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Long-Term Stay in the US on a B-2 Visitor Visa for Members of the Household of a Nonimmigrant Visa Holder

The B-2 visitor visa is appropriate for persons coming to the United States temporarily. Many persons applying for the US visitor visa (also referred to as a tourist visa) have their visa application refused when they indicate they want to stay in the United States more than just a few months. This creates a particularly difficult situation for a visa seeker who wants to join their family or loved ones in the US where those family members or loved ones are in the United States on a visa that does not allow their loved ones to likewise get a visa. Sometimes a US visa holder is separated in the US from their loved ones for years because US immigration law does not allow their loved ones to get a long-term visa based on the immigration status of the visa holder. Even many visa lawyers are surprised to learn that US immigration law does actually provide a way, in at least some cases, for a person who cannot get a derivative status visa to join their loved one in the US on a long-term basis; a special provision exists that accounts for this, affording a B2 visitor visa for this purpose. This article explains who is eligible for a B2 tourist visa to join their loved one long-term in the US. For more information about US visa issues or for assistance with any US immigration law matter please contact a Dallas immigration lawyer with the law firm Heartland Immigration. No matter where you reside, a visa lawyer with Heartland Immigration can advise you in your US immigration matter. Call Heartland Immigration for a free immigration consultation: 1-855-USA-IMMIGRATE

The Problem – Loved Ones Separated Where No Derivative Status Exists

US immigration law does not define precisely how long in the US is appropriate for a B2 visitor visa holder, but as many US visitor seekers have found out upon having their visa applications denied, the US Department of State is loathe to issue a visitor visa to anyone who plans to stay in the United States for more than a few months. Persons who intend to stay more than a few months in the US often have their tourist visa application denied by the adjudicating consular officer at a US embassy or consulate abroad under Section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) because the consular officer believes the person is an "intending immigrant" and therefore not qualified for a nonimmigrant visa, which includes the B2 visitor visa. Put differently, a stated intent to remain in the US for half a year or more often leads to a refusal of the tourist visa application because the adjudicating consular officer believes either that the visa applicant either wants to stay permanently in the US or that the length of time they want to stay is too long to fairly be considered a "temporary visit" under US immigration law. The designation on an application for a US visitor visa that the applicant wants to stay 6 months or more in the United States creates a red flag for the consular officer – it is difficult to procure a tourist visa in such a situation.

This of course means, or at least it is believed by many consular officers to mean, that a person normally cannot get a B2 visitor visa to stay long-term in the US with their loved one. This is not a problem where the visa classification of the person in the US on visa provides for derivative status for the visa seeker who is abroad. Most long-term visa classifications - such as the H1B business visa, the E2 investor visa and the F1 student visa – do allow at least some family members to get a long-term visa by virtue of the primary visa-holder's status. But this derivative status, as it is called, is limited – usually only a spouse and child can get a derivative visa to stay long-term in the United States with the primary US visa holder. Other persons, including same-sex partners, fiancés, non-immediate relatives like siblings and cousins and in some cases parents, cannot get a derivative visa to join their loved one in the United States. This is the case even where these loved ones normally live with the primary visa holder and even where they are dependent on the primary US visa holder for support.

The Solution – the B-2 Visitor Visa

US immigration law provides help for some persons who cannot qualify for derivative visa status but who share a very close relationship with the person in the United States (or who is going to the US) on a US visa. The guidance followed by consular officers who adjudicate US visa applications explains that a B2 tourist visa can be issued to a person in this situation despite that they plan to stay in the United States much longer than is normally allowed under a tourist visa. The B2 visitor visa can be issued to "members of the household" of another non-citizen who is in the US on a long-term nonimmigrant visa but for whom derivative status under the visa holder's classification is not available. The guidance does not define the phrase "members of the household," but does give as examples of persons who might qualify under this provision cohabitating partners and elderly parents of persons in the US long-term on a nonimmigrant visa, as well as the parents of a minor child who is going to the US to study on an F1 student visa. Additionally, the State Department guidelines say a B2 tourist visa is appropriate for a long-term stay where the visa seeker is a member of the household of an American citizen who normally lives overseas but who will be in going to the US for a temporary period.

It is conceivable that persons in addition to those described above – most commonly cohabitating partners, whether straight or same-sex, and elderly parents – could be issued a B2 visitor visa for a long-term stay in the US as long as the applicant demonstrates to the consular officer that they are truly a member of the household of the person already in the US on a long-term nonimmigrant visa. A visa lawyer can assist an individual in making this case before the Department of State at their US visa interview.

Informing CBP of Long-Term Intent

Persons who are issued a B2 visitor visa for a long-term stay in the US under this provision of US immigration law should inform the interviewing Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officer of their intent to stay long-term when they arrive at the border (usually at the airport) in the United States. CBP usually gives persons entering the country on a B2 tourist visa a six month stay in the US – they are authorized to give longer stays and will commonly give up to a year to a person who qualifies for a long-term stay on a B2 visitor visa under the provision at issue in this article. We advise having a visa lawyer draft a letter explaining your eligibility for this for presentation to the interviewing CBP officer upon your arrival in the United States. Individuals qualifying under this provision can generally get multiple extensions of their authorized stay in the United States by applying for it to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), allowing them to stay in some cases several years. Again, having an immigration lawyer assist you in this may help ensure things go as smoothly as possible, as many immigration authorities are not sufficiently familiar with this special provision of US immigration law.

For assistance in applying for a long-term stay in the United States under a B2 visitor visa, or for immigration assistance generally, contact a visa lawyer with the law firm Heartland Immigration. For an immigration lawyer free consultation please us call today: 1-855-USA-IMMIGRATE