Speak the truth always
Dear Mrs Walker Huntington, I have been reading your columns in the Jamaican papers and see where sound advice is usually given and hope you will offer same with this question. Can I tell the immigration officer in Florida that I am visiting my husband when I am travelling to the States from Jamaica when asked the reason for visiting the States? I have a valid visa and my husband is presently filing for me. The other questions are: What is the approximate waiting time for a filing to be completed after the request for affidavit of support is sent out by the authorities and returned, and, at least how much money would you suggest one should have in their bank account to file for a spouse?
In all things, always speak the truth - especially when dealing with United States (US) immigration. When you tell a lie in the context of US immigration, no matter how insignificant you may deem it - it amounts to immigration fraud. You would be viewed as committing fraud to obtain an immigration benefit, i.e., lying about the presence of your US citizen or green card-holding husband to obtain the immigration benefit of gaining entry into the US. Fraud never goes away in immigration law, no matter how much time passes and fraud is a grounds of inadmissibility to the US.
It is not worth it to tell the immigration officer anything but the truth. If you tell the truth, the worst thing that could happen to you is that the officer does not allow you to enter the US on your visitor's visa and you have to go home.
You have a green-card petition in the pipeline and depending on when your husband filed and his status, it could be only a matter of a couple months before you are scheduled for an interview at the US embassy. If you lie to the immigration officer at the port of entry and you are discovered and sent back home because of the fraud, when you go to the embassy for your green-card interview, you will be deemed inadmissible and the green card will be denied.
Because it is your husband who has filed for you, you would be eligible for a hardship waiver that your husband would have to file demonstrating that he is experiencing extreme hardship in the US, and that the hardship could only be alleviated if you joined him in the US. This is not a scenario that you want to find yourself in because inadmissibility waivers are hard to obtain.
I know that a lot of people are under the impression that if you are being filed for permanent residency in the US that you cannot travel if you are the holder of a non-immigrant visa.
As a non-immigrant you can always be denied entry to the US as the visa gives you permission to legally come to the US border and ask the immigration officer for permission to enter. Therefore, if at any time you are requesting entry and an immigration officer has reason to believe that you should be denied entry, you will be denied entry. In your situation, if the immigration officer believes that you do not intend to return home, that you intend to remain in the US with your husband, they could deny you entry. If you have that fear you should travel with documents that would show the officer that, e.g., you have travelled to the US since being married and that you are employed or own a business at home that you can't just abandon.
The time frame for you to be called once the consular processing has begun depends on when the National Visa Center considers the file complete, and that depends on how quickly you give them information, and how accurate and complete the information that you provide. Once the file is complete and a visa is available, it takes anywhere from four to eight weeks for an appointment to be scheduled.
A petitioner does not need to have money in the bank to be able to sponsor someone. It is your income that is used to determine if you meet the guidelines necessary to be the financial sponsor of an immigrant. If your income is not enough, then you have to either demonstrate liquid assets that are either three or five times the deficit in your income, or have someone else become a joint-financial sponsor.
Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises law in Florida in the areas of immigration, family, criminal and personal injury law. She is a mediator, arbitrator and special magistrate in Broward County, Florida. firstname.lastname@example.org