Tag Archives: visitor visa

Birth Tourism, Frequent/Extended Trips, Immigration Status Change: 3 Things That Often Prevent Entry to the U.S. (even though they are not strictly prohibited)

If you had a baby in the United States, made frequent/extended trips to the country, or applied for a change in immigration status during a prior stay as a visitor, you may be stopped from entering the U.S., even though these activities are not strictly prohibited.

This problem arises especially when the U.S. Consulate or U.S. Customs & Border Protection determines you misrepresented the purpose of your visit when you applied for the B-1/B-2 visitor visa and used it or the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) to enter the United States.

Section 214(b) of the Immigration & Nationality Act presumes that most nonimmigrant visa applicants intend to immigrate permanently to the United States. Only certain categories, such as the H-1B  (professional worker) and L-1A/L-1B (intracompany transferee), allow dual intent (i.e. intent to immigrate in the future while maintaining temporary status in the present). Otherwise, nonimmigrant visa applicants must show they have no intent to immigrate and simply seek a temporary stay in the U.S.

When you engage in any of the following 3 activities, you could have problems getting a new visa or gaining re-entry to the U.S. for a temporary stay, although each one, by itself, does not violate U.S. immigration law or make you inadmissible to the United States:

1. Traveling to the United States to have a baby (“Birth Tourism”)

Traveling to the United States on a visitor visa for the purpose of giving birth to a child is commonly known as Birth Tourism.  Under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, birth in the United States gives the child automatic citizenship with all its rights and privileges.

Furthermore, birth citizenship provides the  foreign national parent with potential immigration relief. For example, upon turning age 21, a U.S. citizen son or daughter may file an immigrant petition for a parent in the immediate relatives category, which has no numerical limits on immigrant visas available.  A parent who overstays in the United States and is placed in removal proceedings may qualify for Cancellation of Removal and Adjustment of Status (to permanent residence) if she has been continuously present in the United States for at least 10 years, has not been convicted of certain offenses, has good moral character, and her removal would result in exceptional and extremely unusual hardship to her U.S. citizen child.

There is no specific criminal law or immigration law prohibiting birth tourism per se or preventing a pregnant woman from entering the United States. Nonetheless, U.S. consular officers and customs officers often view it as a misuse of the visitor visa status and a gaming of the immigration system to give the child automatic citizenship.

If the officer sees you are pregnant at the time of applying for a tourist visa or requesting admission as a visitor, he may refuse the visa or deny your entry. This is why birth tourists who hail from various countries such as China, Taiwan, South Korea, Russia, Brazil and Mexico, typically come to the United States when their pregnancy is not so obvious.

Even if you succeed in gaining a visitor visa or entering the United States as a visitor to give birth, you might still encounter problems in the future when you apply for a new visa or admission as a nonimmigrant.

A consular officer may deny your request for a B-1/B-2 visitor visa or other non-dual intent visa under INA 214(b) by finding you intend to immigrate due to your having a U.S. citizen son or daughter, or based on mere suspicion that you will use a new visa to give birth in the U.S. again. The U.S. Consulate has sole discretion to make a factual determination on whether you have strong ties to your country to overcome the presumption of immigrant intent.

A non-resident parent who travels with a U.S. citizen child may face tougher scrutiny at the U.S. port of entry. A customs officer who discovers you had a child during a prior visit in the U.S.  may deny your request for admission on a temporary visa and further issue an expedited removal order under INA 212(a)(7)(lack of proper visa or other travel documents), which carries a five-year bar. To be excused from this five-year bar to being admitted to the United States, you need an approved Form I-212, Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States After Deportation or Removal.

In some cases, a consular officer or customs officer may issue a more serious charge under INA 212(a)(6)(C)(i)(fraud or willful misrepresentation of material fact to gain a visa or entry to the United States), which is a lifetime bar. When such an inadmissibility finding is made by the U.S. Consulate or CBP, there is little or no recourse other than to appeal directly to the agency to reconsider and rescind the decision. As long as the section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) bar holds, you will need a 212(d)(3) nonimmigrant waiver or a Form I-601/212(i) immigrant waiver to be admitted to the United States.

