Category Archives: The Legal Immigrant – Immigration Blog

B-1 Visitor Visa: Traveling to the U.S. for Work as a Personal or Domestic Employee

B-1 visas are issued to personal or domestic employees to accompany or follow to join their employers to the U.S. and provide household services for them. These include cooks, butlers, chauffeurs, housemaids, valets, footmen, nannies, au pairs, mothers’ helpers, gardeners, and paid companions. The employer must be a U.S. citizen living abroad, a U.S. citizen on temporary assignment in the U.S., a person in nonimmigrant status, or a lawful permanent resident.

WHEN MAY A PERSONAL OR DOMESTIC EMPLOYEE COME TO THE UNITED STATES TO WORK? 

You may work in the U.S. as a personal or domestic employee if you receive the B-1 visa for this purpose and then apply for and receive work authorization after you arrive in the country.

Personal or domestic employees may receive the B-1 visa to perform their job duties if the following special circumstances exist:

Personal or Domestic Employees of U.S. Citizens Living Abroad or U.S. Citizens on Temporary Assignment in U.S. 

B-1 visas are issued to personal or domestic employees whose employer is a U.S. citizen with a permanent home abroad or is stationed abroad and is visiting or assigned to the U.S. temporarily.

In addition, the conditions below must be met:

  • The employee has a residence abroad which he or she has no intent to abandon;
  • The employee has been employed abroad by the employer as a personal or domestic servant for at least six months prior to the date the employer is admitted to the U.S; or the employer shows that, while abroad, the employer has regularly employed a domestic servant in the same role as that intended for the visa applicant;
  • The employee demonstrates at least one year experience as a personal or domestic servant by providing reference letters from prior employers; and
  • The employee has an original contract or a copy of the contract, to be presented at the U.S. port of entry, which is signed by both the employer and the employee, and contains specific terms, such as payment of minimum or prevailing wages, whichever is greater for an eight hour work-day.

The U.S. citizen employer who is returning to the U.S. for a temporary assignment must be subject to frequent international transfers of two years or more as a job condition and the return to the U.S. should last no more than six years.

Personal or Domestic Employees of Foreign Nationals in Nonimmigrant Status

B-1 visas are issued to personal or domestic employees whose employer is seeking entry into, or is already in, the U.S. in B, E, F, H, I, J, L, M, O, P, or Q nonimmigrant status.

In addition, the conditions below must be met:

  • The employee has a residence abroad which he or she has no intent to abandon (even if the employer is in a nonimmigrant status that does not require a residence abroad);
  • The employee has been employed abroad by the employer as a personal or domestic employee for at least one year prior to the date the employer is admitted to the U.S., or if the employee-employer relationship existed immediately prior to the time of visa application, the employer shows that he or she has regularly employed (either year-round or seasonally) personal or domestic employees over several years preceding the domestic employee’s B-1 visa application;
  • The employee demonstrates at least one year experience as a personal or domestic servant; and
  • The employee has an original contract or a copy of the contract, to be presented at the U.S. port of entry, which is signed by both the employer and the employee, and contains specific terms, such as payment of minimum or prevailing wages, whichever is greater for an eight hour work-day.

Personal or Domestic Employees of Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs)

B-1 visas are issued to personal or domestic employees of lawful permanent residents (LPRs), including conditional permanent residents and LPRs who have filed a Form N-470, Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes.

Employment Authorization is Required

Before you begin working as a personal or domestic employee, you must file a Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, with USCIS following entry into the U.S. as a B-1 visitor. You need to wait for USCIS to approve the Form I-765 and issue the Employment Authorization Document (work card) to start your employment.

Source of Payment to Personal or Domestic Employees

The source of payment to a B-1 personal or domestic employee or the place where the payment is made or the location of the bank is irrelevant.

Consular Officer Responsibilities in Processing B-1 Visa Applications for Personal or Domestic Employees

The 2008 William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (WWTVPRA) requires consular officers to inform personal or domestic employees applying for a B-1 visa of their legal rights under U.S. immigration, labor, and employment laws.  This includes information on the illegality of slavery, peonage, trafficking in persons, sexual assault, extortion, blackmail, and worker exploitation in the U.S.

Consular officers are instructed, at the time of the interview, to confirm the applicant has received, read and understood the Legal Rights and Protections pamphlet.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR THE B-1 VISA?

Temporary visitors must meet the following eligibility requirements:

1. Maintain a residence in a foreign country, which you do not intend to abandon

Under U.S. immigration law, the term “residence” is defined as the place of general abode, i.e. your principal, actual dwelling place in fact, without regard to intent. You must show strong ties to your country, including family connections, property ownership, investments, and steady employment. If the U.S. Consulate has doubts about your intent, you may offer to leave a child, spouse, or other dependent abroad.

2. Intend to stay in the U.S. for a specific, limited period

The period of stay must be limited and not indefinite in nature. The expected length of stay must match the stated purpose of the trip. You must show with reasonable certainty that you will leave the U.S. upon completing your visit, prior to expiration of the authorized stay.

3. Seek entry solely to engage in legitimate activities permitted by the visa

You must be coming to the U.S. only to complete activities that are allowed by your visa classification. U.S. consular officers will deny the visa and U.S. customs officers will deny your entry if they have reason to believe or know that, while in the U.S. as a visitor, you will engage in unlawful or criminal activities.

You must have the funds or an employer-employee contract to cover the cost of the trip and your stay in the U.S. Otherwise, the U.S. consular officer or customs officer could find that you will work in the U.S. without authorization to defray expenses. You may even be issued an expedited removal order at the U.S. port of entry if the customs officer determines you have previously violated your B-visa status or intend to do so.

