Do I need a visa for a 7-week workshop?
August 6, 2011 5:30 AM   Subscribe

Does a Canadian taking a 7-week workshop in the US need a visa? A non-profit organization is hosting the workshop, not an accredited school.
posted by JPDD to Law & Government (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Under the terms of the Visa Waiver Program Canadian nationals can travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. So the only issue is if you'll be attending the workshop for a business purpose (presumably the workshop isn't a tourist destination).

If the workshop can be best described as training, then the training program provided by the workshop must not be designed primarily to provide employment and you must receive no payment or income from a U.S. based company/entity, other than an expense allowance or expense reimbursement related to your trip. If the workshop is best described as a business event or conference, you must receive no salary or income from a U.S based company/entity and the workshop must be for scientific, educational, professional or business purposes.
posted by RichardP at 6:09 AM on August 6, 2011

ARGH! Please ignore my first paragraph above. Canada doesn't participate in the Visa Waiver Program. Canadian citizens can enter the U.S. without visa under very generous terms that (in most cases) do not have a time limit.
posted by RichardP at 6:13 AM on August 6, 2011

Wow, it's surprising that they include studying in that statement, I definitely know a few people who have gotten student visas to study in the US - maybe it's more of a precaution than a requirement (to ensure easy re-entry etc...)?

Anyway, the workshop is a radio training program, but I don't currently work in radio, no jobs are promised as a result, and I'm certainly not getting paid (I'm paying them)... so... I guess I'm in the clear? Thanks for the help!
posted by JPDD at 6:23 AM on August 6, 2011

It sounds to me that this is the sort of thing, as RichardP suggests, that you can do with "B-1 status". B-1 is a sort of catch-all for business trips. See:

It covers, among other things:

"Training: Participating in a training program that is not designed primarily to provide employment. Will receive no payment or income from a U.S. based company/entity...."

I'm no great expert. But I am a Canadian who has traveled multiple times on B-1.

Note that while Canadians do not need to go through a pre-trip visa-application process to get a B-1 visa, you do need to tell the border guys what you are up to, and they will choose to approve you or not. As I understand it, the rules of the B-1 apply pretty much equally to Canadians as they to do other people, the difference being that you apply at the border rather than in advance. The "application" usually takes less than a minute - you tell the guy what you're doing, he stamps your passport, and you are good. Very infrequently, they may choose to ask you more questions. This process, if it happens, can involve a couple of hours of waiting, but I think it's pretty unusual. (It happened to me once, but my visa situation at the time was more complicated than yours sounds...)

The key points to make clear, as I understand them, are that you will not be earning any income from any US source, and that you will return to Canada, where you maintain your permanent residence, as soon as the course is over. If you want to be extra-careful, you might want to get a letter from the organizaition offering the training, explaining all this. But that might me more than is necessary... has some pretty good discussion forums about visa stuff for Canadians traveling to the US.
posted by ManInSuit at 7:37 AM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

If it's for less than 3 months, you're almost certainly fine.
posted by Maias at 6:19 PM on August 6, 2011

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