The United States issues close to 9 million non-immigrant visas each year, permitting foreign nationals from all over the world to visit, work, and live in the States. While some visas are used for short business trips and vacation travel, some people use their visas to live in the U.S. for years, building their careers and families in our great nation. Unlike immigrant visas, which permit foreign nationals to stay in the U.S. for indefinite periods, non-immigrant visas limit the time foreign nationals may be present in the United States.
Another major difference between immigrant visas and non-immigrant visas is that the latter strictly define a foreign national’s activities in the United States. For example, someone using a B-1 visitor visa may engage in business meetings, attend conferences and negotiate contracts. They may not enroll in institutions of higher learning, accept employment, perform professionally or work as foreign press. Violating the terms of a visa is a serious infraction and may result in the visa being invalidated. Suspicion that a foreign national may be engaging in forbidden activities is also sufficient grounds for an immigration official to prevent entry to the United States.
While the terms of a visa define the holder’s activities in the U.S., foreign nationals whose plans change while they are here may be eligible to change their status without leaving the country. Specifically, the USCIS provides a process for non-immigrant visa holders living in the U.S. to transition to other non-immigrant categories.
In addition to confirming eligibility for the new classification, the most important thing to remember is to file the change request with the USCIS before your authorized stay in the U.S. expires. Failure to do so may have disastrous consequences. There are also certain non-immigrant statuses from which a foreign national may not transition into a new status, including those in transit through the U.S. and certain educational visas.
If you are in the United States on a non-immigrant visa and feel the purpose of your stay may change, contact the Law Office of Maud Poudat, P.A. today to determine your options.