4. Have no immigration violations or criminal offenses that make you inadmissible, or otherwise qualify for an inadmissibility waiver

You will not receive the visa or be admitted if you are barred from entering the U.S. due to immigration violations or criminal offenses that make you inadmissible under U.S. immigration law. These include the 3/10 year bar due to accrual of unlawful presence of more than 180 days during a prior stay; conviction for a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude (e.g. theft or fraud) that does not qualify for the petty offense or youthful offender exception; and willful misrepresentation of material facts to gain entry into the U.S.

When you are inadmissible, but are otherwise visa eligible, you may file a 212(d)(3) nonimmigrant waiver to be excused from almost all inadmissibility grounds. A separate I-212 waiver (Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States After Deportation or Removal) is needed if you are barred due to a prior removal order or illegal (or attempted illegal) reentry into the U.S.

B-2 IS DIFFERENT FROM B-1

The B-1 is under the same B-visa classification as the B-2 visa (for tourism and temporary visits), but is less restrictive. You may participate in tourist activities on a B-1 visa or a combined B-1/B-2 visa, but may not engage in temporary business activities while on a B-2 visa only.

WORK WITH AN IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY

Failure to overcome the presumption of immigrant intent and show strong ties abroad is one of the top reasons for a visa refusal or denial. Inadmissibility grounds can also prevent a visa grant or your entry into the U.S.

Consult an experienced immigration attorney to assess your visa eligibility, advise you on the forms and documents to submit, and assist you with the application process to get the B-1 visa to accompany or follow to join your employer as a personal or domestic employee.

For more information, read our related articles, B-1 Visitor Visa: Traveling to the U.S. for Business and B-2 Visitor Visa: Traveling to the U.S. for Tourism or a Temporary Visit.

This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

SUBSCRIBE           CONTACT

Photo by: pfly

B-1 Visitor Visa: Traveling to the U.S. for Business

The B-1 visa or combined B-1/B-2 visa is for nonimmigrants who seek to enter the U.S. temporarily for business reasons and tourism. To get the visa or gain entry to the U.S. on this visa, you need to show you will participate in only permitted activities.

WHICH ACTIVITIES ARE ALLOWED ON THE B-1 VISA? 

Examples of temporary business-related activities you may conduct are described below. This list is not exhaustive, but is specified in the Department of State’s Foreign Affairs Manual and other official guidance as appropriate reasons for a B-1 visa issuance.

Visitors Traveling to the U.S. to  Participate in Business Activities of a Commercial Nature

You may use the B-1 visitor visa to:

Consult with business associates and attend business meetings. Except – You may not work for or receive income from a U.S. based company.

Engage in commercial transactions/sales, such as providing exhibitions, taking orders, negotiating, and signing contracts for products that are made outside the U.S. Except – The activities must not involve gainful employment in the U.S. and must not result in pay from a U.S. based company.

Seek business investment, including to survey potential sites for a business and/or to lease a premises in the U.S. Except – You may not remain in the U.S. to actively manage the business or perform work for the business.

Attend a scientific, educational, professional, or business convention, conference, meeting, trade show or event on specific dates. Except – You may not work for or receive income from a U.S. based company.

Litigate, including to participate in a lawsuit, take a claim to a court of law, or settle an estate. Except – You may not work or receive income from a U.S. based company, although you may receive monetary awards based on a court order.

Serve as an exposition or trade show (non-government) employee of a foreign exhibitor at an international fair. Except – You may not work for or receive income from a U.S. based company.

Install, service or repair commercial or industrial equipment or machinery sold and manufactured by a non-U.S. company to a U.S. buyer, when required by the purchase contract. Except – Installation cannot include construction work, except for training or supervision of U.S. workers to do construction, and you may not receive compensation from a U.S. source.

Complete short-term training. Except – The training program should not be designed primarily to provide employment. You may not receive payment or income from a U.S. based company, other than an expense allowance or expense reimbursement related to your temporary stay.

Do independent research. Except – You may not receive any salary or income from a U.S. based source or provide benefit to a U.S. institution.

Visitors Traveling to the U.S. to Pursue Employment Incidental to their Professional Activities

You may also use the B-1 visa in the following situations:

Ministers of Religion and Missionaries

Ministers of religion may receive B-1 visas to participate in an evangelical tour, so long as they do not accept appointment with any one church and will be supported by contributions at each evangelical meeting.  B-1 visas are also granted to ministers of religion temporarily exchanging pulpits with U.S. counterparts, provided they are reimbursed by the foreign church and will receive no pay from the host church in the U.S.

B-1 visas are issued to members of religious denominations, whether ordained or not, entering the U.S. solely to temporarily perform missionary work for a denomination, as long as they do not sell articles or solicit or accept donations and will receive no pay from U.S. sources other than an allowance or reimbursement for incidental expenses. “Missionary work” includes religious instruction, aid to the elderly or needy, and proselytizing, but not ordinary administrative work or ordinary labor for hire.

Participants in Voluntary Service Programs

The B-1 is an option if you want to provide voluntary services for a religious or non-profit charitable organization, such as attend meetings, speak at a conference, or assist with an event. But you may not use the B-1 to circumvent the R-1 (nonimmigrant religious worker) visa process and live in the U.S. or work for a religious or non-profit charitable organization.

No pay must be received from a U.S. source, other than an allowance or reimbursement for incidental expenses. Certain types of volunteer services, such as construction, are also not permitted on a B-1 visa.

Members of Board of Directors of U.S. Corporation

Foreign national directors of a U.S. corporation may travel to the U.S. on a B-1 visa to attend Board of Directors meetings or perform other duties related to board membership. They may be compensated for their time and travel expenses.

Professional Athletes

Professional athletes, such as golfers and auto racers, may use the B-1 visa to participate in a tournament or sporting event and receive prize money, but cannot receive salary or income from a U.S. based company.

