Challenges with Border Guards - RE the Laws

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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I just did a sit in Canada from the States. Border security did stop me. I said I was visiting family friends.

Yes, this is a reality.
It is advisable to build a true friendship with your “host” via Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp before arriving in their country.
Then, you can honestly say you are entering said country to visit friends you met online.

It was a hypothetical. I’m in the US. Can legally work here.

For us, We do what we do to travel. We definitely don’t do it because we are desperate to care for pets all over the world that belong to people who are complete strangers to us.

When we are travelling we need accommodation and have found a great way to get the least expensive accommodation possible.

I don’t expect that when non-petsitters are asked their reason for visiting a country, they answer with “to stay in hotels”


It seemed that you were asking a question. The format was in the interrogatory, despite no question mark.

If you’ve ever watched those “border control” customs and immigration shows, you know the answer to this. (Canada has one!) I’ve watched hundreds and hundreds of episodes from the UK, Canada, Australia and NZ. If you are entering the country to perform any kind of service—yes, even for free—it’s considered working. If someone offers you free room and board in exchange for watching their kids, fixing things around the house, or watering the garden, it’s work and you can’t do it on a tourist visa.

And if for any reason they find you suspicious, they will go through your phone and read your emails and texts to find evidence of your real plans. (I’ve seen people entering the country “for a holiday,” carrying a folder of CVs, but that’s another story. :rofl: ) They’ll also check your finances.

Honestly, what we are doing here IS considered working abroad, even in the absence of monetary compensation. You can be volunteering to help a friend, family member, or stranger but you are still working, in the eyes of immigration. When we do this, we’re taking a chance, and no amount of reasoned argument will change that fact. Nor will carefully worded letters laying out that argument. Your opinion of why the law shouldn’t really be the law doesn’t negate the law and get you off the hook.

As for doing your own job remotely while abroad… no one from immigration is going to track what you do on your computer after you’re let in. So save yourself a lot of grief and say you’re on holiday.


When entering the US, I never say anything that could be interpreted as volunteer work since that will raise all sorts of red flags with immigration officers as volunteer work in the US is generally not allowed either without a work visa / residence permit etc. So always just say you come for tourist purposes when entering countries like the US

@Marion Officially your scenario (tourist visa, remote work) is not allowed in the US. So don’t tell them or you may well get sent back

It was a hypothetical. I actually work with a lot of people on L1 visas, and often while their spouses are waiting for “permission to work” they are actually continuing remote work.

Ashleynov you can take that stance but also need to realize you most likely won’t be entering the country.

What @LIQ mentioned is likewise what I’ve seen in countless videos involving border entry in various countries — if the agents want to, they’ll search electronic devices; look through paperwork you’re carrying; poke into finances (some will want to see your bank balance via apps) so they know you can afford to stay. And so on. Sometimes, they’ll call your local contact (presumably whom you’re visiting) and check whether your stories match up,

In some cases, you can refuse — laws vary from country to country. But if they find you suspicious and you decline, they can just refuse you entry. In those videos, they typically force you to return on the next flight home, at your expense.

I happened to see the videos on Facebook, recommended to me probably because I was in various travel groups. They should also available on YouTube, if anyone wants to watch.


That is not true with regard to US immigration. They can and do search electronic devices.

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“What’s the purpose of your visit?”

To eat!… Then I start listing off all the things I want to eat.

This should be adequate, but the interrogation will probably stop anyway, because they can’t hear themselves over the sound of their own stomachs growling from my detailed descriptions of their regional cuisine.