Visitor visa is considered to bring in the largest number of Non-Immigrants to the country and is a rich source of wealth through tourism. Consulates however, have a vast discretion while deciding a visitor visa application and denials are frequent. As the U.S. government is making efforts to promote foreign tourism it is important to reconsider the consular discretionary power in deciding the application for visitor visa.
Visa approval rates fluctuate but the regulatory guidelines remain same. A well prepared visa application and proper responses at the consular interview can get an approval in spite of prior visa denial(s).
Visitor visa or B visa is granted for short term visits for pleasure or business. Visitors come with temporary purpose i.e. the person plans return to his or her country upon accomplishing the purpose of visit.
Under the relevant rules, the Foreign National is permitted to visit U.S.
- for a short term;
- with a definite purpose in mind;
- return to home country soon after accomplishing the purpose of the visit; and
- visitor may not be gainfully employed in the U.S.
Applicants could come to U.S. for business travel to meet clients, for certain business trips to attend meetings and conferences, participating in amateur athletic events or for independent research for a publication. Pleasure visits may include meeting family members, pleasure tours, or for receiving medical treatment or.
Grant of nonimmigrant visa (NIV) requires proof of "nonimmigrant intent." This means the visa applicant must show that he or she will not stay in U.S. longer than necessary and will not settle permanently in the United States. This is done by providing proof of sufficient connections to foreign national’s country that work like magnet and pull him or her back to his home country e.g. ownership of home/ business, presence of immediate family members, a strong career or other interest in the home country etc.
Future problem erupts when the FN attempts to engage in activities inconsistent with the purpose of his visa and may face denial of admission for holding a preexisting immigrant intent or intent inconsistent with the visitor's visa (which could be inferred from post admission conduct) leading to removal and may even entail future inadmissibility issues for possible fraud or misrepresentation.
Visa overstay and going out of status and accumulating unlawful presence are common ails of B visa entry that justify the Consulates requiring a stronger proof of non-immigrant intent. Prolonged unlawful presence bars readmission after departure which may be overcome with suitable waivers.
Visitors seeking change of status to students (F1) or another visa category may face issue of holding the prohibitive intent (to be something other than a visitor). The situation needs a careful evaluation and may sometime necessitate filing a waiver.
Spouses may try to obtain B visa to visit their newly married US Citizen (USC) spouse. Could it be just a visit? Marriage to the USC provides the obvious prohibitive immigrant intent.
Shortage of H-1B visas has sent people scurrying for alternative ways to seek admission; and B visa appears to be a convenient shelter. There are times when this could be achieved but nothing however changes the requirement of proof of "nonimmigrant visiting intent."
Visitor visa applicants often report they felt rushed and did not have sufficient opportunity to explain or present documents or were not asked enough questions. Visa interviews, usually, last just a few minutes and adjudication follows almost immediately. It says a lot when the applicants complain that they were not even asked any relevant question warranting visa denial. May be the culture plays a big notorious part at the interview.
Issuance of visa at the Consulate is not an assurance though that the foreign national would be admitted at the U.S border. It is therefore highly recommended to keep the supporting documents to be able to show to the immigration officials at the port of entry. The immigration officials have unquestionable authority to inspect the personal belongings and papers at the port of entry. Documents, cell phones and laptop computers have been the subject of border search. If the inspection reveals evidence of the prohibitive intent it may cause denial of admission at the port of entry despite visa approval stamp from the Consulate.
Travel abroad pending adjudication of extension of stay or change of status is another crucial situation that needs determination whether one could return on a new or the pre-existing visa. Although it would be separate topic to be addressed at another time it would suffice to say that the timing when to file the application and its outcome largely determine the right course to follow.
Despite these complex situations many visitor visa applications are still successfully made despite the requirement of prohibitive intent. Yet others are approved despite a prior denial.