The B-1 visa is also issued to athletes or team members who seek to enter the U.S. as members of a foreign-based team to compete with another sports team, provided the foreign athlete and the foreign sports team have their principal place of business or activity in a foreign country; the income of the foreign-based team and the salary of its players are mainly earned in a foreign country; and the foreign-based team is a member of an international sports league or the sporting activities involved have an international dimension.

Amateur hockey players who seek to enter the U.S. for brief try-outs to join a professional team during the regular professional season or playoffs may also receive a B-1 visa. There must be an agreement with a National Hockey League (NHL)-parent team to provide only for incidental expenses such as round-trip fare, hotel room, meals, and transportation.  They cannot use the B-1 to stay and play on the U.S. team.

Horse Races

You may travel to the U.S. on a B-1 visa to perform services for a foreign-based employer as a jockey, sulky driver, trainer, or groomer. But you may not work for a U.S. employer or another employer while in the country.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR THE B-1 VISA?

Temporary visitors must meet the following eligibility requirements:

1. Maintain a residence in a foreign country, which you do not intend to abandon

Under U.S. immigration law, the term “residence” is defined as the place of general abode, i.e. your principal, actual dwelling place in fact, without regard to intent. You must show strong ties to your country, including family connections, property ownership, investments, and steady employment. If the U.S. Consulate has doubts about your intent, you may offer to leave a child, spouse, or other dependent abroad.

2. Intend to stay in the U.S. for a specific, limited period

The period of stay must be limited and not indefinite in nature. The expected length of stay must match the stated purpose of the trip. You must show with reasonable certainty that you will leave the U.S. upon completing your visit, prior to expiration of the authorized stay.

3. Seek entry solely to engage in legitimate activities permitted by the visa

You must be coming to the U.S. only to complete activities that are allowed by your visa classification. U.S. consular officers will deny the visa and U.S. customs officers will deny your entry if they have reason to believe or know that, while in the U.S. as a visitor, you will engage in unlawful or criminal activities.

You must have the funds and make arrangements to cover the cost of the trip and your stay in the U.S. Otherwise, the U.S. consular officer or customs officer could find that you will work in the U.S. without authorization to defray expenses. You may even be issued an expedited removal order at the U.S. port of entry if the customs officer determines you have previously violated your B-visa status or intend to do so.

4. Have no immigration violations or criminal offenses that make you inadmissible, or otherwise qualify for an inadmissibility waiver 

You will not receive the visa or be admitted if you are barred from entering the U.S. due to immigration violations or criminal offenses that make you inadmissible under U.S. immigration law. These include the 3/10 year bar due to accrual of unlawful presence of more than 180 days during a prior stay; conviction for a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude (e.g. theft or fraud) that does not qualify for the petty offense or youthful offender exception; and willful misrepresentation of material facts to gain entry into the U.S.

When you are inadmissible, but are otherwise visa eligible, you may file a 212(d)(3) nonimmigrant waiver to be excused from almost all inadmissibility grounds. A separate I-212 waiver (Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States After Deportation or Removal) is needed if you are barred due to a prior removal order or illegal (or attempted illegal) reentry into the U.S.

B-2 IS DIFFERENT FROM B-1

The B-1 is under the same B-visa classification as the B-2 visa (for tourism and temporary visits), but is less restrictive. You may participate in tourist activities on a B-1 visa or a combined B-1/B-2 visa, but may not engage in temporary business activities, such as attend business meetings or negotiate contracts, while on a B-2 visa only.

B-1 DOES NOT AUTHORIZE EMPLOYMENT IN THE U.S.

The B-1 visa allows you to engage in business activities other than perform skilled or unskilled labor.  A B-1 issuance does not permit you to obtain and engage in employment while in the U.S.

Exception: Personal/domestic employees of U.S. citizens living abroad, U.S. citizens on temporary assignment in the U.S., foreign nationals in nonimmigrant status, and lawful permanent residents may receive the B-1 visa to enter the U.S. and perform work as a personal/domestic employee in the employer’s household. Special circumstances must exist for them to actually get the B-1 visa for this purpose. In addition, they need to apply for and receive an employment authorization card after entering the U.S. on a B-1 visa.

WORK WITH AN IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY

Failure to overcome the presumption of immigrant intent and show strong ties abroad is one of the top reasons for a visa refusal or denial. Inadmissibility grounds can also prevent a visa grant or your entry into the U.S.

Consult an experienced immigration attorney to assess your visa eligibility, advise you on the forms and documents to submit, and assist you with the application process to get the B-1 or combined B-1/B-2 visa.

For more information, read our related articles,  B-1 Visitor Visa: Traveling to the U.S. for Work as a Personal/Domestic Employee and B-2 Visitor Visa: Traveling to the U.S. for Tourism or a Temporary Visit.

This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

SUBSCRIBE           CONTACT

Photo by: Laura Hoffman

B-2 Visitor Visa: Traveling to the U.S. for Tourism or a Temporary Visit

When you seek to enter the U.S. for tourism or a temporary visit, the B-2 visa or combined B-1/B-2 visa is appropriate. Only certain activities are allowed on this visa. The U.S. consular officer will not grant the B-2 visa and the U.S. customs officer will deny your entry on this visa if your reasons for travel do not fit the criteria.

WHICH ACTIVITIES ARE ALLOWED ON THE B-2 VISA? 

Legitimate B-2 visitor activities are described below. The list is not exhaustive, but is specified in the Department of State’s Foreign Affairs Manual and other official guidance as appropriate reasons for the consular officer to issue the B-2 visa.

