immigration lawyer

The Emergency B-2 Tourist Visa

By Attorney Michael Bhotiwihok

The B Visa is a nonimmigrant visa to temporarily enter the United States for business (B-1), as a visitor (B-2), or as a combination of both (B-1/2).  An applicant must apply for the B Visa and appear for an interview at a United States Embassy where the examining official will determine if the applicant qualifies.

The B-1 Visa is commonly issued for individuals to consult with business associates, attend a scientific, educational, professional, or business convention or conference, settle an estate, or negotiate a contract.

It is important to note that the B Visa holder cannot engage in gainful employment in the United States.  Also, upon entry to the country, B Visa holders commonly receive authorized stays of six months.

The B-2 Visa is typically used for tourism, vacations, visits with friends or relatives, medical treatment, participation in social events hosted by fraternal, social, or service organizations, participation by amateurs in musical, sports, or similar events or contests, if not being paid for participating, and enrollment in a short recreational course of study, not for credit toward a degree.

When an urgent need to travel to the United States arises, the B-2 Visa provides a vehicle for a person to enter the United States for expedited medical care, to accompany a relative receiving medical care, or to visit a relative suffering from an immediate life threatening medical condition.  For example, a person donating an organ and bone marrow for transplant to a family member in the United States is a medical or emergency situation where the B-2 Visa is appropriate.

Other situations where the need for an Emergency B-2 Visa arises include when the purpose of travel to the United States is for a funeral or to make arraignments for repatriating a body of an immediate family member.   Further, the B Visa may be used for urgent business travel when the need for travel was not anticipated, and for students or exchange visitors to return to the United States to attend classes or resume working in a timely fashion.

An emergency reason to travel to the United States does not result in a waiver of any of the standard visa processing requirements through the United States Embassy. Despite the expedited or emergent need for a B-2 Visa, the burden is on the applicant to prove that he or she qualifies for the visa.

Section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act provides that “every alien shall be presumed to be an immigrant until he establishes to the satisfaction of the officer, at the time of the application for a visa… that he is entitled to nonimmigrant status.”

To overcome the intending immigrant presumption, applicants must demonstrate 1) the purpose of the trip is to enter for business or pleasure; 2) temporarily entering for a specific, limited period of time; 3) evidence of financial funds to cover expense; and 4) a residence outside the United States along with binding ties to his or her home country. An applicant must provide enough evidence for the United States Embassy to conclude that one’s ties to his or her home country (family relationships, employment, possession, etc.) will bring them back at the end of a temporary stay in the United States.

Visa applicants must qualify on the basis of the applicant’s residence and ties abroad, rather than assurances from U.S. family and friends.  Since each person’s situation is different, evidence of adequate ties to one’s home country comes in many forms.  In the same vein, an applicant for an Emergency B-2 Visa must provide specific documentary evidence to prove the urgent, bona fide need to travel to and enter the United States.

A different yet similar option to the Emergency B-2 Visa is the Visa Waiver Program, which allows citizens of participating countries to travel to the United States without obtaining a visa, for stays of 90 days or less for tourism or business.  However, even with eligibility to travel on the VWP, one may prefer having a visa in the passport and may still apply for a B-2 Visa.

To understand the B-2 Visa process from start to finish, an applicant with an emergency need to travel to the United States should consult with an experienced and knowledgeable immigration attorney. Without the proper preparation and specific documentary evidence to establish an urgent need to enter the United States, an applicant runs the risk of being unable to enter the country for the emergency reason.