Because a visitor visa may be used for medical treatment, your showing that giving birth in the United States served or serves a health purpose can be a positive factor. An example is if the pregnancy comes with high risks or serious complications. When you are upfront and declare you are coming to the U.S. to give birth, the officer decides, on a case-by-case basis, whether to grant the visa or admission based on proof of strong ties to your country, nonimmigrant intent, and sufficient funds to cover all medical costs.

Paying all medical bills or having your own medical insurance to cover the expenses related to childbirth can help prevent a visa refusal or denial of admission. Ultimately, however, the consular officer or customs officer has discretion to determine whether having a baby in the U.S. is consistent with the purpose of a visitor visa, regardless of whether you cover the medical expenses and do not become a public charge by receiving Medicaid (government assistance) to pay the medical bills.

2. Making frequent, extended visits to the United States

U.S. immigration law allows visitor visa holders to conduct legitimate B-1/B-2 activities for a temporary period, up to six months. Using ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) if you are an eligible applicant from a Visa Waiver Program-eligible country allows you visit the United States for 90 days or less.

The U.S. consular officers and customs officers expect you to use the visitor visa or ESTA/Visa Waiver program to engage in tourism and recreational activities, visit family and friends, and conduct other temporary visit activities. Remaining in the U.S. for the maximum or close to the maximum time allowed and then quickly returning to the U.S. (e.g. within a month) for another extended stay do not reflect the travel patterns of a real visitor.

Frequent, extended trips to the United States will likely cause the customs officer to suspect you are really living, studying or working in the country without authorization. You may end up with a shorter authorized stay or a warning from the officer. You could also be placed in secondary inspection and questioned extensively so the officer can find legitimate grounds to deny your entry.

You may be asked to withdraw your application for admission or be issued an expedited removal order due to lack of proper travel documents and even due to willful misrepresentation to enter the U.S.  A visa revocation will likely affect your eligibility for a new visa. An inadmissibility finding will stop you from using the ESTA/Visa Waiver program.

There is no minimum time you must stay in your country before returning to the U.S. for another visit. But if you are constantly traveling to the U.S. and staying for long periods, you can expect to run into problems later, even if you were previously lawfully admitted as a visitor without any complications.

3. Applying for a change of status after entering the United States in another status

U.S. immigration law allows nonimmigrants to change from one status to another (such as B-1/B-2 visitor to F-1 student, H-1B professional worker, or H-2B nonagricultural seasonal worker) or file for asylum within the U.S. if they meet the eligibility criteria.

A request for change of status through the filing of a Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, or Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services is often met with several obstacles. One is that USCIS will not approve the status change request unless you are maintaining lawful B-1/B-2 status or other nonimmigrant status.

Questions regarding whether a willful misrepresentation of material fact to gain an immigration benefit might arise when you file for a change of status within the U.S., instead of apply for the appropriate visa at the U.S. Consulate.

B-1/B-2 visitor visa holders, for instance, may be found to have misrepresented the purpose of their stay if they applied to schools or sought employment after arriving in the United States. Even if you did not attend school or work without authorization in the U.S., your taking steps toward a change in status that permits school attendance or employment in the U.S. could signal to the consular officer that you were not a genuine visitor.

Immigration problems can also occur when you apply for adjustment to permanent resident status instead of file for an immigrant visa at the U.S. Consulate. One of the most common ways for a B-1/B-2 visa holder to adjust to permanent resident (green card) status is to enter into a bona fide marriage to a U.S. citizen and have the citizen file an immigrant petition on his or her behalf. While an overstay, by itself, does not prevent adjustment of status based on marriage to a U.S. citizen, providing false information to a consular officer or customs officer about the purpose of the visit creates immigration problems.

