Making speeches or leading a workshop: is this considered working in the U.S.?

Winter 2013 CSANews Issue 89  |   Posted date : Jan 07, 2014.Back to list

Bird talk - Le Jaseur
Dear Bird Talk,

In your always informative Editor’s notes in the Summer 2013 issue, you mentioned that snowbird visitors are not allowed to work in the U.S. Is this different than for any other Canadian? For example, what about Canadians who give the occasional speech or lead a workshop at a conference in the U.S., whether already there on holiday or making a special trip for that purpose? They have to file a W8-BEN (U.S.) form with the conference sponsors, but report and pay tax on the honorarium in Canada. Is it a violation to give a paid speech during the time you are in the U.S. as a snowbird for four months? Appreciate any clarification you can give on this.

L.A. Richardson
West Vancouver, BC

Response :
Ed.: Wallace Weylie, CSA’s legal counsel, states that doing anything in the United States for which compensation could be paid, whether paid or not, is considered working. It is illegal for anyone visiting the U.S. to work without a proper visa. There is a simple visa available, called a B-1 temporary business visa, which permits you to do conferences or make speeches. You can apply for this visa when you cross the border. The risk in doing these things without having cleared it with the border inspector, and having it noted on your profile, is that another inspector on a different occasion may consider it working without authorization. There could be consequences such as barring you from the U.S. for five years. As we all know, the inspectors at the border have full powers to do as they wish. Doing the paid speech without having mentioned it on crossing the border would be risky. The filing of Form W8-BEN is about another world – taxation. I should caution you that there are thresholds of income earned, and paid for, in the United States that require the actual filing of a U.S. tax return, even if you claim the income in Canada. Tax advice is a necessity if amounts are more than $3,800.

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