Virginia, US
Business travel by its very nature tends to be urgent and short term, which means that important pre-departure considerations can be easily overlooked. From an immigration perspective this can present challenges as authorities are increasingly scrutinising the use of business visas.  One such example is the U.S where foreign business visitors are facing substantially increased scrutiny at U.S. consulates and ports of entry.
 
The definition of 'business activities' and 'productive work' can be blurry, and the distinction between business and work differs between countries. The consequences of inadvertently carrying out productive work while on business visitor status can be serious, for both the employee and the company. At the outset it is important to determine whether a person requires a visa or not. This is not always as straightforward as it sounds. It depends on factors such as the purpose and duration of the trip, the destination country, the nationality of the individual, and the nature of the activities s/he will be performing.
 
To avoid any unnecessary delays or issues, it is important that business travellers keep travel arrangements flexible until a visa is secured, ensure travel documents are up to date, and ensure that they have current information on the destination rather than make assumptions based on prior travel..  In recent weeks we have seen the Ministry of Manpower in Indonesia reverse a number of new work permit policies, which has caused a great deal of confusion on what can or cannot be done on a business visa.  Current knowledge is key!
 
Business travellers also need to understand exactly what each business trip involves so that they can clearly explain to immigration officers at the port of entry what they’ll be doing in the host country. When in doubt, it’s important to seek expert guidance before traveling to assess the activities on a case-by-case basis.
 
Even if a work permit is not required, it is still important to allow sufficient time to obtain a business visa, if needed, before the intended date of travel. Visa processing times vary and expedited processing is not always available. Applications are typically paper-based and require the applicant to surrender his/her passport, which will be held until the visa has been issued. Applicants may also need to meet certain residency requirements to be eligible to apply at a third party Consulate. Certain nationalities may also be subject to additional security checks.
 
It is also crucial that frequent business travellers check the validity of passports before embarking on any international travel. Many countries require a minimum of six month validity to allow entry, or require spare pages to issue stamps. Insufficient passport validity or insufficient passport pages may result in the stressful process of securing a new passport at the last minute or, worse still, an airline refusing to allow the traveller to board.