In general, the U.S. Consulate applies a 30/60 day rule in determining whether a misrepresentation was made if you conduct yourself in a manner inconsistent with representations made to the consular officers concerning your intentions at the time of visa application or to customs officers when you requested admission.

If a B-1/B-2 visitor, for example, marries a U.S. citizen and applies for a green card within 30 days of arrival, the consular officer may presume the applicant misrepresented his intentions in seeking a visa or admission to the U.S. There is no presumption of misrepresentation if the request for change of status is made more than 30 days but less than 60 days after arrival. But depending on the facts of the case, the officer may still have a reasonable belief that misrepresentation occurred, in which case the applicant receives an opportunity to present countervailing evidence. While USCIS is not required to follow the Consulate’s 30/60 day policy, it sometimes uses it as guidance. 

Seeking asylum in the United States, through a credible fear interview process at the U.S port of entry or through the filing of a Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, after being admitted to the U.S., also signals immigrant intent. If asylum is not granted, it will be very difficult (if not impossible) for you to be re-admitted as a visitor or in another status that requires nonimmigrant intent, at least in the near future.

Conclusion

Having a baby in the U.S., making frequent, extended trips to the country, and applying for a change in status following arrival in another status are not prohibited by U.S. immigration law. Still, if you engage in any of these three things, a U.S. consular officer or customs officer may find that you gamed the immigration system or took unfair advantage of immigration loopholes.

Use proper caution and be aware of the immigration risks and consequences associated with these activities. If you are refused a visa, denied admission or issued an expedited removal order for any of these reasons, consult an experienced immigration attorney to discuss possible remedies.

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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.

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Photo by: Meagan

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.

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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.

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Photo by: Richard Burger

Coming to America to Get Married and Get a Green Card: B-2 or K-1 Visa?

A foreign national who is living overseas and is in a relationship with a U.S. citizen has two main visa options to come to the U.S., get married, and apply for a green card: the B-2 visitor visa and the K-1 fiancé(e) visa. Each route has advantages and disadvantages.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE B-2 VISITOR VISA

The B-2 visitor visa is for temporary visits only. Entering the U.S. on a B-2 visa and then applying for a marriage-based green card carry benefits and risks.

Benefits of the B-2 to Green Card Route

1. B-2 visa applicant or visa holder does not need a sponsor

An invitation letter or Affidavit of Support from an American sponsor is not required for a B-2 visa. Unlike K-1  fiancé(e) visa applicants, B-2 visa applicants are not required to prove a bona fide relationship with a U.S. citizen significant other.

B-2 visa applicants must instead qualify on the basis of their own residence and ties abroad.  There is no medical exam to complete or immigration-related petition for a U.S. citizen relative to file. They just need to file the online nonimmigrant visa application and pay the application fee.

Legitimate purposes of the B-2 include tourism, vacation (holiday), and visits with friends or relatives. Getting married to a U.S. citizen (or permanent resident) during your visit is not prohibited – as long as you intend to leave the country before your authorized period expires.

2. General desire (and even preconceived intent) to immigrate  – in and of itself – does not prevent B-2 visa holder from adjusting status as the spouse of a U.S. citizen

The B-2 to green card route works best when the foreign national decides to get married to the U.S. citizen only after entering the country. The couple might be undecided about the future of their relationship until they spend more time together during the visit. If the U.S. citizen surprised the B-2 visitor with a marriage proposal after he or she entered the U.S., the visitor could show the original intent was truly a temporary visit.

A general desire to remain in the U.S ., when there is an opportunity to do so legally, is not a problem. Furthermore, a fixed intent to immigrate does not bar immediate relatives (e.g. spouses) of U.S. citizens from adjusting status — unless there are other adverse factors that allow USCIS to deny adjustment as a matter of discretion.

