Challenges with Border Guards - RE the Laws

There is no such thing as a generic “work visa” for the US. There are many different visas that allow for work, but each has very specific requirements (e.g. TN for Canadians and Mexicans working in specific occupations, L-1 for multinational transferees, H-1B for degreed professionals, etc) and most require an employer to file the paperwork.


Right. To your question: If you’re not comfortable saying that you’re coming as a tourist while you’re headed to sits, you should be prepared for the possibility of being turned away.


About entry to the U.K., anecdotally: About a week ago, I used the automated eGate (let them scan your face and passport, if you’re a citizen from certain countries) at Heathrow without problem. No human contact. I hold a U.S. passport. It’s the second time this year that I’ve entered the U.K.

I would stick to your ‘vacation’ response.


I wouldn’t want such letters in my possession, because they clearly indicate that you’re there to sit in exchange for housing, which various countries don’t allow legally.

When I headed to the U.K. for my sit, I’d already gotten to know my HOs in a friendly way via WhatsApp. I also had their full names, cell phone number and address in my mobile’s address book, in case I was asked to provide them on entry at the airport. Because that’s what friends have when they’re on their way for a visit. And agents will sometimes ask where you’ll be staying.


Dear THS friends,
I am so sad this morning as one of my friend, that I referred to become a THS sitter, has been denied to entry in USA yesterday while going through immigration at the airport.
She was heading for a sit in USA. Not only was she investigated throughly, the THS letter got the officer offended with the word “lawyer”.
They took her picture, fingers prints and she is now put on a list to be “watched”.

My friend is a 67 years old retired nurse. Never committed any crime.

I am so sad.

I am in the process of obtaining my green card for permanent residency in the states and I am already a NEXUS member ( trusted traveller for USA). I do not want to lose this thrust. Therefore, I intend to pause my sittings in the states.

Be careful. What we consider a joyful and helpful way of travelling is not shared by everyone.


Sorry to hear this @Brigitte and thank you for bringing it to the attention of the forum.

What country was you friend travelling from ? What passport do they have ? How long were they planning to be in USA for ?

She is Canadian with a Canadian passport ! was going to the States for three weeks. Was stopped from doing so from Montréal airport.

Basically, this is what it boils down to in various countries:

• Declare you’re going to pet- and house-sit and risk being flagged and refused entry, which is costly. If you happen to be carrying those THS letters, you’ll potentially end up worse off, because they clearly indicate that you’re there to do something that various countries don’t want you doing. If you happen to luck out, you get a border agent who lets you slide. (Note: It’s not in the agent’s interest to do that, because they can get in trouble for not following the law.)

• Say you’re a tourist and/or visiting friends and you’re more likely to avoid problems. Not comfortable doing that? Then be prepared to possibly spend money and time traveling, only to be sent home or worse, as with @Brigitte’s friend.

• Don’t attempt to sit in such countries if you don’t want to take your chances and/or can’t afford wasted airfare and other expenses.

To me, it makes no sense that anyone thinks those THS letters are helpful. It’s a for-profit business declaring that it’s sending people to do what various countries consider work, which locals could do for pay and which would be taxable income.


We have done sits in the States. What did she tell them at the border? We always say we are visiting friends. It is not a lie.

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She petsat before in the states and had no problem saying what she was doing. Last time in Seattle, the officer wished her a good Time while petsitting.
I was once asked how I met these friends I was going to visit. Euh :woozy_face:.

If asked how I met the folks, I’d say online, which is how countless people meet nowadays. And BTW, I also remember what they do for a living, in case I’m asked. Because friends know stuff like that.


It’s not even a question of “work” and “taxable” income. It’s simply a broad law that covers all kinds of exchanges… The real fear is that people will stay past their visas if they can get by, not just that people are coming to the US to “take” jobs. So even volunteer work can’t be done without permission to work. Internships can’t be done on a tourist visa. Au par is only considered a “cultural exchange” when the au par is hired by a designated agency, not when it’s your cousin on her gap year living in your apartment and traveling with your family to take care of the kids on a tourist visa. This is also why the law isn’t going to change because all those rules would have to change, and the US literally cannot do get any kind of immigration bill passed, much less make these kind of changes. Technically, it is NOT even legal for someone on a tourist visa visiting the US to work at their regular non-US based REMOTE job. So if you are coming here as a tourist, you not only can not admit to “housesitting,” you also need to be “on vacation” and be prepared with a ton of paperwork.

