apply for a work visa, but there’s a computer problem causing a delay by the Department of State, and visa appointments are not being scheduled.
As a result, the employee will be forced to miss the entire seminar. Frustrated, he contemplates just getting on the airplane and telling Immigration that he’s visiting the United States as a sightseeing tourist, as he already has a tourist visa in his passport from an earlier vacation trip. That way, he can enter the country without an additional visa. So, why not just go that route?
Another scenario is that a U.S. company wants to bring a worker in from Switzerland to replace an employee who’s going out on maternity leave. Rather than deal with waiting time and legalities, the company suggests the Swiss professional tell Immigration that they are visiting as a sightseeing tourist. No messy visa to deal with, right?
Both are illegal, and no one wants to deal with hefty fines, debarment from bringing foreign nationals to the United States, and bad publicity.
To work more appropriately within the system, employees should apply for a work or business visitor visa the moment they realize a need for travel into the United States.
Step one is understanding what type of visa is required.
The foreign professional may be eligible for a B1 Business Visitor visa if participating in business activities of a commercial or professional nature in the United States, including, but not limited to:
- Consulting with business associates
- Traveling for a scientific, educational, professional, or business convention, or a conference on specific dates
- Settling an estate
- Negotiating a contract
- Sales/marketing presentations
- Participating in short-term training (receiving, not giving)
- After-sales installation, service, and warranty work pursuing to an existing agreement
- Certain persons may transit the United States with a B-1 visa
To be eligible:
- The purpose of the trip is to enter the United States for legitimate business activities of an international commercial nature, which benefit the foreign entity and are controlled by the foreign entity
- Plan to remain for a specific limited period of time
- Said individual has the funds to cover their stay in the United States
- Residence is outside the United States with no intention of abandoning it and have binding ties which will ensure return abroad at the end of the visit
Business visitor compliance is critical, and the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State closely scrutinize employers’ use of the business visitor program. Elements of a strong compliance-focused program include carefully screening prospective travelers, verifying that planned activities are appropriate, monitoring the actual activities, and ensuring timely departure from the United States.
Although slower-than-business-speed government processing or computer malfunctions shouldn’t have to hinder U.S. business, it is a reality. Despite today’s constantly moving business world, patience is a virtue that still holds true. Knowledge of visa requirements and preparation is key to smoother business travels.
Alexandra LaCombe is a managing partner and attorney at Troy-based Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen, and Loewy. She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and serves as an adjunct professor at the University of Detroit-Mercy School of Law, teaching immigration law within the University’s “Law Firm” practice curriculum.
This post appeared originally on DBusiness.com.