Foreign nationals desiring to enter the United States temporarily for the purpose of consulting with business associates, attending a scientific, educational, professional or business convention (B-1), or for pleasure, tourism or medical treatment (B-2) may apply for B-1/B-2 Visitor’s Visa at a U.S. Consulate or Visa Section of the U.S. Embassies abroad. These visas require that the applicant has permanent residence in the home country, which he or she has no intention of abandoning.
Visitors coming to the U.S. for tourism or business for 90 days or less from qualified countries may be eligible to visit the U.S. without a visa if they meet the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) requirements. Additionally, citizens of Canada and Bermuda traveling for visitor visa purposes do not need a visa, with some exceptions.
As of January 12, 2009, visitors for business or pleasure who plan on entering the United States on the VWP are required to log on to the ESTA website and obtain a clearance for travel to the US. VWP travelers who have not received ESTA approval may be denied boarding, experience delayed processing, or be denied admission at a U.S. port of entry. Similarly, an ESTA approval only authorizes a traveler to board a carrier for travel to the United States under the VWP. An approved ESTA is not a guarantee of admissibility to the United States at a port of entry. In all cases, Customs and Border Protection officers make admissibility determinations at U.S. ports of entry or pre-clearance facilities.
Applying for a Visitor’s Visa
Under the US Immigration law, every visitor visa applicant is presumed to be an immigrant, unless he or she can overcome this presumption by showing that:
Most applicants for visitor visas apply at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in their home country. Although visa applicants may apply at any U.S. consulate abroad, it may be more difficult for them to qualify for the visa. As visa applications are now subject to a greater scrutiny than ever, it is important to apply well in advance of intended travel departure date.
At the visa interview, consulate officers review documentation and response from the applicants in order to determine their eligibility. A visa application may be approved or denied due to a number of factors. However, most visas applications are denied due to the fact that the visa applicant has not shown strong and convincing tie to overcome the intended immigrant presumption. Should the consular officer deny issuance of a visitor visa, the applicant may apply again by presenting new and convincing evidence to overcome the basis for the refusal.
A visa only allows a foreign national to travel to the U.S. port-of entry and request permission to enter the U.S. It does not guarantee entry into the U.S. The Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection officials have authority to permit or deny admission to the United States. The Customs and Border Protection officer will also determine and notate the length of foreign national’s visit on the Arrival-Departure Record (Form I-94), up to a maximum of 6 months. Those who wish to stay beyond the time indicated on their Form I-94 must file Form I-539, prior to the expiration of their authorized stay, with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services to request an extension of their status.
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