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One of the challenges of visiting the USA is obtaining permission to enter the country. A B-1 visa and a B-2 visa are both non-immigrant visas for temporary visitors to the U.S., but they serve different purposes and have distinct eligibility criteria and limitations. Here is a chart that outlines the key similarities and differences between the two visa types:
It’s essential to note that the B-1 and B-2 visas are distinct, but some travellers may be eligible for a B-1/B-2 combination visa if they plan to engage in both business and tourism activities during their visit to the U.S. If both are appropriate, they should ask to be granted B-1/B-2 entry. It is important to note that Canadians are visa exempt, so they can apply to enter the U.S. right at the border or at an airport U.S. Customs and Border Protection preclearance kiosk and do not need to apply at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy.
Periods of Authorized Stay
Once a visitor has entered the United States, to determine his or her duration of authorized stay, a traveler can check the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (USCBP) I-94 website. Sometimes, visitors simply do not know they have been issued an electronic I-94 report, or they might just assume that they have been admitted for six months because that is the normal practice, so they do not check the USCBP website to verify their period of admission. But that is not wise. It is better to check your period of authorized stay after being admitted. That way you can be certain when you must leave or perhaps apply to extend the visit.
Consider Obtaining A Nexus
Card For Frequent Travel
NEXUS is designed to expedite the border clearance process for low-risk, approved travelers into the United States and Canada. By paying one fee, NEXUS members have crossing privileges at air, land, and marine ports of entry that support the program. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) are cooperating in this joint venture to simplify border crossings for members, while enhancing security.
To apply for membership in the NEXUS program:
- Use the Trusted Travelers Programs (TTP) website;
- Submit an application and go through a registration process;
- Satisfy the eligibility criteria;
- Be admissible in the United States and Canada; and
- Pass risk assessments by both countries.
The application-processing fee of $50 (USD) per adult applicant is non-refundable. Children under the age of 18 must also apply and, if eligible, are admitted to the program free of charge. Once approved, membership is valid for five years. For more information regarding the program requirements, visit the NEXUS Program page.
Six Month Rule For Canadians
A difficult issue that often arises with Canadian visitors has to do with an unwritten rule applied by USCBP officers to the effect that the maximum period of authorized stay for Canadian visitors is six months per year. The enforcement of this practice has created undue hardships for some Canadians, particularly snowbirds, who travel south for the winter but are restricted on their length of stay in America. If a maximum six month of physical presence in the U.S. in a rolling year (measured from the moment of applying at the border and back one year) is determined by a CBP officer, the traveler will be denied entry and will be required to wait six months before applying again. However, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection itself says on its own website, “There is no set period of time Canadians must wait to reenter the U.S. after the end of their stay, but if it appears to the CBP officer that the person applying for entry is spending more time overall in the U.S. than in Canada, it will be up to the traveler to prove to the officer that they are not de-facto U.S. residents.”
Extending Your Visitor’s Stay
Most applicants for an extension are unaware of how it works. The process is arcane but can be understood. When you enter the U.S. as a visitor, you are issued a Form I-94 electronically and it determines your period of authorized stay. You must apply to extend your visitor’s status before your authorized period expires. However, even when you file for an extension, your lawful status expires on the date indicated on the I-94 form. Nonetheless, as a matter of discretion, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service will defer any removal proceedings against you until after the application is adjudicated. Even though you are not actually in a lawful status, you do not accrue any so-called “unlawful presence” and thus avoid any penalties of being barred from re-entry to the U.S. in this regard.
If your application for an extension of stay is approved, the approval will relate back to the date your I-94 record expired, and your status while your application was pending will then be considered to have been lawful. If your application is denied, you will be required to depart the United States immediately. In short, you take a leap of faith that everything will turn out alright. In addition, if your application is denied, any visa in your passport that was granted in connection with your status becomes void. This means that you will almost certainly have to return home and submit any new visa application at a U.S. consulate in your home country. But if all goes well, at least in theory, you can extend your stay for another six months. While not essential, it may be a best practice to undertake such applications with the help of a U.S. immigration attorney as these matters are quite complicated and penalties can be quite severe if not properly done.