Visa Myth #975 – “But They Gave Me 6 Months to Stay in the US!”

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At least a couple of times a month I get a similar, frantic phone call. “I just applied for a new visa, but it was denied. The consul didn’t like the fact that I spent 5 months in the US on my last trip.  I told him that the airport inspector allowed me to stay for 6 months. I didn’t do anything wrong!”  Or “My visa has been revoked. But I didn’t do anything wrong.  When I arrived in the US, they gave me 6 months to stay, so I did. I didn’t violate any laws, so why are they revoking my visa?!?” The revocation is done by either the consul or the airport inspector the next time the visa holder arrives in the US.

There are many “red flags” here considered by the consul or airport inspector:

  1. The visa holder must remember that when he applies for a visa again, the consul might compare your answer on your previous application to what you actually did: Did you indicate that you planned to stay for 2 weeks, but stayed for 5 months?  If so, you have lost credibility with the consul, at the least.
  2. The visa holder must remember that US consulates conduct validation studies. These are  surveys on individuals who received visas: how many returned home on time, how many did not, how many changed status, etc…  When they conduct these surveys and discover individuals who do not return home on time, sometimes they will revoke his/her visa. An e-mail is sent  notifying the visa holder that the visa has been revoked because of “new information” that came to light after the issuance of the visa (the actual revocation only takes effect upon departure from the US).
  3. Most importantly, the visa holder must remember that it is necessary to maintain strong ties (employment, family, property, etc…) with the home country throughout the validity of the visa.  By spending 6 months in the US, the consul reaches the conclusion that your ties to home are not so strong anymore, that you have established ties to the US, and that it is necessary to re-establish ties to your home country.  So he denies a new visa for 2-3 years so that you can “re-establish” ties.
  4. One other conclusion that the consul or airport inspector may draw is that you are working illegally in the US. Their view is “How can you be supporting yourself for 6 months without steady income?”  The airport inspector may check your phone or suitcase for evidence of illegal employment. Needless to say, it can be a humiliating experience.

The consul will usually deny the new visa application under Section 214(b).  The airport inspector will usually revoke the visa under Section 212(a)(7)(A)(i)(I) for “improper documents”.  (The inspector may also write by hand on the revoked visa “22 CFR 41.122(e)”.) Whether the airport inspector will allow the visitor to withdraw his application for admission to the United States, decide to initiate expedited removal, and/or make a Section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) misrepresentation finding depends on the seriousness of the circumstances.

Finally, remember that in the US the average worker only receives 2-3 weeks of vacation time a year.  So the mindset of a consul or airport inspector is: who can afford to take a 6 month vacation in another country?  What the heck were you doing all of that time? What employer in the home country would allow an employee to be “absent” for 6 months?    Of course, this may not apply to a retired person or if an emergent situation arises.

If you would like to discuss your situation, please contact us.