Visa Competence, Consultations, and Consequences

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The story was not unusual.  Ekaterina arrived in the US on a B-1 visa. She became acquainted with an incompetent lawyer, one who did not charge for an initial consultation.  The lawyer, more interested in making a sale because he could not live on free consultations, told her that she could qualify for L-1 status.  They then signed a legal services agreement and Ekaterina made a substantial payment.

The lawyer and Ekaterina began preparing to file the L-1 petition. The lawyer opened an American company; Ekaterina opened a corporate bank account and placed funds on the account; and on behalf of the company, Ekaterina leased an office, paying rent for three months in advance.  After this, the lawyer filed the L-1 petition for her to change her status. After USCIS sent a Request for Evidence, the lawyer prepared a response.  Unfortunately for Ekaterina, the response was inadequate, and USCIS denied the petition and her request to change status.

Ekaterina returned to her home country.  After a few months, she applied for a new B-1 visa so that she could return to the US to close the company and corporate bank account, and finish some personal business. The consular officer refused her application under Section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act – suspecting that she really planned to work in the US.

Besides illustrating the need to retain competent and honest immigration counsel, the story of Ekaterina again proves the immigration truism: immigration decisions have consequences.  Applying to work in the US and receiving a refusal can make it more difficult to obtain a tourist visa. Applying to immigrate can lead to a nonimmigrant visa denial during the pendency of the immigration process.   Deceiving a consular officer about the purpose of a trip can lead to a later finding of misrepresentation or fraud. Being denied a tourist visa one time can make it more difficult to receive one the next time.  USCIS refusal of a change of status or extension of status application can complicate future visa applications. Obtaining a green card but not spending time in the US can trigger a finding of abandonment of US status.

Before traveling down a particular visa path, one must weigh the potential risks and consequences.  This is another reason to consult with a competent immigration lawyer in advance – even if it means paying a consultation fee. As Ekaterina found out, cheap is expensive.