The Joys of International Freelancing?
December 6, 2010 8:20 PM Subscribe
I am US citizen, and the sole proprietor of a business offering software development and consulting services -- in other words, I'm a freelancer. However, I'm a bit of a nomad at the moment, doing a lot of international travel for pleasure, and am gradually picking up clients from first-world nations (UK, Canada, NZ, Australia). I'm curious about the legality (at a broad level, you are not my lawyer) of me working on my freelance tasks as I move around on non-work visas, especially when I may find myself in a country where I currently have an active client.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (9 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Asked anonymously in case I find out that I may be doing something wrong...
Assume I have an address in California, I'm getting paid in US Dollars, and I have someone managing my taxes back home. I work as an independent contractor, and the contracts seem business-to-business in nature. I'm NOT registered as a LLC at the moment, just a sole proprietor.
I deal with my existing clients through email, Skype, etc. and find new clients through referrals and LinkedIn.
Here is my current understanding of the situation:
If I'm physically in the USA, I'm allowed to take on projects for American clients, or foreign clients, and do as much work as I want. If I'm paying my taxes, and the foreign clients are clear to buy services from my company, there's no issue.
If I'm physically out of the USA, there doesn't seem to be any problem with me working on projects for my American clients. It also seems unlikely that New Zealand would care if I sit in a library in Auckland and do work for an Aussie client. There's a big difference between this, and me trying to get a cash-in-hand job at some local bar that should be going to someone with a legal right to work.
However, what if I'm in a country, working on contracts for a client from that country? For example, what if I'm passing through Australia doing work for a company based in Melbourne, while on a non-work visa? Is it OK to go to Ruby on Rails meetups and meet people who may want to hire me, in the official context of "purchasing services" from my foreign company?
The whole thing seems sketchy, since if I were not a knowledge worker with the ability to work remotely, the question would be phrased as: "Can I go into a foreign country as a tourist, go to a dishwashing convention and obtain work as a dishwasher without a work visa?" ... the answer to that one is obviously no.
Am I horribly mistaken? Is this just a perk of being a knowledge worker in the digital age, being able to divorce your physical location from your "official" place of business? It seems like a big loophole. The point of my travel is NOT business in a traditional sense... taking on contracts allows the "pleasure" to continue.
Feel free to email me at: email@example.com