Is the Visitor Visa as perfect as it sounds?
December 3, 2009 8:32 AM   Subscribe

Is a Visitor Visa (B-2) as perfect as it seems? What should I expect?

I am a British citizen, my wife is an American citizen. We got married in the US a couple of weeks ago, and I have since had to return to the UK, as I was there through the Visa Waiver Program. We intend to apply for the appropriate spousal visa (CR-1) as soon as we can afford to, but in the meantime, we are settling with ~90 day VWP trips. (We're aware that the CR-1 is not the best visa to seek, but it's the one that works best for us.)

That, however, is rather expensive, and is severely limiting our ability to save for the CR-1, so we've been investigating cheaper workarounds, and I stumbled across the Visitor's Visa. It seems perfect: can be issued for between 90 days and 10 years, if I've read correctly, and it seems affordable, too: preliminary investigations suggest it should cost under $300.

Is this really as great and inexpensive as it sounds? Is there anything I should be aware of?

The only difficulty I can see is proving that I intend to leave before the visa expires. I've visited twice this year under the VWP and left within 90 days each time, which I hope will look good. I can also demonstrate that I've obviously researched the CR-1 rather extensively, which I would hope works in my favour, too. Aside from that, I don't have a great deal in the way of evidence, since I don't own a home in the UK (I sleep on a couch at my Mother's place), since I'm not here enough to warrant the expense (there was only 3 months between my last trip, and I hope to spend only around a month here this time before going back to the US, depending on how long the B-2 takes to process, if we go that route). I don't have a job here, either. My only income comes from some online work I do for an American citizen, which will do nothing for my case. I saw some advice given to someone on here asking about a different visa that suggested asking a friend with some authority to set up an "interview" for a date some time after my intended return date, to give authority to my claim that I do in fact intend to leave, but I'm wary of fabricating things, given some of the immigration horror stories I've heard. Exactly how stringent are they likely to be on this?

If I did decide to apply, I think I'd seek permission to stay for somewhere between 6 months and a year, which should be plenty of time to save enough for the CR-1, since there won't be ~$800 expenses for flights every 3 months. Presumably, they're more willing to give the visas for shorter stays, so I'd aim to make it as short as possible.

I know that I can't work on this visa. That shouldn't be an issue. My wife earns enough to support us while I'm there. And, though I need to do a little research into the legalities and details, I'm fairly sure my aforementioned job should be legal while I'm in the US. (It's contract work, which as I understand it, is allowed as long as I'm paying tax on whatever I earn. But that's something I'm still researching. Any advice is welcomed, on that front.)


Anonymous, just in case. A lot of the immigration talk I've seen on here seems to include advice to stay anonymous.
posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If I did decide to apply, I think I'd seek permission to stay for somewhere between 6 months and a year, which should be plenty of time to save enough for the CR-1, since there won't be ~$800 expenses for flights every 3 months.

Or, alternatively, you could suck up being apart from your wife for six months and instead put the money towards the CR-1, which will minimise the cost and risk from being rejected and red-flagged for other applications. You wouldn't be the first.
posted by holgate at 8:49 AM on December 3, 2009

To answer more precisely: the test for the B-visas isn't just showing that you're prepared to leave, but that you have demonstrable "compelling social and economic ties" to your home country. The presumption is that you're looking to stay in the US, and the burden of proof is on you to show otherwise; given your circumstances, it's probably best to get the spousal visa process under way and twiddle your thumbs in the UK. Even if you wangle the B-2, then you're still relying on the discretion of the CBP to let you in, and you really don't want to be put on a plane back home.
posted by holgate at 9:13 AM on December 3, 2009

From the government's perspective, there is one correct visa to get in your situation, and your lack of funds for it is not a good reason to get the wrong one.

