Business and Visitor
Immigration Service by Law Firm of Berger & Berger
(B-1 and B-2) VISAS
- Generally, a citizen of a foreign country who wishes to enter the United States must either be from a country eligible under the "visa waiver program" or first obtain a nonimmigrant visa for a temporary stay. The "B" visitor visa is a nonimmigrant visa for persons desiring to enter the United States temporarily for business (B-1), or for pleasure or medical treatment (B-2). Persons planning to travel to the U.S. for a different purpose such as students, temporary workers, crewmembers, journalists, etc., must apply for a different visa in the appropriate category.
- Applicants for visitor visas must show that they qualify under provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The presumption in the law is that every visa applicant is an intending immigrant. Therefore, applicants for visitor visas must overcome this presumption by demonstrating that: (1) the purpose of their trip is to enter the U.S. for business, pleasure, or medical treatment; (2) they plan to remain for a specific, limited period; and (3) they have a residence outside the U.S. as well as other binding ties which will insure their return abroad at the end of the visit.
- Applicants for visitor visas should generally apply at the American Embassy or Consulate with jurisdiction over their place of permanent residence. Although visa applicants may apply at any U.S. consular office abroad, it may be more difficult to qualify for the visa outside the country of permanent residence. Applicants must demonstrate that they are properly classifiable as visitors under U.S. law.
- Evidence which shows the purpose of the trip, intent to depart the United States, and arrangements made to cover the costs of the trip should be provided. For example, persons traveling to the U.S. on business can present a letter from the U.S. business firm indicating the purpose of the trip, the bearer's intended length of stay, and the firm's intent to defray travel costs. Persons traveling to the U.S. for pleasure may use letters from relatives or friends in the U.S. whom the applicant plans to visit, or confirmation of participation in a planned tour. Persons traveling to the U.S. for medical treatment should have a statement from a doctor or institution concerning proposed medical treatment.
- Unless previously canceled, a visa is valid until its expiration date. Therefore, if the foreign-born individual has a valid U.S. visitor visa in an expired passport, he or she may use it along with a new valid passport for travel and admission to the United States.
- Attempting to obtain a visa by the willful misrepresentation of a material fact, or fraud, may result in the permanent refusal of a visa or denial of entry into the United States. If the consular officer should find it necessary to deny the issuance of a visitor visa, the applicant may apply again if there is new evidence to overcome the basis for the refusal. In the absence of new evidence, consular officers are not obliged to re-examine such cases.
Eligibility in the visa waiver program or having a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has the authority to deny admission. Also, the period for which the alien is authorized to remain in the United States is determined by a DHS officer at the time of inspection at the airport or border and not the consular officer when the visa is issued. Form I-94, Record of Arrival-Departure, which is issued to the person when he or she is inspected by a DHS or U.S. customs official when they enter the U.S. states the length of time the alien is permitted to remain in the United States on that trip. Although frequently assumed, it is not the visa in the passport that determines the period of time the alien is actually allowed to legally stay in the United States. Of course, different visa categories allow for different maximum period of legal stay (e.g.: B-2 tourist can only get a maximum stay of six months, but L-1 intracompany transferees should be able to obtain up to three years at the time of their first entry). Those visitors who wish to stay beyond the time indicated on their Form I-94 may be eligible to apply for an extension of stay prior to the expiration date. There are serious penalties for those who overstay their lawful stay which include automatic visa cancellation and the possibility of being barred from legally returning to the United States for three years (for an unlawful overstay of 180 day to 364 days) or ten years (for an unlawful overstay of over one year).