What Is the Difference Between a Work Permit and a Business Visa?

To use a work permit or a business visa
November 8, 2022

Employers will sometimes have their employees travel to different countries for various business purposes, such as for training, work projects, and attending a conference. In addition, employers typically use a business visa or work permit for employees to enter other countries, allowing them to conduct various activities. However, employers should consider what they want their employers to do while in the foreign country—determining this detail dictates which option best suits the company’s needs because the visa and permit serve different purposes.

Business visas typically restrict visa holders to tasks that do not involve work or gainful employment. On the other hand, work permits permit holders to participate in activities considered productive work in the host country.

Here are more differences between business visas and work permits.

Business Visas

Governments generally issue business visas to individuals entering their country to carry out business activities that are not considered employment or labor. Some common business activities while on a business visa include attending conferences and meetings, or investigating business ventures or opportunities. Employers must remember that business visas do not allow employees to offer labor or services in the country.

However, allowed activities for business visas vary from country to country. For example, some will allow employees to install equipment purchased from their employer, while others may insist on a work permit.

Additionally, business visas typically adhere to shorter time frames than work permits. Often, business visas are valid for 30 to 60 days over a period of 180 days. However, like permitted business visa activities, this can vary from country to country.

Work Permits

Governments issue work permits to foreign nationals who earn income or compensation for the work or services they provide in the host country. However, what constitutes “work” varies based on where the employee goes. Typical reasons an employee might apply for a work permit include working under a contract, participating in a project-based activity, or obtaining employment.

Work permits allow foreign nationals to participate in activities that a country would consider necessitating compensation or income. How long these permits last will differ between countries, with some lasting over a year.

Business Visas and Work Permits in the United States

Travelers who want to visit the U.S. on a short trip for business purposes, such as going to a conference or participating in a meeting, can obtain a B-1 visa. In contrast, individuals who want authorization to work in the U.S. have several temporary work visas from which to choose. These visas have different criteria that depend on the work.

Employers who do employ workers on temporary work visas must complete Form I-9 as they do for other workers. However, completing the form may prove more complicated due to the variety of documents these employees may present. The best way to ensure correct and completed Form I-9s is to use an electronic I-9 management system. This system will guide employers through every process. In addition, it will safely and securely store the form.

Learn more about automating your employment eligibility verification and ensuring compliance with I-9 Compliance.