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B-1 Visitor Visa: Traveling to the U.S. for Work as a Personal or Domestic Employee

B-1 visas are issued to personal or domestic employees to accompany or follow to join their employers to the U.S. and provide household services for them. These include cooks, butlers, chauffeurs, housemaids, valets, footmen, nannies, au pairs, mothers’ helpers, gardeners, and paid companions. The employer must be a U.S. citizen living abroad, a U.S. citizen on temporary assignment in the U.S., a person in nonimmigrant status, or a lawful permanent resident.

WHEN MAY A PERSONAL OR DOMESTIC EMPLOYEE COME TO THE UNITED STATES TO WORK? 

You may work in the U.S. as a personal or domestic employee if you receive the B-1 visa for this purpose and then apply for and receive work authorization after you arrive in the country.

Personal or domestic employees may receive the B-1 visa to perform their job duties if the following special circumstances exist:

Personal or Domestic Employees of U.S. Citizens Living Abroad or U.S. Citizens on Temporary Assignment in U.S. 

B-1 visas are issued to personal or domestic employees whose employer is a U.S. citizen with a permanent home abroad or is stationed abroad and is visiting or assigned to the U.S. temporarily.

In addition, the conditions below must be met:

  • The employee has a residence abroad which he or she has no intent to abandon;
  • The employee has been employed abroad by the employer as a personal or domestic servant for at least six months prior to the date the employer is admitted to the U.S; or the employer shows that, while abroad, the employer has regularly employed a domestic servant in the same role as that intended for the visa applicant;
  • The employee demonstrates at least one year experience as a personal or domestic servant by providing reference letters from prior employers; and
  • The employee has an original contract or a copy of the contract, to be presented at the U.S. port of entry, which is signed by both the employer and the employee, and contains specific terms, such as payment of minimum or prevailing wages, whichever is greater for an eight hour work-day.

The U.S. citizen employer who is returning to the U.S. for a temporary assignment must be subject to frequent international transfers of two years or more as a job condition and the return to the U.S. should last no more than six years.

Personal or Domestic Employees of Foreign Nationals in Nonimmigrant Status

B-1 visas are issued to personal or domestic employees whose employer is seeking entry into, or is already in, the U.S. in B, E, F, H, I, J, L, M, O, P, or Q nonimmigrant status.

In addition, the conditions below must be met:

  • The employee has a residence abroad which he or she has no intent to abandon (even if the employer is in a nonimmigrant status that does not require a residence abroad);
  • The employee has been employed abroad by the employer as a personal or domestic employee for at least one year prior to the date the employer is admitted to the U.S., or if the employee-employer relationship existed immediately prior to the time of visa application, the employer shows that he or she has regularly employed (either year-round or seasonally) personal or domestic employees over several years preceding the domestic employee’s B-1 visa application;
  • The employee demonstrates at least one year experience as a personal or domestic servant; and
  • The employee has an original contract or a copy of the contract, to be presented at the U.S. port of entry, which is signed by both the employer and the employee, and contains specific terms, such as payment of minimum or prevailing wages, whichever is greater for an eight hour work-day.

Personal or Domestic Employees of Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs)

B-1 visas are issued to personal or domestic employees of lawful permanent residents (LPRs), including conditional permanent residents and LPRs who have filed a Form N-470, Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes.

Employment Authorization is Required

Before you begin working as a personal or domestic employee, you must file a Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, with USCIS following entry into the U.S. as a B-1 visitor. You need to wait for USCIS to approve the Form I-765 and issue the Employment Authorization Document (work card) to start your employment.

Source of Payment to Personal or Domestic Employees

The source of payment to a B-1 personal or domestic employee or the place where the payment is made or the location of the bank is irrelevant.

Consular Officer Responsibilities in Processing B-1 Visa Applications for Personal or Domestic Employees

The 2008 William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (WWTVPRA) requires consular officers to inform personal or domestic employees applying for a B-1 visa of their legal rights under U.S. immigration, labor, and employment laws.  This includes information on the illegality of slavery, peonage, trafficking in persons, sexual assault, extortion, blackmail, and worker exploitation in the U.S.

Consular officers are instructed, at the time of the interview, to confirm the applicant has received, read and understood the Legal Rights and Protections pamphlet.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR THE B-1 VISA?

Temporary visitors must meet the following eligibility requirements:

1. Maintain a residence in a foreign country, which you do not intend to abandon

Under U.S. immigration law, the term “residence” is defined as the place of general abode, i.e. your principal, actual dwelling place in fact, without regard to intent. You must show strong ties to your country, including family connections, property ownership, investments, and steady employment. If the U.S. Consulate has doubts about your intent, you may offer to leave a child, spouse, or other dependent abroad.

2. Intend to stay in the U.S. for a specific, limited period

The period of stay must be limited and not indefinite in nature. The expected length of stay must match the stated purpose of the trip. You must show with reasonable certainty that you will leave the U.S. upon completing your visit, prior to expiration of the authorized stay.

3. Seek entry solely to engage in legitimate activities permitted by the visa

You must be coming to the U.S. only to complete activities that are allowed by your visa classification. U.S. consular officers will deny the visa and U.S. customs officers will deny your entry if they have reason to believe or know that, while in the U.S. as a visitor, you will engage in unlawful or criminal activities.

You must have the funds or an employer-employee contract to cover the cost of the trip and your stay in the U.S. Otherwise, the U.S. consular officer or customs officer could find that you will work in the U.S. without authorization to defray expenses. You may even be issued an expedited removal order at the U.S. port of entry if the customs officer determines you have previously violated your B-visa status or intend to do so.

4. Have no immigration violations or criminal offenses that make you inadmissible, or otherwise qualify for an inadmissibility waiver

You will not receive the visa or be admitted if you are barred from entering the U.S. due to immigration violations or criminal offenses that make you inadmissible under U.S. immigration law. These include the 3/10 year bar due to accrual of unlawful presence of more than 180 days during a prior stay; conviction for a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude (e.g. theft or fraud) that does not qualify for the petty offense or youthful offender exception; and willful misrepresentation of material facts to gain entry into the U.S.

When you are inadmissible, but are otherwise visa eligible, you may file a 212(d)(3) nonimmigrant waiver to be excused from almost all inadmissibility grounds. A separate I-212 waiver (Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States After Deportation or Removal) is needed if you are barred due to a prior removal order or illegal (or attempted illegal) reentry into the U.S.

B-2 IS DIFFERENT FROM B-1

The B-1 is under the same B-visa classification as the B-2 visa (for tourism and temporary visits), but is less restrictive. You may participate in tourist activities on a B-1 visa or a combined B-1/B-2 visa, but may not engage in temporary business activities while on a B-2 visa only.

WORK WITH AN IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY

Failure to overcome the presumption of immigrant intent and show strong ties abroad is one of the top reasons for a visa refusal or denial. Inadmissibility grounds can also prevent a visa grant or your entry into the U.S.

Consult an experienced immigration attorney to assess your visa eligibility, advise you on the forms and documents to submit, and assist you with the application process to get the B-1 visa to accompany or follow to join your employer as a personal or domestic employee.

For more information, read our related articles, B-1 Visitor Visa: Traveling to the U.S. for Business and B-2 Visitor Visa: Traveling to the U.S. for Tourism or a Temporary Visit.

This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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