A Little Less US Visitor Visa Drama
By Alphie Ali
If you’ve ever had to help a friend, a loved one or your parents get a first-timer tourist visa to the United States, then you know how unfun it is. But if you’re reading this, chances are that you haven’t had to, and you’re now overwhelmed by everything that’s about to come your way. The good news - according to a recent AdviseHub article by immigration lawyer Sophie Alcorn – is that there are ways to simplify a process that is never as easy as it can or should be.
To start with, any individual who wants to come to the United States for “pleasure” (aka Tourism) needs a B-2 visa. Some countries have a treaty with the U.S. that gives their citizens a visa valid for up to 10 years – which makes sense, considering how tedious the process can be. If granted admission, the tourist would typically be permitted to stay on U.S. soil for 6 months, with the option of extending it for an additional 6 months.
There’s a lot B-2 visitors can do in those 6 (or 12) months, and a few things they can’t. They CAN visit friends and relatives, engage in recreational activities, get all the rest and relaxation they need, seek medical treatment, participate in service or volunteer activities, and attend all the conventions they want. What they CANNOT do is work or get paid in the U.S. If a tourist wants to conduct business activities, then they should be applying for a B-1 visa which accounts for that intent.
It’s also worth mentioning that all tourists applying for a tourist visa must have “non-immigrant” intent. This simply means that they should not have grand plans to remain in the U.S. with hopes of becoming a permanent resident (aka getting a green card) or attempt to overstay and become what politicians endearingly refer to as, an illegal immigrant. If the consular officer at the visa interview or the border patrol officer at the airport (or any other port of entry) suspects the applicant has immigrant intent, the visa and/or entry will be denied. Guaranteed.
It also helps the tourist if he or she can show strong ties to their country of origin as evidence of nonimmigrant intent. This can mean anything from a large amount of savings or ownership of property to employment, business ownership, or dependent family members back home.
Another potential roadblock to a hassle-free visa process is the tourist not meeting the minimum financial requirements. One doesn’t have to be rich to visit the United States, but they have to be able to take care of themselves. If your friend or loved one doesn’t meet that criterion, someone with legal immigration status in the U.S. should file the optional “Affidavit of Support” on their behalf. This document essentially assures the U.S. government that someone has committed to taking care of the visitor’s room, board, round-trip airplane tickets and/or spending money, and guarantees that the potential tourist will return home at the end of the visit.
Getting an experienced immigration attorney can also be helpful, if you have the money to spend. They can help you figure out what documents to gather, write an effective cover letter, fill out all the forms, create a buttoned-up application packet, and offer you advice as needed. Of course, you could do most of that yourself and find all the information you need on AdviseHub (for $0), but having a lawyer certainly does make a painful process that much easier.
And once you jump through all the hoops and they finally have a visa, book their flights, and start making plans to take over your spare bedroom, it might be time to consider Visitor’s Travel insurance in case something should go wrong during their stay. And when you do, G1G.com can help you navigate and simplify that process too.