If they do issue you a B-2, it's likely to cause issues for you when you do apply for the proper visa.
posted by smackfu at 9:17 AM on December 3, 2009

Don't be surprised if you won't be able to visit under the B-2 or the visa waiver program. My husband was denied a W-4 on attempted entry after we got married even though he was only coming for the weekend and he had a job to return to on Monday morning. Fortunately he just turned around and drove back to Canada. I went northbound to visit until he got a spousal visa. You're asking for trouble, just get a spousal visa unless you like running the risk of nasty surprises at the airport.
posted by crazycanuck at 9:26 AM on December 3, 2009

You can try, but as others have also said, if denied it may affect any future attempts to use the VWP and/or your CR-1 application.

On the work issue, IANAL but I seriously doubt that what you are doing would be allowed. If you also did this while using the VWP, tread carefully when applying for your CR-1. You don't want the powers that be to cotton on to the fact that you were "working" in the US.

My general impression from frequenting immigration message boards over the last 8 years is that B-2 visas are rarely granted to young, working-age people from VWP countries. Also, entry on B-2 is limited to 6 months - they do grant 10-year visas, but those are for multiple entries - for example, retirees who spend 6 months in Florida during the winter, followed by 6 months back in their home country.
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 9:51 AM on December 3, 2009

IANAL, but I think you're very likely to have trouble entering on the VWP now you're married to a US citizen. You'll have to tell immigration you're visiting your wife, (and I'd suggest you don't lie, because it could hurt you when you try to get the immigrant visa) and that alone, forgetting your lack of property or a job in the UK, is likely to get you turned back. You have pretty textbook "immigrant intent"from their point of view, and it comes down to the mood of the officer on the day and how plausible you are. Frankly, the only things you have to help your case are being British and (sorry if I'm assuming incorrectly) white. Being British is not the big get out of USCIS jail free card that folks from the UK often seem to assume it is!

Once you apply for any visa at all, you won't be able to use the VWP again (ever in your life!), so if you apply for the non-immigrant visa you won't be able to travel on the VWP while you wait for it to be processed, and if they turn you down because they believe you have "immigrant intent" (which seems almost certain really), you'll be unable to visit your wife at all until you have the spousal visa, and the denial will cause at least some wrinkles with the CR-1. If you screw up and say something that isn't true at any point in the process it will likely bite you in the ass in a bigger way. And what's the wait on getting the B-2 anyway? It might take months.

It's also my understanding that repeat visits aren't seen as proof that you stick to the terms of the VWP, but rather that you're establishing a life in the US, and are increasingly likely to stay.

If I were in your shoes I think I'd scrape up the money for the immigrant visa asap any way I could (doesn't it cost less than $900?), and settle for your wife visiting the UK occasionally while you wait for it. I understand you have your own priorities and restrictions though. I do think that your wife needs to go for a quick consultation with an immigration attorney, just to make sure you're doing all this in the right order, to suggest any solutions you might not have thought of, and to point out any potential issues. It's easy to screw up, and hard to put right, and being stuck in another country from the person you love sucks.
posted by crabintheocean at 12:10 PM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

IANAL but I did work as a paralegal in the field. I would strongly advise against this course without discussing it with counsel specialized in US immigration first.

This is not legal advice, but my understanding of the situation is that if you tell the embassy/consulate you have a US citizen spouse, you will be denied the visa on the grounds that you are a strong risk for an overstay. If you don't tell them you have a US citizen spouse, depending on how that information is concealed, it may count as document fraud and you could be barred from entering the US for many years (I don't know the current number but IIRC 10-20 years when I was working in the field about 10 years ago).

I know you don't want to hear this, but please consult a lawyer who can direct you to the cheapest, fastest, and best way to get your green card. If you need a recommendation, MeMail me and I'll point you at my former boss. Otherwise you might want to use AILA's lawyer search to find someone who can help you.
posted by immlass at 12:12 PM on December 3, 2009

Once you apply for any visa at all, you won't be able to use the VWP again (ever in your life!)

I don't think this is true, although you do have to declare that you have applied or been denied a visa on the VWP form and ESTA, and your ties to the UK will be further scrutinised.

However, those who have been denied admission or deported from the US can never use the VWP again, and you certainly run a real risk of being bounced next time you attempt to use the VWP.

See here for details.
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 1:41 AM on December 4, 2009

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