Helping non-wealthy friends get a US tourist visa
August 7, 2014 7:19 AM   Subscribe

What can I do to help non-wealthy Chinese friends get a US tourist visa?

We have some friends in China who we would like to come to our wedding next year. We have been friends for about 6 years, have attended their weddings in China, have an ongoing friendship with their entire family, etc.

They need a visa to travel to the US and from this website, it looks like they need proof of funds to cover expenses while in the US. They do not have these funds. These people are not wealthy and we would be helping them with the cost of plane tickets and providing a place for them to stay while they're in the US. They have no intention to stay in the US: English is non-existent; they have very young children that will remain in China; they have small retail businesses in their hometown that they run themselves; they care for their parents and grandparents who will remain in China. We just want them to visit for about a week to attend our wedding and meet our families. Also, they're Muslim, which I imagine could cause some issues (though they are the Hui minority, which does not have the same history of issues with either the Chinese or American governments as the Uighurs do, for instance; see this article).

These people are basically like family to us, and we have pictures of us with them and their family going back 6 years.

Is there any possibility of them getting a US visa? What can/should we do to help?
posted by msbrauer to Travel & Transportation around United States (6 answers total)
I'd reach out to immigration attorneys who work with Chinese immigrants, explain your questions, and see what the attorney(s) say. Be prepared to be told that this is not going to happen.
posted by dfriedman at 7:55 AM on August 7, 2014

Contacting your congressional representatives may be useful in shaking action out of the embassy or consulate.

However, it doesn't neccesarily look like you have an incredibly good case here.
posted by Jahaza at 8:19 AM on August 7, 2014

It says "existence" of funds. Isn't there such a thing as a sponsor letter, in which you could write that you have the $$$? This should make them seem less of an immigration risk, if the store and kids weren't enough already.

I'll ask my parents what they do.
posted by batter_my_heart at 8:43 AM on August 7, 2014

The B-2 visa is perhaps the best fit: it's for people visiting family and friends.

Have a look at the State Department's page on this visa here.
posted by mdonley at 9:37 AM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

" If you cannot cover all the costs for your trip, you may show evidence that another person will cover some or all costs for your trip."
posted by sandmanwv at 9:55 AM on August 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

From an anonymous commenter:
Consular officer here who adjudicates these type of visas for a living. Anonymous for obvious reasons.

The most important thing for you to know is that your friends in China will need to qualify for their visa entirely on their own. Unfortunately, there is no provision in U.S. visa law for someone to "vouch for" or financially sponsor a an applicant for a visitor visa. The way Congress has written an passed the Immigration and Naturalization Act, every applicant has to overcome the presumption of immigrant intent and qualify solely on their own merits. The presumption of immigrant intent is section "214b" in the Act, so we say that each immigrant needs to "overcome 214b."

The State Department's website has a good overview of what this mean here under the "INA Section 214(b) - Visa Qualifications and Immigrant Intent" section.

You're on the right track in thinking about your friends' ties to China (jobs, family responsibilities, etc.) They will have to demonstrate to the Consular Officer that these ties are sufficient to compel them to make a speedy return to China after your wedding. And as I think you already know, this can be difficult to demonstrate when someone has limited financial resources. An immigration attorney or a congressperson involved will do little to affect this basic calculation.

You may want to provide your friends with a invitation letter that outlines your relationship, their reason for traveling, and how the finances for the trip are going to work. However, there is no guarantee that the Consular Officer is going to need to see the letter--just having them orally explain the purpose of travel may be sufficient for them to understand what's going on.

Consular Officers are trained to pull as much information as possible for a brief interview. It's worth having your friends think through their purpose of travel, their ties to China, and be prepared to briefly explain them.

I hope this information has been helpful and congratulations on your wedding!
posted by restless_nomad at 10:10 AM on August 7, 2014 [5 favorites]

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