How to avoid visa abuse

BY VENICE WILLIAMS-GORDON

Friday, July 19, 2019

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A US visitor's visa is a tourist visa to the United States of America. It is also known as a B-1/B-2 visa. It is a non-immigrant visa issued to people entering the US temporarily for certain purposes. Any foreign citizen who wants to visit the US for the purpose of tourism, visiting family and friends, attending special events such as family functions and ceremonies, or for medical treatment may qualify for a visitor's visa.

Those applying for a visitor's visa need to be mindful of their plans for the three months following the time they arrive in the US.

A B-1/B-2 visa usually lasts for 10 years but this does not mean that you can stay continuously for 10 years. As a short stay visa, it allows you to visit the US as many times as you wish over a 10-year period, but for a maximum of six months each time.

Long stays generally raise questions such as 'why would you stay away from your home country for six months?' Assumptions will be made by consular or border control officers that it can't be for tourism, so you'd better have convincing reasons for a long stay.

Multiple visits should raise no issues if your stays are short—one to two weeks—and are for business or conferences, client meetings, or negotiations.

If you are visiting frequently— let's say once every month—then you might be asked about the purpose of your frequent visits. You'd better have reasons for your travel — whether it's for general business or client meetings because, as said before, long stays can raise questions. Officials may suspect you have paid employment in the US, which is not allowed on a B-1/B-2 visa. They are very strict; if you are caught your visa will be cancelled.

SIX MONTHS' ALLOWANCE — A TYPICAL SCENARIO

John Brown has family in the US who are either residents or citizens. John decides to make an application for a 10-year multiple entry visa to the US.

When John enters the US he receives permission to stay for six months. While John is there his mom becomes ill, and he stays with her for five months until her health improves and he returns home.

John's sister invites him to her wedding in the US, and he accepts the invitation, staying there for three months before returning home.

On another visit to the US John meets Jane, and he decides to stay for four months to bond with her. One year later Jane has a baby, and John comes back to the US and stays with her for five months to help her with the baby.

Thereafter, John visits his girlfriend and family but does not stay for more than six months each visit. John's visa has now expired and he makes an application to the US embassy in Kingston, only to find that he is denied on the grounds that he abused his visitor's visa.

He argues that he visited the US legally every time and stayed only for the allowed duration. He cannot figure out what he did wrong.

THE PROBLEM

John's pattern of travel will be seen by US immigration lawmakers as a breach of the tourist visa's intended purpose. Therefore, his actions will raise questions about whether John has true ties to his home country, and whether he misrepresented his reasons for requesting a visa.

The US State Department has released the latest changes to the US visitor's visa policy, requiring foreign visitors to stick to the three-month plans stated in their visa application form and which are discussed during their interview with consular officers upon arrival in US.

Even a small discrepancy between the reason they give for visiting the US and what they actually do there in the three months after arrival can result in visa cancellation or denial of visa renewal. It may also put them on the radar for deportation from the US.

Many foreigners enter the US on the pretext of vacationing, honeymooning, engaging in business, undergoing medical treatment, or partaking in cultural or culinary touring, but once they arrive in the US their actual activities differ greatly from their predefined plans.

Discrepancy between what is said while applying for a US visitor's visa and what is done after entering the US can be considered a case of misrepresentation. For example, if you enter the US as a tourist and then start working, or enroll in some short-term course at a university (without proper authorisation) within 90 days of your arrival, it will be considered a deliberate act to defraud the system.

If you visit the US as a medical tourist or for business purposes, fall in love, get married within 90 days of your entry and seek lawful permanent residency (a green card) in the US, it will be viewed as a case of misrepresentation; Your visa may be cancelled or denied renewal.

A visitor's visa is granted for short visits to the US. Therefore, the granting of six months is not meant for anyone to stay in the US for as long as possible before the expiration of time allotted.

It is prudent for you to get back home in the shortest possible time.

John's frequent extended visits to the US are not consistent with the actions of a genuine visitor. Hence, it becomes a violation of the original intention of a visitor visa under US immigration laws.

Consular officers will see John's action as abuse and, therefore, John exposes himself to the possibility of his visa being cancelled or revoked for the reasons above.

Venice Williams-Gordon is an attorney-at-law at Lewis, Smith, Williams & Company. She can be contacted at

vwilliams@lswlegal.com


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