United States Visas – Four Myths Challenged

Immigrating to the United States hasn’t been this difficult since before 1965. In 1965 President Johnson allowed the borders to be relaxed to enable a lot more people from a wider array of countries to visit and to immigrate. Although lots of people have successfully and legally immigrated to the United States since 1965, many more seem to have taken advantage of their Visitor Visas and never returned to their home country. This illegal immigration along with the September 11, 2001 attacks has led to our borders becoming rigid and non-porous again, at least to legal visitors and immigrants!

Myth Number 1 – If you are married to a U.S. citizen you will automatically obtain residency.

This myth is widely held to be fact around the world. True, marriage to a United States Citizen (USC) is often the only way for many people to be able to live and work in the United States.

So although marriage might be the only way to live and work in the United States, marrying a USC does not guarantee that you will get that Immigrant Visa (Green Card). You still have to go through a long vetting process-the Marriage Visa Application, or the Fiancé Visa Application. Two years after receiving your Green Card you will have to apply for Adjustment of Status (AOS) which will finalize your status as a resident of the United States. The AOS isn’t guaranteed either, so you could get denied residency at this point.

Myth Number 2 – Anyone can get a Visitor Visa to the U.S.

It is hard to believe but many United States citizens don’t have a clue how difficult it is for most foreigners to get a Visitor Visa to come here. The main categories of Visitor Visas are Tourist and Student. Because of the pressure from so many people coming on Visitor Visas and just staying, there are regions, such as the West Indies, and countries, such as Mexico, from which almost virtually no regular person can now get a Visitor Visa.

Myth Number 3 – People from countries in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) can enter the U.S. with just their passports.

There is a short list of countries that are part of the Visa Waiver Program. Nationals of these countries, which include most European countries and a few others, have been able to come to the United States with just their passports and more than likely be allowed to enter. However, something that is not being talked about much is Homeland Security’s (DHS) new ESTA Program as described on the State Departments website:

“ESTA is Required: Effective January 20, 2010, the Department of Homeland Security is transitioning to enforced compliance of the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) requirement for VWP travelers. Therefore, VWP travelers who have not obtained approval through ESTA should expect to be denied boarding on any air carrier bound for the United States”.

ESTA applies to all those people who just product recently were able to jump on a plane with their passport and enter the United States. Now they have to apply, at least a week before their flights, or cruises, etc. with an application similar to the I-94W form that they formerly filled out enroute, and costs $14.00. It is good for 2 years though. Wow! Anyone else starting to feel claustrophobic? The United States is starting to wall itself off from the outside world, at least to all the good people who want to come here. Terrorists and illegal immigrants will always find a way in.

Myth Number 4 – Once you are granted a visa, you are automatically allowed to enter the country at your Port of Entry (POE) when you arrive.

No, this isn’t true either. No matter what piece of paper you have in hand when you arrive at your POE, no matter how long and hard you worked to get this piece of paper, the immigration officer that you meet as you go through the Immigration line has the power to stop you from entering if that officer believes that you shouldn’t have received that piece of paper.

The difficulty, hardship and expense that people go through to get to the United States legally is an issue that more Americans should take notice of. You never know when you might become personally affected by United States legal immigration policy, or what passes as policy. Be informed!



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