Applying for Visitor Visas
Let’s talk about how to get a visitor visa. We recently had a viewer on YouTube ask us about having their parents come to the US for a visit.
Monika Raj commented: “Hello, I’m currently on asylum EAD (employment authorization document), can I invite my parents to the USA on a visitor’s visa based on my paychecks and invitation letter from my employer or my office?”
We are only going to talk about the B1/B2 visas. These are often called visitor visas. They are also known as non-immigrant visas because your intention presumably is only to visit the US and not to stay here permanently.
As a reminder, In June 2020, the processing of visitor visas (and all routine visa services) ended due to COVID-19 in foreign consulates and embassies. Operations have now resumed depending on local conditions and resources.
The priority is on visas for families of citizens and green card holders, and each embassy and consulate is operating based on their local ordinances. You can check your local office as we can’t know what is happening with each one on a daily basis.
Difference Between the B1 and B2 Visas
People say B1 and B2 visas are the same because they grant the same benefit – allowing you to come to the US – but for different purposes. A B1 is a business visa and a B2 is a visitor visa.
Both the B1 and B2 visas allow you to remain in the US for up to 180 days. You can apply for an extension for either, but this takes a while to process so be mindful when you apply, you may not get an answer before your allowed period expires.
With either the B1 or B2 visa you must still be admissible to the US. That means you are not guaranteed entry just because you have a visa.
What Can Keep You From Getting a Visitor Visa
To qualify for a visitor visa, you need to have an interview at your local US consulate or embassy to be granted a visa.
Sometimes things in your past can keep you from being approved for a visitor visa (either business or tourist) or entering the US. Some things that might keep you out of the US include: drug addiction or convictions, having been deported from the US previously, being convicted of violent crimes, or several other categories.
If you think that you might have something in your background that would keep you from entering the US, it is best to talk to a New Jersey immigration attorney.
Can a B1 Visa Give You Work Authorization in the US?
Neither the B1 nor B2 visa can give you work authorization in the US. That may be confusing since the B1 visa is for business purposes. But when you are granted a B1 visa, you are working for a foreign company for a limited time – an example might be a business meeting.
What You Can Do on a B1 Visa
In fact, what the State Department says on their site is, those who enter the US on a B1 visa may:
- Consult with business associates.
- Attend a scientific, educational, professional, or business convention or conference.
- Settle an estate.
- Negotiate a contract.
What You Can Do on a B2 Visa
These are things you can do on a tourist visa:
- Vacation (holiday)
- Visit friends or relatives.
- Get medical treatment
- Participation in social events hosted by fraternal, social, or service organizations.
- Participation by amateurs in musical, sports, or similar events or contests, if not being paid for participating
- Enrollment in a short recreational course of study, and not for credit toward a degree (for example, a two-day cooking class while on vacation)
What You Cannot Do On a Visitor Visa
These are some examples of activities that require different categories of visas and cannot be done while on a visitor visa:
- Study or enroll in a school.
- Employment by a US employer
- Paid performances, or any professional performance before a paying audience
- Arrival as a crew member on a ship or aircraft
- Work as foreign press, in radio, film, print journalism, or other information media
- Permanent residence in the United States
Visitor Visa Fees
In March 2021 both the B1 and B2 visa fee is $160. Depending on your nationality you may also need to pay a visa issuance fee. You may check your individual circumstances at the State Department’s website.
Can You Apply for a Green Card if You Have a Visitor Visa?
If you come to the US under a B1 or B2 visa, you may be eligible to change your status including getting work authorization or obtaining a green card.
This can be very involved, and since you don’t want to overstay your visa and be banned from the US, I highly recommend you talk to a qualified New Jersey immigration lawyer if you’re planning to apply.
What Happens If You’re Denied Entry at an Airport?
One thing to keep in mind, the US has become more strict about people saying they are visiting, but keep on re-entering the US every few months and staying longer each time (180 days). Customs may start to think that you are planning on staying here permanently and may deny you entry.
If you are denied entry at an airport, you don’t have very many options. An attorney cannot come and help you there. You must return to your country and try to clear up the problem from there. Sometimes when you are sent away, you will be given a ban for a few years. There is very little you can do to change this. So prepare in advance of any trip.
Do You Need a Sponsor to Get a Visitor Visa?
So let’s go back to Monika’s question: “Hello, I’m currently on asylum EAD. Can I invite my parents to the USA on visit visa based on my paychecks and invitation letter from my employer or my office?”
Monika’s question suggests that you need a sponsor when you get a visitor visa. A US visitor visa can either be self-sponsored or you have a friend or a family member who agrees to sponsor you.
As I mentioned, applying for a visitor visa is relatively easy. However, to be granted one, they will look at two main things:
This includes the purpose of your trip, having a clean background, and your intent to depart the US (that’s why you must have a round trip ticket when you enter).
We talked about the requirement of health insurance for foreign nationals going to the US, tourists are exempt from this.
What is meant by financial health? You must have enough funds to support your trip to the US. Things you might be able to use to prove you have sufficient funds could include bank statements, tax filings, pay stubs, etc.
There is no “official” amount that you must prove you have to support a visit, but I recommend proving you have a minimum of $5,000 per person as a good yard stick.
If you aren’t financially well-off, having a sponsor in the US, such as Monika showing her pay stubs, may help.
Letter of Invitation
The next thing Monika talks about is something that is sometimes called a “letter of invitation.”
The letter of invitation would be best coming from the person who is sponsoring a tourist. So, if Monika is saying she makes a sufficient amount of money to sponsor her parents, then the letter should come from her, not her employer.
The government really wants to know that someone will not become a public charge if they come to the US. So you may include information in the letter saying you will pay for their airfare, food, and lodging while they are here in the US.
The problem with Monika is that she came to the US and filed for asylum. If she sponsors her parents, she is going to have to show that they aren’t going to come to the US and also apply for asylum. Immigration is not likely to approve that visa. I would prefer that Monika’s parents had a different reason to come to the US or have a different sponsor.
Contact Our New Jersey Immigration Attorney!
If you need assistance in applying for a visa, our immigration attorneys at Andres Mejer Law can help. Call us today for a free initial consultation.