A person that is not an American citizen or a permanent resident of the U.S. must first apply for a visa before traveling to the United States. There are certain nationals with passports from countries participating in the visa waiver program, discussed to the right, but all the other foreign nationals, must first have a visa to enter the United States. The visa type or classification will vary based on your intent or purpose of travel.
For example, if you merely want to come to the U.S. for traveling, having fun, seeing friends etc. a B-2 visa, also referred to as a tourist visa shall be appropriate. If the purpose of you visit is business but not work, a B-1 visa would be appropriate. Under many circumstances these two visas can be jointed based on your purpose, that is you may have a B-1/B-2 visa.
You can act as a tourist and transact temporary business for a foreign employer on a visitor’s visa (B-1/B-2), but you cannot accept work. When someone enters the U.S. with a visitor’s visa, he or she has historically been given permission to stay for six months (indicated on Form I-94, which is a card tucked into your passport on entry to the U.S.). However, the INS has recently proposed to take away this automatic six-months’ permission. Applicants will instead have to demonstrate the purpose of their trip and be given a “fair and reasonable time” in which to accomplish it. Six months would become the maximum stay—and applicants who can’t show exactly what they plan to do in the U.S. and how much time they need to do it in would be limited to a stay of only 30 days.
Technically, you may leave the U.S. at the end of your permitted stay, return the next day and be readmitted. Alternatively, when one I-94 date is up, you can apply for an extension of stay without even leaving. If the extension is approved, you may get to remain for another six months— though under the INS’s new proposed rules, extensions would only be granted for emergency and other difficult situations, and 30-day extensions would become the norm. Some people, believing that they have found a loophole in the system, try to live permanently in the U.S. by taking short trips out of the country and then returning again.
Unfortunately, this tactic doesn’t work for long. A condition of being admitted to the U.S. as a visitor is that you truly plan to leave at a specific point in time. You must also keep a home abroad to which you can return. If an INS officer sees from the stamps in your passport or hears from your answers to questions at a border checkpoint that you are spending most of your time in the U.S., he or she will conclude that you are an unauthorized resident. Then you will be stopped from entering the country. On the bright side, if you can be content with dividing your time between the U.S. and some other country, you can continue that lifestyle indefinitely with a visitor’s visa. As a visitor, you can engage in many activities.
You may travel around as a tourist. You may also transact business for a foreign employer, or purchase real estate and make other investments. (The INS is aware that many people own or rent retirement homes in the U.S., and even with its new proposed rules, has been at- tempting to reassure the public that it won’t interfere with their enjoyment of these homes.) Finally, you may remain for at least six months, and it is all perfectly legal. Canadian visitor without a visa, can be admitted for a period of up to six months. The only restriction on your activities during this time is that you may not work. If you wish to buy and live in a winter residence, you may do so. In fact, many Canadians prefer this arrangement because it allows them to spend the winter months in the U.S. without losing government health benefits at home.
U.S. immigration laws may not be what the immigrant expects. Often these laws were written as much to keep immigrants out as they were to provide orderly procedures for letting them in. Immigration policies are not always logical or sensible. Many people from other nations who wish to live in the U.S. and could make wonderful contributions to the country are the very people kept from getting green cards or visas.
More and more, U.S. immigration law is a controversial issue among Americans. Everyone agrees there must be some limits. No one agrees on how these limits should work. If you don’t like the law the way it is, don’t give up! Contact us now for your free consultation with an immigration attorney.
People fail at immigration because they just don’t know enough about it. Information given out at U.S. consulates, embassies and the offices of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) isn’t always complete. Most immigration officials lack the time to share all their knowledge with you. For the immigrant, an even greater danger than having too little information is having information that is wrong.
Common sources of confusion are well-meaning friends and relatives as well as general rumors, all of whom are only too happy to share their ignorance with you. Of all the false information in circulation, the stories from those who claim to have gotten green cards or visas by ignoring the rules or using special influence are by far the most creative. Enjoy them for their entertainment value, but don’t harm yourself by believing them. Contact our office now to speak with an experienced immigration lawyer. In immigration, knowing the rules and regulations isn’t enough. You must also know how things really work.