Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,
I am a current United States (US) visa holder. It expires in 2018. I got my first US visa in 1995 and have been travelling to the US since. Late last year I travelled to London from Jamaica, but stopped over in the US by connecting flights. On my way I stopped over for three days, and on my return I had to overnight. On both occasions I experienced lengthy delays and interrogation by immigration officials. When I inquired, I was told that this was due to me being filed for by my mom who is a US citizen. Does this mean they might revoke my visa while the filing is taking place, and if so what can I do to prevent this from happening?
I would much rather keep my visa as I am aware that this filing process can take many years and I am not convinced that I really want to live in the US permanently.
Whenever a person applies for a non-immigrant visa, the presumption is that the person intends to migrate to the US and the burden is on the applicant to prove to the consular officer that they only intend to visit the US and return home. A similar presumption exists at the US border, i.e. that if you enter the US in a non-immigrant status that you are going to remain in the US longer than your prescribed permission.
As a result of this presumption, many persons purposely omit the existence of family members in the US when applying for a non-immigrant visa in the belief that the omission will improve their chances of receiving the visa. This is a grave mistake. Denying the existence of relatives in the US is lying to receive an immigration benefit. If you genuinely do not know where your relatives are, you don't know. However, some people are quite aware of the locations of their relatives who later go on to file for them to live in the US. The key with all immigration applications is to be truthful and deal with the consequences.
It is not an automatic denial of a non-immigrant visa application if you have a relative in the US. As in your situation, the fact that you have a pending application for permanent residency indicates that you have more ties to the US than to Jamaica and that you intend to migrate. If you are in the US when your priority date is current and you are in status, i.e. the time given at the airport for you to stay in the US has not expired; you could file to change your status. Department of Homeland Security is against persons doing this, hence the detailed interrogation that you have experienced in your travels. You will continue to experience this level of secondary inspection until you are a permanent resident. Once Homeland Security is convinced that you are only on a visit, you will be allowed entry.
7 year filing process
If you are not sure that you want to live in the US permanently you should discuss this fact with your mother. However, the filing process for a son or daughter of a US citizen who is unmarried takes about seven years, and if you are married it takes more than 10 years. This may give you some time to decide whether you want to live in America. Make this decision carefully because if you accept the green card and don't want to live in the US, you would be taking on a different set of problems.
Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises immigration law in the United States; and Family, Criminal & Personal Injury Law in Florida. She is a mediator, arbitrator and Special Magistrate in Broward County, Florida. firstname.lastname@example.org