3. Concurrently filing the I-130 and I-485 application (one-step petition/application) is the most streamlined way to get a marriage-based green card

Under normal circumstances, a B-2 visitor who is physically present in the U.S., after lawfully entering the U.S., may file a Form I-485 adjustment of status application at the same time the U.S. citizen files the Form I-130 immigrant petition with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). The B-2 to green card route is commonly used by immediate relatives of U.S. citizens.

The one-step filing of the I-485 and I-130 is a much more streamlined process than applying for a K-1 fiancé(e) visa, K-3 nonimmigrant visa, or immigrant visa at the U.S. Consulate overseas, based on marriage to a U.S. citizen. You may also stay with your spouse in the U.S. while your green card application is pending, instead of being separated from each other.

Drawbacks of the B-2 to Green Card Route

1.  B-2 visa applicant or visa holder must show non-immigrant intent

To get the B-2 visa or to enter the U.S. as a visitor, the foreign national must have nonimmigrant intent. You need to prove you have strong ties to your home country that you will not abandon and you will leave the U.S. before your authorized stay expires.

The B-2 visa to green card route works best if you are not yet engaged to the U.S. citizen or did not make specific plans to immigrate to the U.S. after entering the U.S.

Entering the U.S. as a visitor simply to marry a U.S. citizen (or permanent resident) does not violate U.S. immigration law, as long as you leave before your authorized stay expires. While this purpose is legitimate, it still carries risks and may lead to your being denied a visitor visa or entry into the U.S. as a visitor.

If you are applying for a visitor visa, you will be asked on the nonimmigrant visa application, and possibly at the visa interview, whether you have any immediate relatives in the U.S. This includes a fiancé(e). If the consular officer learns you have a U.S. citizen fiancé(e) or believes you will marry the fiancé(e)  during your visit, you will likely be denied a visitor visa. This is because the consular officer might suspect you have no intent of leaving the U.S., but will overstay, get married, and apply for a green card to live permanently in the U.S. with your American spouse.

At the U.S. port of entry, the customs officer may deny your entry for the same reason, even if you present a valid visitor visa. If the U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) finds that you cannot show nonimmigrant intent and therefore lack the proper travel documents, it has two choices. It will either (a) allow you to withdraw your application for admission (and likely revoke your visa) OR, (b) issue an expedited removal order, which bars you from returning to the U.S. for five years, unless you obtain a Form I-212 waiver. Either way, you will be instructed to return home on the next available flight.

In certain situations, the CBP might also find that you willfully misrepresented the purpose of your visit to gain entry into the U.S. as a visitor. It may then deny your entry and issue an expedited removal order on this additional ground. If you cannot convince CBP to refrain from issuing (or to vacate) a charge of willful misrepresentation, you face a lifetime bar to getting a green card or immigrant visa. You will then need to qualify for and obtain an I-601 [INA § 212(i)] waiver of inadmissibility.

I-601 waiver applicants must show  their qualifying relative (U.S. or permanent resident spouse or parent) will suffer “extreme hardship” if they are not admitted to the U.S. as an immigrant. This waiver is challenging to get.

2. Fraud or willful misrepresentation to gain immigration benefits prohibits B-2 visa holder from getting a green card

Lying about the purpose of your visit or about whether you have an American fiancé in the U.S. could be deemed to be fraud or willful misrepresentation to gain immigration benefits.

The U.S. Department of State adopted a 30/60 day rule when a foreign national violates his nonimmigrant status. When a B-2 visa holder marries a U.S. citizen or applies for permanent residence within 30 days of entry,  the DOS presumes that he misrepresented his intent in seeking a visitor visa or entry. If the marriage or green card application occurred between 30 and 60 days of entry, the DOS does not presume, but may content there was misrepresentation. If the marriage or green card application occurred after 60 days, the DOS does not consider such conduct to constitute fraud or willful misrepresentation to obtain immigration benefits.

USCIS is a separate agency from the DOS and the Board of Immigration Appeals has held that immediate relatives are exempt from the 30/60 day rule. Nonetheless, USCIS may use it as a guide.