Visitor for Pleasure

You may use the B-2 visitor visa to:

  • Engage in tourism, i.e. take a vacation (holiday) and visit places of interest
  • Make social visits to family members and friends
  • Receive medical treatment to protect your health
  • Participate in social events hosted by fraternal, social, or service organizations
  • Participate in entertainment or athletic activity (e.g. event or contest) as an amateur who is not a member of any profession associated with the activity, but instead normally performs without compensation (except for reimbursement of incidental expenses)
  • Take a short course of study, which is incidental to the visit and not for credit toward a degree
  • Temporarily stay as dependent of alien member of any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces temporarily assigned for duty in the U.S.
  • Temporarily stay as dependent of D visa crewman if you are coming to the U.S. solely to accompany the principal D visa holder

Visitor Under Special Circumstances

You may also receive the B-2 visitor visa under the following special circumstances:

Fiancé(e) of U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident

Foreign nationals must obtain a K-1 fiancé(e), instead of the B-2 visa, if they seek to come to the U.S. to marry a U.S. citizen and apply for adjustment to permanent resident status (green card).  The U.S. Consulate, however, may grant the fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) a B-2 visa if it determines the fiancé(e) will return to a residence abroad soon after the marriage.

B-2 status may also be granted if you are traveling to the U.S. to:

  • Meet the family of your U.S. citizen or permanent resident fiancé(e);
  • Become engaged;
  • Plan the wedding; or
  • Rekindle or maintain a relationship with your prospective spouse

In reality, however, B-2 visas are not routinely granted in this situation. The Consulate tends to find that fiancé(e)s of U.S. citizens (in particular) or permanent residents (in some cases) will simply overstay until they can eventually get a marriage-based green card within the U.S. Therefore, it’s necessary to present strong evidence and persuasive testimony showing you will in fact depart on time, following a temporary visit, before you proceed with the K-1 or immigrant visa process.

Fiancé(e) of Nonimmigrant in United States

Fiancé(e)s who have a residence abroad to which they intend to return, and who are eligible to receive visas, may receive B-2 visas if the purpose of the visit is to marry a nonimmigrant in the United States, who has valid nonimmigrant F, H, J, L M, O, P, or Q status.  The U.S. Consulate will not grant the visa if it determines you will remain in the U.S. after admission and apply to adjust to permanent resident status, or request a change to a non-immigrant status that does not require a residence abroad.

Proxy Marriage Spouse of Nonimmigrant in United States

A spouse married by proxy to a foreign national in the United States in valid nonimmigrant status may receive a B-2 visa to join the spouse.  Following entry to the U.S., the joining spouse must file a timely request to change to the appropriate derivative nonimmigrant status (e.g. H-4 or F-2) after the marriage is consummated.

Spouse or Child of U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident

A foreign national spouse, biological child, or adopted child of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident may be issued a B-2 visa if he or she is only accompanying or following to join the spouse or parent for a temporary visit.

Cohabitating Partners, Extended Family Members, and Other Household Members Who Do Not Qualify for Derivative Status

 The B-2 visa is issued to those who belong to the same household of another person in long-term nonimmigrant status, but who are ineligible for derivative status. These include cohabitating partners or elderly parents of temporary workers, students, diplomats assigned to the U.S. and accompanying parent(s) of minor F-1 student. It is also appropriate for persons who belong to the same household of a U.S. citizen who normally lives and works overseas, but will be in the U.S. temporarily.

The B-2 visa is also granted to a spouse or child who qualifies for derivative status (other than derivative A or G status) but who finds it difficult or impossible to apply for the proper H-4, L-2, F-2, or other derivative visa, as long as he or she intends to maintain a residence outside the U.S. and is eligible for the B visa. Those who plan to remain in the U.S. for more than six months may request a one-year stay when they apply for admission at the U.S. port of entry.  They may then apply for extensions of stay, in six -months increments, while the principal applicant holds nonimmigrant status in the U.S.

Foreign Nationals Seeking Naturalization under INA 329 (Naturalization Through Active Duty-Service in the Armed Forces During World War I, World War II, the Korean Hostilities, or in Other Periods of Military Hostilities) 

A person who qualifies for naturalization under INA 329, and who seeks to enter the U.S. to make use of this benefit, may receive a B-2 visa without being required to maintain a foreign residence.

Children Seeking Expeditious Naturalization under INA 322 (Children of U.S. citizens who are born and residing outside the U.S. and meet the conditions to acquire certificate of citizenship)

The U.S. Consulate may grant a B-2 visa to a foreign-born child who is eligible for expeditious naturalization under INA 322.  But even when the child intends to naturalize, he or she must intend to return to a residence abroad after naturalization, i.e. overcome the presumption of immigrant intent.  The child whose parents are living abroad will normally meet this requirement, but a child whose parents reside in the U.S. will not.

The U.S. Consulate may also issue a B-2 visa to an adopted foreign-born child of a U.S. citizen who seeks to naturalize under INA 322 if he or she presents a DHS-issued Form G-56, General Call-In letter for a naturalization interview; maintains a residence abroad and does not intend to stay permanently in the U.S,; and meets other eligibility requirements.

Dependents of Alien Members of U.S. Armed Forces Eligible for Naturalization under INA 328 (Naturalization Through Service in the U.S. Armed Forces) 

A dependent of an alien member of the U.S. Armed Forces who qualifies for naturalization under INA 328 and who seeks to accompany the spouse or parent on the service member’s assignment to the U.S. may be issued a B visa. The possibility of adjustment to permanent resident status does not require a visa denial.

Foreign Nationals Enrolled in an Avocational or Recreational School

A person may receive a B-2 visa to attend a school for recreational or avocational purposes.  When the U.S. Consulate is unable to determine the nature of the school’s program, it normally asks DHS to confirm whether approval of Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status for Academic and Language Students (for an F-1 student visa) is required.

