The Emergency B Visa

By Attorneys Nancy E. Miller and Michael Bhotiwihok

When an urgent need to travel to the United States arises, the B-Visa provides a vehicle for a person to enter the United States.  Expedited medical care, accompanying a relative receiving medical care, or visiting a relative suffering from an immediate life threatening medical condition are valid reasons to apply for an emergency B-visa. 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. 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.

The B-Visa is a nonimmigrant visa for a noncitizen to enter the United States temporarily for business (B-1), as a visitor for pleasure (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 or Consulate 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.

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.

It is important to note that B Visa holders cannot engage in gainful employment in the United States.  Also, upon entry to the country, B Visa holders may receive an authorized stay for anywhere from one to six months with the ability to file for six-month extensions for a total of no more than one year.

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 Actprovides 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 will bring them back at the end of a temporary stay in the United States.  Ties are defined as “aspects of one’s life that bind him/her to his/her place of residence, including family relationship, employment, and possessions.” 

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 (VWP), which allows citizens of participating countriesto 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, good reasons exist to travel with a B-visa.  VWP provides less flexibility and no extensions.  Additionally, those on VWP are entitled to far fewer due process rights. 

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 specificdocumentary evidence to establish an urgent need to enter the United States, an applicant runs the potential risk of a visa denial and an inability to enter the country for the emergency reason.