Can I Work in USA with a Tourist Visa?

According to the Department of Homeland Security, the rate of suspected overstays by tourists and business travelers in 2017 stood 1.33%. This means that 701,900 people, out of nearly 52.7 million, overstayed their B1/B2 visa duration that year.

A major chunk of these people were tourists, who come for a holiday but started working in the country. This is an illegal practice that can have serious consequences, since the tourist visa does not allow you to work in the US.

What will Happen if I Work in the US on a B1/B2 Visa?

Since it is strictly forbidden to work in the US on a tourist visa, you could face arrest as well as deportation, if caught. You may also be banned from entering the United States in the future. This prohibition applies to full time as well as part-time jobs, and even some types of volunteer activities. So, if you want to work in the US legally, you must obtain a valid work visa, such as the H1-B or L1 visa.

If you are already in the US on a B category visa and wish to find employment, you must first apply for a change of visa status. This can be done by submitting an application to the USCIS before your current visa expires.

On failing to change your status within the stipulated time, your presence in the US beyond the expiry date will be considered unlawful. This can lead to severe penalties, such as:

Recommended Plans

⭐⭐⭐⭐ Atlas America 100% Coverage, Comprehensive plan
⭐⭐⭐ Safe Travels USA 100% Coverage, Comprehensive plan
⭐⭐ Patriot America Plus 100% Coverage, Comprehensive plan

How to Apply for a Work Visa?

Based on your skills and immigration situation, there are a number of work visas available. The most common work visa that foreign nationals apply for is the H1-B visa. This allows you to work for a US employer in a specialty occupation.

To get this visa, your company will have to file an I-129 with the USCIS. In the petition, they must state that you are already residing in the US under a B1 or B2 visa and request for two things:

  1. To change your existing visa status to H1-B
  2. To extend this status for a specific duration (usually three years), so that you can work for the company.

Another work visa that you can apply for is the O-1 visa. This will allow you to work for a US employer temporarily. You are eligible for the O category visa only if you have extraordinary abilities. The process of application is similar to that for the H1-B visa.

There are many other work visas that you may be eligible for. The most important thing to keep in mind is to apply for a work visa before your B category visa expires. If you neglect to do so and start working in the US, you could face huge problems if you are caught by the authorities.

Recommended Plan For Your Travel

Safe Travels

Best for Visitors
Economical Plan
COVID19 included
Covers Medical
Pre-Existing Conditions
First Health Network


Atlas America

Rated “A – Excellent”
COVID19 included
Covers Medical
Covers Dental
Trip Cancellation
Full Refund on Cancel

Mani Karthik

About the Author

Mani Karthik

Ex “NRI” and Founder of the “Back to India” movement. I share my experience about immigrating to USA here.