Lawful Permanent Residents Who Need to Come to the U.S. for an Emergency Temporary Visit 

 The I-551, Permanent Resident Card, becomes invalid for re-entry if the lawful permanent resident (LPR) remains outside the U.S. for more than one year. If the LPR needs to return to the U.S. sooner than when a returning resident visa can be obtained, the U.S. Consulate may issue a B-2 visa for re-entry purposes.

Adoptive Child Traveling to the U.S. to Acquire Citizenship foreign-born children who did not acquire U.S. citizenship at birth through a U.S. citizen parent to acquire U.S. citizenship automatically upon fulfillment of certain conditions while under the age of 18.

The U.S. Consulate may grant a B-2 visa to a child seeking to enter the U.S. to acquire U.S. citizenship under the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (Public Law 106-395), as long as the child shows an intent to leave the U.S. after a temporary stay.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR THE B-2 VISA? 

Temporary visitors must meet the following eligibility requirements:

1. Maintain a residence in a foreign country, which you do not intend to abandon

Under U.S. immigration law, the term “residence” is defined as the place of general abode, i.e. your principal, actual dwelling place in fact, without regard to intent. You must show strong ties to your country, including family connections, property ownership, investments, and steady employment. If the U.S. Consulate has doubts about your intent, you may offer to leave a child, spouse, or other dependent abroad.

2. Intend to stay in the U.S. for a specific, limited period

The period of stay must be limited and not indefinite in nature. The expected length of stay must match the stated purpose of the trip. You must show with reasonable certainty that you will leave the U.S. upon completing your visit, prior to expiration of the authorized stay.

3. Seek entry solely to engage in legitimate activities permitted by the visa

You must be coming to the U.S. only to complete activities that are allowed by your visa classification. U.S. consular officers will deny the visa and U.S. customs officers will deny your entry if they have reason to believe or know that, while in the U.S. as a visitor, you will engage in unlawful or criminal activities.

You must have the funds and make arrangements to cover the cost of the trip and your stay in the U.S. Otherwise, the U.S. consular officer or customs officer will likely conclude that you will work in the U.S. without authorization to defray expenses. You could even be issued an expedited removal order at the U.S. port of entry if the customs officer determines you have previously violated your B-visa status or intend to do so.

4. Have no immigration violations or criminal offenses that make you inadmissible, or otherwise qualify for an inadmissibility waiver 

You will not receive the visa or be admitted if you are barred from entering the U.S. due to immigration violations or criminal offenses that make you inadmissible under U.S. immigration law. These include the 3/10 year bar due to accrual of unlawful presence of more than 180 days during a prior stay; conviction for a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude (e.g. theft or fraud) that does not qualify for the petty offense or youthful offender exception; and willful misrepresentation of material facts to gain entry into the U.S.

When you are inadmissible, but are otherwise visa eligible, you may file a 212(d)(3) nonimmigrant waiver to be excused from almost all inadmissibility grounds. . A separate I-212 waiver (Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States After Deportation or Removal) is needed if you are barred due to a prior removal order or illegal (or attempted illegal) reentry into the U.S.

B-2 IS DIFFERENT FROM B-1

The B-2 is under the same B-visa classification as the B-1 Temporary Business Visitor visa, but is more limited. If you have only a B-2 visa – and not a B-1 visa or combined B-1/B-2 visa, you may not engage in any business visitor activities, such as attend business meetings or negotiate contracts.

WORK WITH AN IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY

Failure to overcome the presumption of immigrant intent and show strong ties abroad is one of the top reasons for a visa refusal or denial. Inadmissibility grounds can also prevent a visa grant or your entry into the U.S.

Consult an experienced immigration attorney to assess your visa eligibility, advise you on the forms and documents to submit, and assist you with the application process to get the B-2 or combined B-1/B-2 visa.

For more information, read our related articles, B-1 Visitor Visa: Traveling to the U.S. for Business and B-1 Visitor Visa: Traveling to the U.S. for Work as a Personal/Domestic Employee.

This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

SUBSCRIBE           CONTACT

Photo by: Richard Burger

Potential Solutions for Visa Refusal or Visa Denial

Some visa refusals and visa denials are proper, such as when you fail to provide the requested documents to prove visa eligibility or when you are inadmissible to the U.S. due to past actions. But when the decision is improper or can be overcome, you may take remedial action if you still want to come to the U.S.

A consular officer’s decision to deny or issue a visa is not subject to judicial review, based on the doctrine of consular non-reviewability. Because consular officers have so much discretion in issuing visa decisions, it’s especially important to address complications from the get-go.

When you’re faced with a visa refusal or denial, your potential solutions include:

1. Refiling for the Nonimmigrant Visa in Section 214(b) Situations

There is no waiver to overcome the INA 214(b) ground of ineligibility (failure to overcome presumption of immigrant intent) in nonimmigrant visa cases. But the finding is not permanent, which means you may later establish nonimmigrant intent by showing a considerable change in circumstances.

When your nonimmigrant visa (e.g. B-1/B-2 visitor visa or F-1/M-1 student visa) is denied due to failure to overcome the presumption of immigrant intent, you will need to reapply for the visa and, at the visa interview, present new, persuasive evidence of strong ties to your home country.

To avoid multiple visa refusals under section 214(b), you must build strong family roots, property ownership, employment ties, and other connections to your country that you cannot abandon and will cause you to depart the U.S. before your authorized stay expires.

In 214(b) visa refusal cases, you should not reapply for the B-1/B-2 visa, for example, until your personal, professional, and financial circumstances have changed significantly. Owning a business, investing in property, having a well-paid, steady job, or starting a family in your country are positive factors.