If USCIS finds you committed fraud or willful misrepresentation to get the B-2 visa or to enter the U.S. as a visitor, this presents a permanent bar to getting a green card. You may also be placed in removal proceedings before the Immigration Court.

You may challenge the finding by showing you did not engage in immigration fraud or willfully misrepresented material facts when you applied for the visa or when you sought entry into the U.S. If you are unable to overcome the finding, you will need to apply for and receive an I-601 waiver of inadmissibility.

3. Concurrent filing of the I-130 and I-485 (one-step petition/application) involves strict eligibility requirements

The visitor visa is often misused as a way to enter the U.S., get married, and then apply for adjustment of status (green card) to avoid the longer process of applying for a K-1, K-3 or immigrant visa at the U.S. Consulate.

USCIS officers will carefully scrutinize your marriage to confirm it’s bona fide, i.e. entered into with the intent of establishing a life together as spouses, and not to circumvent U.S. immigration laws. You need to present documentary evidence of your shared residence, commingling of financial resources and other factors showing you have a real marriage. You also have to testify consistently and credibly as to the nature of your relationship and courtship.

As the I-485 applicant, you must show you are not inadmissible due to criminal convictions, health-related reasons, immigration violations, or other factors. The USCIS officer may conduct a full review your records (including your visitor visa application) and ask you questions at the interview to verify you are admissible to the U.S. It may investigate your true intent when you applied for the visa or sought entry on the visa.

An immigrant visa must also be available to the I-485 applicant.  If your spouse is a permanent resident, he or she may file an I-130 petition for you, but you may not file for a green card right away due to the backlog in the F2A (spouse of permanent resident) category.

When you are not in the immediate relative (e.g. spouse of U.S. citizen) category, you must be in lawful nonimmigrant status when you file an I-485. You will need to extend or change status to remain lawfully in the U.S. during the wait. Or you might have to wait until your permanent resident spouse becomes a naturalized U.S. citizen. Because adjusting status as the spouse of a permanent resident carries many obstacles, you likely will have to timely depart the U.S. and apply for an immigrant visa at the U.S. Consulate when one becomes available.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE K-1 FIANCE(E) VISA

The K-1 fiancé(e) visa is for the specific purpose of entering the U.S. to get married to a U.S. citizen and filing for adjustment of status. Entering the U.S. on a K-1 visa and then applying for a marriage-based green card carry benefits and risks.

Benefits of the K-1 to Green Card Route

1. K-1 visa applicant is not required to show nonimmigrant intent

When you apply for a K-1 visa, you are declaring immigrant intent. Getting married to a U.S. citizen and applying for permanent residence are expected. Unlike B-2 visa applicants, K-1 applicants are not required to present evidence of nonimmigrant intent or strong ties to their home country.

2. K-1 visa is the most appropriate visa for marrying a U.S. citizen in the U.S. and applying for a marriage-based green card

As a K-1 entrant, you bear no risk of being found to have committed visa fraud if you marry the U.S. citizen petitioner and apply for a green card, as you indicated you would.  Because you are required to marry the U.S. citizen within 90 days, the Department of State’s 30/60 day rule does not apply at all.

The K-1 to green card route is the most direct path to obtaining a marriage-based green card when you are engaged to a U.S. citizen.

3. Adjustment of status process for the K-1 entrant is generally simpler

A K-1 visa holder who completed the medical exam within the past year to get the visa is not required to do a medical exam for the I-485 application. You just need to submit the vaccination supplement, and not the entire medical report.

The U.S. citizen also does not have to file an I-130 immigrant petition after the marriage occurs. You simply file the I-485 application based on the approved Form I-129F petition, as long as the marriage occurred within 90 days of arrival in the U.S.

