Thu | Jun 21, 2018

Will my visa be cancelled?

Published:Tuesday | March 1, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,

I travelled to the United States (US) in February of 2015. I was given six months but returned home within four months. I returned to the states in February of 2016, but was sent for secondary questioning. After about two hours they decided that they would only grant me two weeks in the country. The officer wrote my return date with ink and not with a stamp. However, he also placed a half stamp, marked 'admission', on the edge of my visa. Should I be worried that my visa may be revoked? They didn't stamp the visa on my first trip, so I am concerned.

- AA

Dear AA:

Yes, you should be concerned about your visa. A B1/B2 visa is for temporary visits to the US for business or pleasure. When a person enters with a B1/B2 visa, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers normally grant the immigrant six months to remain in the US. It does not mean you are to remain in the US for six months or for an extended period of time.

Normally, when you arrive, the CBP officer asks how long you plan to remain in the states. Your airline ticket also reveals your intention.

So many persons have lost their visas because they abuse the six-month period they receive. CBP knows people come to the US on their visitor's visas, remain for extended periods of time and work illegally in the US.

So, while you may have a legitimate reason for remaining in the US for an extended period, unless you can prove it (e.g., being in the hospital, caring for an ill relative, etc.), you can lose your visa. In the future, if you have to remain for an extended period in the US, take the proof with you on a subsequent visit or to the embassy for your visa renewal. At entry, the officer will also look at your employment/ business ties to your home country. Some persons are searched - including their phones - and evidence that they were employed on their previous visit to the US is found.

Clearly, the CBP officer who inspected you at the airport had suspicions about why you were in the US for four months. The officer could have cancelled your visa and returned you to Jamaica but, luckily, he/she admitted you to the US, albeit for two weeks. You can also encounter issues with the renewal of your visa due to the extended visit you had in the US. This is not to say that persons do not come to the US and remain for extended periods, e.g., Canadians who come to Florida for the winter, so-called 'Snow Birds'. They, however, do not work while they are visiting, and contribute to the Florida economy.

People may tell you that they do it all the time and have had no issues. Sooner or later, they will.

n Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises immigration law in the United States; and family, criminal and personal injury law in Florida. She is a mediator, arbitrator and special magistrate in Broward County, Florida.