2. Requesting an Advisory Opinion (Administrative Review)

When your visa denial is based on questions of law, you may request an Advisory Opinion from the Department of State’s Visa Office in Washington D.C. The Visa Office will not review claims that the consular officer made a mistake of fact.

The Visa Office has a dedicated email channel, LegalNet, for you and/or your attorney to request a case-specific response on the interpretation or application of immigration law. An example is when a person is denied an H-1B or L-1 visa, which allows dual intent, under section 214(b) (failure to overcome presumption of immigrant intent). Another example is when a visa applicant is charged with 212(a)(6)(C)(i)(fraud or willful misrepresentation of material fact to gain immigration benefit), even when the misrepresentation was not material and did not affect visa eligibility.

Within seven (7) business days of receiving a proper inquiry, LegalNet will provide notice that the inquiry has been received and is being processed. The complexity of the case and availability of required information affects the time frame for a substantive responses.

LegalNet will provide substantive responses only to the following types of inquiries:

  • Legal questions about a specific case when the applicant or representative has attempted to contact the consular post at least twice without receiving a final response, and where 30 days have passed since the second inquiry (unless action is required sooner to avert significant harm to the applicant)
  • Legal questions about a specific case in which the applicant or representative has received a final response from the consular post, but believes it to be wrong as a matter of law
  • Legal questions about specific cases involving T visas, U visas, Diversity visas, or adoption visas, and
  • Legal questions about specific cases involving the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) and the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

The substantive response will be a summary of the advisory opinion forwarded to the consulate. Advisory opinions on applications or interpretations of law are binding on consular officers, but consular officers have sole authority to apply the law to the facts.

3. Filing a Motion to Reconsider and Rescind a Section 212(a) Inadmissibility Determination

Although there is no appeal process for a visa denial based on INA section 212(a) inadmissibility grounds, the U.S. Consulate or Embassy may reconsider its decision based on new evidence or legal arguments establishing you actually qualify for the visa.

In immigrant visa cases, the federal regulations allow  you to submit a motion to reconsider within one year of the visa denial to the consulate. No new application or filing fee is required when a timely motion is filed. Motions to reconsider must include relevant documentary evidence and legal claims to overcome the inadmissibility ground.

In nonimmigrant visa cases (except section 221(g) refusals), the only way to have your case reconsidered is to submit a new visa application and, at the visa interview, present a request to reconsider the inadmissibility finding.

It’s appropriate to file a motion to reconsider when the inadmissibility finding is based on a consular officer’s misinterpretation of the facts or law. But when the inadmissibility determination originates from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), e.g. U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) and U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), the Consulate will generally instruct you to contact those agencies.

4. Applying for a Waiver of Inadmissibility 

When you are truly inadmissible or you are unable to get the erroneous inadmissibility charge vacated by the Consulate, you may apply for a waiver. A waiver grant is not a travel document to enter the U.S. Rather, it allows – but does not guarantee – admission on a Canadian passport (if you are a Canadian citizen) or a visa grant by the Consulate when you are inadmissible to the U.S.

Nonimmigrant waiver 

For nonimmigrant visa applicants, the 212(d)(3) waiver excuses almost all grounds of inadmissibility listed in section 212(a). This includes health-related grounds, criminal offenses, prostitution, smuggling, fraud or willful misrepresentation of material fact to gain immigration benefits, false claims to U.S. citizenship to gain benefits under federal, state or immigration law, and unlawful presence in the U.S. The only inadmissibility grounds that cannot be excused by the 212(d)(3) waiver involve security and related issues, foreign policy considerations, and participation in Nazi persecutions.

In Matter of Hranka, the Board of Immigration Appeals listed three factors that must be considered in deciding whether to grant or deny the waiver. These factors are also described in the Foreign Affairs Manual, which sets forth policies for the Department of State. They are:

  • The risk of harm to society if the applicant is admitted to the U.S.
  • The seriousness of the applicant’s prior immigration law or criminal law violations, which caused the inadmissibility.
  • The importance of the applicant’s reasons for seeking to enter the U.S.

The consular officer must recommend your nonimmigrant waiver request for approval before it is forwarded to the U.S. Customs & Border Protection for a final decision.

Immigrant waiver

For immigrant visa applicants, there are waivers for certain inadmissibility grounds, including fraud or willful misrepresentation, some criminal offenses, and unlawful presence.

You will need to determine whether a waiver is available for the specific section of law that makes you inadmissible. Even when a waiver is available, only certain immigrant visa applicants may qualify for it.

You qualify for the I-601 waiver [INA§ 212(i) waiver] of the lifetime fraud/willful misrepresentation bar under section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) if you are one of the following:

1. An intended immigrant who is the spouse, son or daughter of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident (or the fiance(e) of a U.S. citizen K-visa petitioner) who will suffer extreme hardship if you are not admitted to the U.S. [NOTE: Being a parent of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident child does not make you eligible for the §212(i) waiver.]

or

2. A VAWA self-petitioner who will suffer extreme hardship or whose U.S. citizen, lawful permanent resident, or qualified alien parent or child will suffer extreme hardship if you are not admitted to the U.S.

You qualify for the I-601 [INA§ 212(a)(9)(B)(v)] waiver of the 3/10 year unlawful presence bar if you are the spouse or son or daughter of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident (or the fiance(e) of a U.S. citizen K-visa petitioner) who will suffer extreme hardship if you are not admitted to the U.S. [NOTE: Being a parent of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident child does not make you eligible for the unlawful presence waiver.

You qualify for the I-601 [INA § 212(h)] waiver of crime-related inadmissibility grounds if you are one of the following:

1. An immigrant who is the spouse, parent, son or daughter of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, or K visa petitioner, who will suffer extreme hardship if you are not admitted to the U.S.

