B-l/B-2 Visa

The B-1/B-2 visa is a visa issued to business travelers or tourists coming to the United States for a minimum of six months but not more than one year. A B-1 visa may be issued for a person who presents himself at a U.S. Consulate or POE and declares his intention to come to the United States for a business meeting, a speaking engagement, to settle an estate or negotiate a contract. A B-1 visa holder is not permitted to engage in "productive work" but may be paid a modest stipend or fee subject to monetary limits.

A B-2 visa may be issued for a person who presents himself at a U.S. Consulate or POE and declares his intention to come to the United States as a tourist for a short time to visit friends or relatives and to tour. He is required to demonstrate he has an itinerary, place to stay, contact information in the United States and sufficient funds for the duration of time he intends to remain the United States. A B-2 visa holder may not work under the terms of his visa.

At a POE, the person is inspected by an officer from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and is asked to declare the purpose of the trip to the United States. The I-94 is the Arrival/Departure Record, in either paper or electronic format, issued by a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officer to foreign visitors entering the United States. After April 30, 2013, most Arrival/Departure records will be created electronically upon arrival. Instead of a paper form, the visitor will be provided with an annotated stamp in the foreign passport. If provided a paper form, the admitting CBP Officer generally attaches the I-94 to the visitor's passport and stamps the departure date on the form.

B-1/B-2 visa holders must depart the United States on or before the date authorized on the I-94 card (electronic or paper). Failure to timely depart the United States will cause the B-1/B-2 visa holder to be out-of-status. Being out-of-status means that the person has remained in the United States beyond the period of time authorized by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Being out-of-status is a violation of the United States' immigration law and may cause the person to be ineligible for a visa in the future. Remaining in the United States beyond the date authorized — even by one day — causes a person to become an "illegal immigrant."

Those B-1/B-2 visa holders who want to legally remain in the United States beyond the date authorized on the I-94 card must apply for an extension of stay domestically by filing with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). When filing an extension of stay, the person will again have to explain the reason for the trip, the need to remain in the United States longer than initially requested, sufficient funds to support himself during the extended stay period requested, what arrangements the person has made to depart the United States, e.g., a plane ticket or travel itinerary and must demonstrate his intent to return to his home country.

The United States has entered into treaties with certain countries to allow foreign nationals to enter the United States for a period of 90 days or less without having to apply for the B-1/B-2 visa; this is known as the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Application for waiver of the B-1/B-2 visa is made at a POE in the United States such as an airport, land, sea or other border crossing location.

There are currently 37 countries who participate in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP):

Andorra Hungary New Zealand
Australia Iceland Norway
Austria Ireland Portugal
Belgium Italy San Marino
Brunei Japan Singapore
Czech Republic Latvia Slovakia
Denmark Liechtenstein Slovenia
Estonia Lithuania South Korea
Finland Luxembourg Spain
France Malta Sweden
Germany Monaco Switzerland
Greece the Netherlands Taiwan
United Kingdom

Nationals of the 37 countries may utilize the VWP provided their intention to enter the United States fits within the B-1/B-2 visa regulations. They must also register with the Electronic System for Travel Authorization(ESTA) operated by CBP. ESTA is an automated system that determines the eligibility of visitors to travel to the U.S. under VWP. The ESTA application collects the same information found on Form I-94; VWP cards are called I-94W and are "green." Travelers should submit ESTA applications at the start of travel plans so as to avoid any processing delays. To determine if you are eligible for VWP, the State Department website has created a VWP Reference Guide. http://travel.state.gov/pdf/VWP-QuickReferenceGuide.pdf

To schedule an initial consultation with a Memphis Immigration attorney, call (901) 692-5732 or with a New York City Immigration Attorney, call (646) 380-0474 or contact Witty Law Group, PLLC.