All countries want to control migration, work and taxes.

Pet and home sitting, au pair work and such are small potatoes and are unlikely to get renewed attention or greater inclusion, because they’re not worth the time and effort business wise, politically, legislatively, red tape wise or tax wise.

Remote work is and increasingly countries see the advantages of collecting such taxes, which are considerable. Well-paid folks also spend while living in a country temporarily, and they don’t typically drain the health care system, get retirement or social welfare payments, and are less likely to end up indigent. That’s why there are more and more digital nomad / remote worker visas and exemptions in the world.

A snapshot: Digital Nomad Visa - Countries Offering Visas for Digital Nomads

I know that, because I’ve managed many remote workers for the past decade and have worked with many folks with work visas for three decades. I’ve worked at companies that have routinely sponsored work visas for certain types of talent.

If anyone wants to be pedantic or technical, there typically are categories of work visas, rather than one “work visa” in any one country. For example, it’s easier to sponsor someone into the U.S. if they already work for your company in another country and you want to say transfer them vs. sponsor someone new into the country wholesale.


That is debatable. I have read an article where 2 well-respected immigration lawyers disagreed on this. I can’t find the article now, but I found it interesting because, as a US immigration lawyer myself, we always advised against remote work.

As regards pet sitting, I think THS shouldn’t provide any immigration advice. The company could just tell people to do their own research on immigration, just like people need to research vaccination requirements for each country, for example.


I’m not an immigration lawyer, and I didn’t mean to overstep. But then out of curiousity, if you are coming to the states on a 3 or 6 month tourist visa and you plan on working remotely off your contract or regular job, what should you tell immigration. (Side note, I recently applied for some totally remote work and one of the requirements was that you could legally work in the US.) Also I know lawmaking is messed up in the US but seriously, after COVID how do we not have this as “settled law.” (That might have been rhetorical.)

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There is a certain amount of luck crossing the US border. It can boil down to what kind of day that officer is having. We have crossed numerous times, land, sea and airport with no trouble (fingers crossed for 10th September, next crossing). The stories I could tell about our experiences.
Our personal rules
Never joke with the officer. They don’t like it.
Visiting friends is our response.
We always book our first night in a hotel so that’s the address we give.
Smile and do everything they ask.

We have also Nexus and travel on a B1/B2 visa which gives us six months in the US but still doesn’t allow us to work. We are from the UK.


Here is the thing though. I might or might not decide it’s worth the risk for an across the border sit. I’m US based. I could see if the perfect London sit came up or even a month of different sits in the UK, and the stars aligned. I think the chance of me alone or me and my spouse getting stopped would be small, and just in case, it would be worth it to book a couple of nights in an airbnb.

However, as a pet parent about to go on vacation, it would be awful if hours before I’m supposed to leave, or maybe AFTER I’VE LEFT I find out my sitter has been detained and is coming… never.

Sitters need to know the risks so they can make informed decisions. Pet parents need to know the risks as well, so they aren’t left without a “trusted” sitter.


You should always be honest with immigration, but don’t volunteer information. Your scenario is tricky, since CBP officers could take very different views on remote work.

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Very true and it’s a risk both parties have to face. But life would be very boring if we didn’t take a challenge every now and again.
I think us oldies get away with far more than youngsters or single people when travelling. We are retired so they believe us when we say we are going on an eight month road trip (very true) but we omit the bit about pet sitting along the way. All they were interested in is what we are going to see and giving us tips about what not to miss. Having the Nexus helps as well because it’s all automatic and IF it works properly we don’t talk to any humans.
It’s definitely a risk and people being stopped will become more frequent because of the publicity it causes and more officers are becoming aware what pet sitting means.

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