2. A self-petitioning abused spouse or child of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

3. Inadmissible only under prostitution grounds [sections 212(D)(i) or (D)(ii) of the INA]; you have been rehabilitated; and your admission is not contrary to the national welfare, safety, or security to the United States.

4. Inadmissible due to certain criminal activities (e.g. a crime involving moral turpitude; single offense of simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana) that occurred more than 15 years before the date of application for a visa, admission, or adjustment of status; you have been rehabilitated; and your admission is not contrary to the national welfare, safety, or security of the United States.

The I-601 immigrant waiver under section 212(h) of the INA excuses  you from the following criminal grounds:

1. Crimes involving moral turpitude

2. One controlled substance violation involving simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana (or an equivalent amount of hashish)

3. Two or more criminal convictions (other than purely political ones) with an aggregate sentence imposed of at least five years

4. Prostitution

5. Unlawful commercialized vice, whether or not related to prostitution

6. Certain aliens involved in serious crimes who have asserted immunity from prosecution

The immigrant waiver is not available for all crime-related grounds of inadmissibility. In particular, persons charged with the following are not eligible for the waiver:

1. 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(II)[Controlled Substance Violation] – except when it relates to a single offense of simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana (or hashish); or

2. 212(a)(2)(C)[Controlled Substance Traffickers]

3. 212(a)(2)(G)[Foreign government officials who committed particularly severe violations of religious freedom]

4. 212(a)(2)(H)[Significant traffickers in persons/human traffickers]

5. 212(a)(2)(I)[Money laundering]

Waiver for prior removal orders (or certain immigration violations)

Advance permission to reapply for admission into the United States is needed when you are inadmissible under sections 212(a)(9)(A)(i)(e.g. expedited removal order) and (ii) (removal order by an Immigration Judge), as well as sections 212(a)(9)(C)(i)(I) (illegal re-entry after accruing more than one year of unlawful presence) and (II)(illegal re-entry following removal order).

When any of these inadmissibility bars apply, you need an I-212 waiver to be readmitted to the U.S. or to obtain a visa as an immigrant or nonimmigrant. For more information on these inadmissibility grounds, read our article, When do you need an I-212 Waiver (and how do you get it)?

The I-212 waiver request may be filed at any time, in conjunction with a visa application, when sections 212(a)(9)(A)(i) and (ii) apply. But when sections 212(a)(9)(C)(i)(I) and (II) apply and you are an immigrant visa applicant, you must be outside the U.S. and wait ten years abroad before filing  the Form I-212.  [Note: As an alternative, if you are a nonimmigrant visa applicant, you may seek a section 212(d)(3) nonimmigrant waiver, at any time, if you are inadmissible under section 212(a)(9)(C)(i)(I), i.e. unlawful presence of more than one year, in the aggregate, and subsequent reentry without admission or parole.]

A completed and signed Form I-212,  Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States after Deportation or Removal, must be submitted – except in few situations, such as when filing for a nonimmigrant visa at certain U.S. consulates. The Form I-212 filing fee and sometimes a biometrics fee are required.

Consult an immigration attorney with expertise in visa refusals or denials

When your visa is refused or denied, and you still wish to come to the U.S., you need to contact an immigration attorney to evaluate your visa eligibility, verify whether the consulate has valid grounds to deny the visa, and discuss or pursue possible remedies.

For more information, read our related article, Common Reasons for Visa Refusal or Visa Denial.

This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

SUBSCRIBE           CONTACT

Photo by: Anne Worner

Common Reasons for Visa Refusal or Visa Denial

A visa refusal or denial brings disappointment, frustration, and confusion over what to do next to enter the U.S. lawfully.

The U.S. Embassies and Consulates ultimately decide whether to grant you a nonimmigrant visa (e.g. B-1/B-2 visitor, F-1 student, H-1B temporary worker) or immigrant visa (e.g. family-based or employment-based) for admission to the United States. Proving you qualify for a visa is rarely easy.

Before you apply for a visa, it’s important to know the common reasons for a refusal or denial. They stem from the Immigration & Nationality Act, including sections 221(g)(lack of information or documents to show visa eligibility), 214(b)(failure to overcome presumption of immigrant intent in nonimmigrant visa cases) and 212(a)(inadmissibility grounds).

Soft refusal

1. Section 221(g) – Incomplete Application or Supporting Documentation

A visa refusal under section 221(g) of the INA means you did not present all the necessary information or documents for the consular officer to determine your visa eligibility. This is a soft refusal because you get the opportunity to correct the problem before a final decision is made.

In a 221(g) notice, you will be instructed on what additional evidence is needed and how to submit it. Examples include financial documents, affidavits of support, employment letter, and criminal records. If you do not submit the requested documents within one year, you will need to reapply for the visa and pay a new application fee.

You may also be informed that the Consulate will conduct further administrative processing of your application (e.g. security checks) before it instructs you on next steps or issues a decision.  This can be triggered by database hits, fraud prevention unit investigations, alerts lists, and administrative errors. Most administrative processing is resolved within 60 days of the visa interview, but the timing varies based on individual circumstances.

When the documents submitted are not enough to overcome the 221(g) refusal or administrative processing reveals negative information that makes you inadmissible, your visa request will be denied.

Hard denial

2. Section 214(b) – Visa Qualifications and Immigrant Intent

Under section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, a nonimmigrant is presumed to have immigrant intent, i.e. intent to remain permanently, rather than temporarily, in the United States. Nonimmigrant visa applicants (except for H-1B and L-1s) have the burden to overcome this presumption and prove they have no immigrant intent.

Section 214(b) denials apply only to nonimmigrant visa categories. For instance, B-1/B-2 visitor visa applicants must show they have strong ties to their home country, which they cannot abandon, and intend to visit the U.S. temporarily for business or pleasure. F-1 student visa applicants must further show they are qualified to pursue a full course of study, have the financial resources to pay tuition and living expenses, and intend to return to their country after completing their studies.

