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How long can I stay in America?

Ask the US Embassy

Wednesday, August 11, 2010    

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Question: Is it considered a problem to stay in the United States on a visitor's visa for two or three months at a time, if you are given up to six months when you enter at the border? I would like to travel to visit my family during the holidays, but don't understand the stay restrictions.

Answer: It is fully acceptable to use your non-immigrant visa to visit the United States for two to three months, as long as you are admitted to the United States for that period of time. At the port of entry to the United States, officials with the Department of Homeland Security evaluate your case and determine the amount of time that will be granted for your stay.

Similar to when you interview for a visa, the officials are considering your purpose of travel and travel history so that they can determine the amount of time that you will be admissible (permitted to remain) in the United States. If you stay beyond the amount of time allotted by the officials at the port of entry, you are then considered out of status and this can affect your current visa and future visa applications.

Keep in mind, however, that officials at the port of entry, and especially the officials at the US Embassy, are reviewing the timeline of your travel. Before and after receiving a visa, applicants must demonstrate that they do not intend to immigrate to the United States. This includes showing strong family, social, or economic connections, as well as proof that the individual intends to stay in the United States temporarily. Officers also evaluate whether individuals use their visa for the purposes intended, such as visiting, working, or attending school.

For example, if you indicate on a visa application that you intend to travel to the United States for two weeks, but stay longer, you may be asked to explain the reason for your extended stay. Likewise, if you describe your purpose of travel as tourism, but accept unauthorised employment while in the United States, you are no longer abiding by the terms of your visa or following your stated purpose of travel.

Numerous questions arise regarding the length of your stay in the United States; the key is to make sure that you can explain your travel. While you may be granted six months to remain in the United States, the US Embassy will want to understand how you are able to be absent from your family, job, or home in Jamaica for such a long period.

Therefore, if your trip to the US covers several months, you should be able to explain how you remained tied to Jamaica during that time. You should also offer convincing information that you were able to support yourself without violating the terms of your visa, such as by working illegally.

Likewise, if you take numerous short trips, which add up to large amounts of time spent each year in the United States, we may question how strongly connected you are to your home country of Jamaica.

Whether you intend to stay two weeks or two months, the US Government's goal is to facilitate legitimate travel for qualified applicants.

Information on US Embassy hours of operation, the processes for applying for US non-immigrant and immigrant visas, and information on American Citizen Services can all be found at our website: http://kingston.usembassy.gov/

The American Embassy staff in Kingston will answer any questions you may have regarding US consular law, regulations and/or practice. In order to respect the privacy of applicants, the embassy will not answer questions on specific personal applications.

Send your questions to: editorial@jamaicaobserver.com and we will send them to the embassy.

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