Immigration Q&A – Part 2

By Ron Gotcher

Immigration Attorney

Q: I have a visa that is valid for ten years, why can’t I live and work in the U.S. for that entire time?

A: This is a common mistake that many people make, confusing the duration of a visa’s validity with the time they are authorized to remain in the U.S. on any single visit. A visa is a document that allows someone to apply for admission into the U.S. It does not guarantee admission, nor does it guarantee how long a person may stay, if they are admitted.

Q: Why can’t I use the visa that I already have to do whatever I want when I come to the U.S.?

A: United States visas are issued for different purposes. No one visa may be used for multiple purposes. For example, a “B-2” tourist visa may only be used for tourism, and not for study or work. A “B-1” business visitor visa may only be used for business visits that do not involve performing services for anyone in the U.S., or receiving pay for anything done while in the U.S. There is no “multipurpose” visa. That is, a person who wishes to study must have a student visa. A person who wishes to work, must have a specific, working type visa. If you misuse a visa, you will violate your nonimmigrant status and subject yourself to deportation or being barred from returning to U.S. in the future.

Q: I want to go to school or work after I come to the U.S., why can’t I just use my visitor’s visa to enter and then change my status after I get there?

A: While there are a great many people who do exactly this, it is generally looked upon as a fraudulent practice and there are long term consequences for doing this. Someone who is able to persuade the INS to switch them from a B visa to student status will be allowed to remain in the U.S., but they will have a difficult time getting a student visa in the future. This means that they will not be allowed to return to the U.S. to continue their studies if they leave before their studies are complete.

Q: I still don’t understand why the USCIS only gave me permission to stay for three months, when my visa is valid for ten years.

A: With very limited exceptions, there are very few people who are allowed to enter and remain in the U.S. for the entire duration of their nonimmigrant visas. Visitor’s visas are granted for extended periods of time so that the applicants will not have to come back, again and again, to apply for new visas for each trip. The period of time that a visitor may stay in the U.S. is controlled directly by the purpose of the visitor’s need to remain on the particular visit in question. A visitor’s visa is for short stays only. It is not intended to be a substitute for an immigrant visa. A person coming to the U.S. must be prepared to explain precisely what they intend to do, how long it will take them to accomplish these tasks, and how they will support themselves while they are here. A person who makes repeated visits to the U.S., within a short period of time, will most likely be refused entry if he or she is applying for admission as a visitor.

Q: I want to work in the U.S., how can I get a work permit?

A: There are no general “work permits” available for nonimmigrants coming to the United States. To receive work authorization, a specific employer must sponsor you for a working type visa. When this visa is issued, it is valid only for the sponsoring employer and the employee may not work for anyone else. In many cases, it is necessary for the employer to first file a petition with the Immigration and Naturalization Service before a visa may be issued.

Q: I want to become a citizen of the U.S., how do I apply?

A: To become a citizen of the United States, for those not born here, it is first necessary to become a lawful permanent resident (immigrant). Only after you have immigrated and then fulfilled certain other requirements is it possible to apply for naturalization. No one becomes a U.S. citizen automatically, except through birth in the U.S. In particular, spouses of U.S. citizens do not acquire any citizenship or even immigration benefits automatically, they must apply and go through the regular immigration process.

Q: I want to immigrate to the U.S., what do I need to do?

A: Depending upon your family relationships, job skills, and other qualifications, there are different routes to U.S. immigration. No one acquires immigrant status automatically. Everyone must file an application and go through the process.

Data provided by:

Ron Gotcher
Global Immigration Partners, Inc.

For questions, please email: [email protected]