USCIS also has discretion to waive adjustment interviews for K-1 and K-2 entrants, i.e. fiancé(e) of U.S. citizen and children of fiancé(e). If the National Benefits Center (NBC) determines that the I-485 application qualifies for an interview waiver, and the Service Center agrees, the K-1 entrant may be granted a green card without an interview at the USCIS Field Office. This is never the case with the B-2 entrant, who must complete a marriage-based green card interview.

Drawbacks of the K-1 to Green Card Route

1. K-1 visa applicant must prove bona fide relationship with U.S. citizen

The K-1 visa option is available only if you are engaged to a U.S. citizen. It is not available if you are not committed to getting married (or you are already married), or if your fiancé(e) is just a permanent resident.

To get the K-1 visa, you must prove you have a real relationship with the U.S. citizen, communicate with each other often, and intend to marry within 90 days of your arrival in the U.S. Documentary evidence includes written correspondences, telephone records, and airline tickets and travel stamps showing the U.S. citizen has visited the K-1 visa applicant.

2. K-1 visa involves strict eligibility requirements

In the wake of the San Bernardino shooting on December 2, in which 14 people were killed after married couple Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik opened fire at a holiday party, Congress began to review the K-1 visa application process. Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte Goodlatte, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, opined that USCIS “sloppily approved” Farook’s K-1 visa petition for Malik.  Goodlatte noted that USCIS failed to verify whether the Pakistani national had met her U.S. citizen husband in person before applying for the K-1 visa.

The K-1 visa process requires the couple to meet in person at least once during the two years before the U.S. citizen files the Form I-129F petition for the fiancé(e). Waiver of the in-person meeting requirement is very hard to get.

For USCIS to approve the Form I-129F petition and for the U.S. Consulate to grant the visa, both the U.S. citizen petitioner and foreign national beneficiary must meet other strict eligibility requirements.

For example, a U.S. citizen who has filed two or more K-1 petitions at any time in the past or had any K-1 petition approved within the prior two years may not file a new K-1 petition unless USCIS grants a waiver of these limitations as a matter of discretion. No waiver will be given to a petitioner with a history of violent offenses except in limited circumstances.

3. K-1 to green card route involves a longer, three-step process

You cannot live with your U.S. citizen fiancé(e) in the U.S. until you get the K-1 visa to enter the U.S. The first step of filing the Form I-129F petition and getting it approved usually takes at least 4 to 6 months. The U.S. citizen has to submit a filing fee with the petition.

After USCIS approves the petition, the K-1 applicant must then submit the online nonimmigrant visa application, pay a visa application fee, complete a medical exam, and attend the visa interview.

The U.S. Consulate usually takes several months to schedule a K-1 visa interview. At the visa interview, the U.S. Consulate may require additional documents to confirm the applicant is still in a bona fide relationship with the U.S. citizen. Administrative processing and background checks by the U.S. Consulate can add several more months to the process.

After you enter the U.S. on a K-1 visa, you must marry the U.S. citizen within 90 days of your arrival. Then you must file your I-485 application and pay the filing fee to complete the green card process. If you fail to marry within 90 days, the U.S. citizen spouse will need to file a Form I-130 petition, following marriage outside the 90 days, so you may file a Form I-485 application. If you do not marry at all, you become removable from the U.S. and you cannot adjust through marriage to another U.S. citizen or through any other means.

Although USCIS may waive the adjustment of status interviews for K-1 entrants, it usually does not. Following the San Bernardino shooting, USCIS is expected to waive even fewer interviews. At the interview before USCIS, the couple must prove they have a bona fide marriage and the I-485 applicant must show he or she is admissible to the U.S.

Want to hear about this topic? Check out this video:

WHICH IS BETTER: B-2 or K-1? 

Whether to use the B-2 or K-1 to join your significant other in the U.S. depends on your situation. You need to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each route when deciding which to take.

Consult an experienced immigration attorney to help you determine whether the B-2 or K-1 is more appropriate for you. Although both can lead to a marriage-based green card, each carries benefits and drawbacks.

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.

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Photo by: Dennis Skley