A 214(b) denial notice will state you have not demonstrated strong ties to your home country to overcome the presumption of immigrant intent and therefore do not meet the standards for a visa grant. The real, underlying reason, however, may be different.

Do you fit the profile of a person who tends to work in the U.S. without authorization or will likely overstay? Did you request a change of status from B-2 to F-1 during a previous trip to the U.S.? Have you ever entered the Diversity Visa lottery or had an I-130 immigrant petition filed on your behalf? Did you seem nervous during the visa interview? Did you give birth in the U.S. during a temporary visit? Do you make regular visits to the U.S. and stay for extended periods each time?

A consular officer’s doubts about your true intentions could lead to a 214(b) visa denial. It is often used as catch-all provision even when there is no valid reason to deny your visa application.

3. Section 212(a) – Inadmissibility Grounds

Section 212(a) of the INA lists the various grounds on which you are inadmissible to the U.S. (i.e. barred from entering the U.S. or from obtaining a visa).

Section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) of the INA states that you are permanently inadmissible if you, by fraud or willfully misrepresenting a material fact, seek to procure (or have sought to procure or have procured) a visa, other documentation, or admission into the U.S. or other immigration benefit.

Section 212(a)(2) of the INA lists crime-related grounds that permanently bar you from entering the U.S. They include crimes involving moral turpitude (that do not qualify for the petty offense or youthful offender exception), controlled substance violations, multiple criminal convictions, and controlled substance trafficking (i.e. U.S. consular officer or U.S. government knows or has reason to believe you are a controlled substance trafficker).

Section 212(a)(9)(B)(i)(I) of the INA states the 3 year bar to re-entry applies if you were unlawfully present in the U.S. for more than 180 days, but less than one year, and then depart the U.S. The U.S. government adds up all the days you were unlawfully present in the U.S. in a single ongoing period or stay (i.e. continuous period of unlawful presence).

Section 212(a)(9)(B)(i)(II) of the INA states the 10 year bar to re-entry applies if you were unlawfully present in the U.S. for one year or more, and then depart the U.S. The U.S. government adds up all the days you were unlawfully present in the U.S., even if they were from different periods or stays (i.e. the aggregate period of unlawful presence).

Section 212(a)(9)(A)(i) of the INA states you have a five-year bar to reentry from the date of your removal if:

  • You were removed upon arrival in the U.S., i.e. ordered removed in an expedited removal proceeding by U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) at a U.S. port of entry.
  • You were placed in removal proceedings upon arrival in the U.S. and then ordered removed by an immigration judge as an arriving alien.

Section 212(a)(9)(A)(ii) of the INA states you have a 10-year bar to reentry from the date of your removal if:

  • You were ordered removed, other than as an arriving alien, including by an immigration judge in removal proceedings.
  • You failed to timely depart the U.S. under an order of voluntary departure issued by an immigration judge, causing the voluntary departure to be converted to a removal order.
  • You departed the U.S. willingly, but before removal proceedings were concluded.
  • You left the U.S. while a removal order was outstanding.

Section 212(a)(9)(A)(ii) of the INA states you have a 20-year bar to reentry from the date of your removal if you were ordered removed from the U.S. more than once, whether as an arriving alien or not. It permanently bars you from reentry from the date of your removal if you were convicted of an aggravated felony.

Section 212(a)(9)(C) of the INA states you are permanently barred if you reentered or attempted to reenter the U.S. illegally after you accrued more than one year of unlawful presence in the U.S. and left, or after you were ordered removed from the U.S. The permanent bar, due to illegal entry or attempted illegal entry, applies only if you accrued the (1+ year) unlawful presence or were ordered removed on or after April 1, 1997, or entered or attempt to reenter the U.S. unlawfully on or after April 1, 1997.

Notification of Visa Refusal or Denial

When a consular officer refuses or denies your visa request, you will be informed orally and given a written notice with boxes checked off from a boilerplate list of statutory law.

In both immigrant and nonimmigrant visa cases, the officer must provide timely, written notice of:

  • The provision(s) of law on which the refusal is based
  • Any waiver of inadmissibility available (when  212(a) ineligibility grounds apply)

In immigrant visa cases, the written notice should include the factual basis for the refusal (unless such information is classified) ). The consular officer should refer to pertinent written or oral statements of the applicant, a conviction, medical report, false document, previous refusal, or the like, as the basis of the refusal.  The officer is also instructed to explain the law simply and clearly.

In Kerry v. Din, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its June 15, 2015 decision stating consular officers need not provide the factual basis for an immigrant visa denial when terrorism or national security concerns are involved. In that case, a foreign national spouse was denied her immigrant visa based on an unexplained allegation that her Afghani, U.S. citizen husband (the I-130 petitioner) supported terrorism. The court ruled that in these circumstances, a consular officer may simply cite to the statutory law without providing specific reasons for the visa denial.

In nonimmigrant visa cases, the written notice rarely informs you of the specific facts on which the consular office relied to made the decision. Usually, it will only cite to the statute (law) under which your visa was denied. Therefore, it helps to listen closely to the consular officer’s oral notice.

Consult an immigration attorney with expertise in visa refusals and denials

To prevent or overcome a visa denial, you should seek guidance from an immigration attorney who deals with consular processing. A skilled attorney can evaluate your case to verify your visa eligibility, help you respond to a request for more documents, challenge erroneous inadmissibility findings, and file for any necessary and available waivers.

For more information, read our related article, Potential Solutions for Visa Refusal or Visa Denial.

This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

SUBSCRIBE           CONTACT

Photo by: Chris Rimmer