B-2 Visa Basics
The B-2 tourist visa is a nonimmigrant visa with a validity period of up to 10 years, and can permit the visa holder multiple entries (the visa validity period and number of permitted entries depends on the nonimmigrant’s nationality). The maximum length of stay for each visit is 6 months. The B-2 visa is not a dual intent visa, meaning that the visa holder must intend to leave the U.S. at the end of their permitted stay and to maintain their residence in their home country. For general information on the B-2 visa, click here. For more information on dual intent, click here.
This raises an important question: can the visa holder who wants to remain in the U.S. for the duration of the visa validity period simply briefly leave and then reenter the U.S. every 6 months, thereby restarting their 6-month clock?
The answer, in short, is no. Visa runs, or brief visits outside the U.S. that appear to be for the primary purpose of restarting one’s visa clock, are risky and may well be grounds for denial of entry to the U.S., for the reasons described below.
Immigration Officials Have Broad Discretion
U.S. immigration law gives broad discretion to border inspection officers when deciding whether to admit a nonimmigrant into the United States. Furthermore, U.S. immigration law starts from the general presumption that all noncitizens wishing to enter the U.S. are doing so with the intention of remaining in the U.S. permanently. As a result, each nonimmigrant seeking admission to the U.S. must overcome this presumption and show, “to the satisfaction of the officer,” that they are “entitled” to enter the country. (8 U.S.C. § 214(b); see also 8 CFR § 235.1(f)(1)). In other words, if the inspecting offer is not satisfied, is not convinced, or has any significant doubts about whether the nonimmigrant should be admitted, they can deny entry.
Since the B-2 visa does not permit dual intent, the inspecting officer will be sensitive to whether the individual intends to remain in the U.S. permanently and to abandon residence in their home country. One piece of evidence in making this determination is whether the nonimmigrant exhibits ties to their home country by, for example, returning there regularly.
Length of Time Outside the U.S. Matters
While there is no defined amount of time that the B-2 visa holder should spend outside the U.S. during their visa validity period, a general rule of thumb is to remain outside the U.S. for the amount of time the visa holder is within the U.S. So, if they remained in the U.S. for 6 months on their last visit to the U.S., they should consider remaining outside the U.S. for 6 months upon departure.
A similar question comes up with respect to whether the B-2 visa holder should return to their home country or simply remain in a country near the U.S. (such as Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean). Again, the inspecting officer has broad discretion as to whether to grant admission. Just as brief departures from the U.S. cast doubt on whether the visa holder is eligible for entry and intends to maintain residence in their home country, visits to neighboring countries without returning to one’s home country could similarly cast doubt. In other words, the inspecting officer is not simply looking for whether the visa holder left the U.S; they are looking for whether the visa holder is eligible for entry, which includes having the intention to maintain residency in their home country and to only visit the U.S. temporarily.
The cautious B-2 visa holder attempting to reenter the U.S. might bring with them evidence of their ties to their home country and their intention to return there. Such evidence can include documents showing that they have a home or apartment, a job, family, a bank account with funds, or that they are enrolled in school in their home country. Having these documents readily available might persuade the skeptical inspecting officer that the nonimmigrant does, in fact, intend to ultimately leave the U.S. and return to their home country.
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