B-2 Visas for Household Members of Long-Term Nonimmigrants05 Dec 2016
Most nonimmigrant visa categories that allow a foreign national to work or study in the United States for an extended period of time have a corresponding dependent visa category that can be used by immediate family members to accompany the principal worker or student. For instance, the spouse of an H1B worker may be granted H-4 status, typically for the same period of time as the H1B principal spouse. These “derivative” visa categories generally are restricted to one’s spouse and to children under the age of 21. The U.S. Departments of State (DOS) and Homeland Security (DHS), however, have recognized that not all families and households are defined so narrowly, and have provided means for qualifying household members to accompany a nonimmigrant coming to the United States for a longer timeframe.
B-2 for Household Members not Eligible for Derivative Status
The Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM), which lays out the policies and procedures that govern the operations of the DOS, provides a special provision for “cohabitating partners, extended family members, and other household members not eligible for derivative status.” Per the FAM, “B-2 classification is appropriate for aliens who are members of the household of another alien in long-term nonimmigrant status, but who are not eligible for derivative status under that alien’s visa classification.” Examples provided of when this form of B-2 may be requested include, but are not limited to, situations in which the long-term nonimmigrant is in H1B, L-1, or F-1 status. This provision of the FAM further notes that the B-2 household member may be admitted for up to one year, rather than the six-month period typically granted at a U.S. port of entry by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The individual may then apply for extensions in six-month increments.
Broad Definition of Household Member
The DOS notes that such household members may include, but are not limited to, same- or opposite-sex cohabitating partners, elderly parents, as well as the parents of minor F-1 students. Whatever the relationship, the applicant will need to prove to the consular officer that s/he lives in the same overseas home as the long-term nonimmigrant and that they maintain a close relationship. This B-2 classification is not intended for roommates or other more casual or distant relationships.
Household Member Must Still Meet Standard B-2 Requirements
The B-2 household member may plan to stay in the United States for longer than six months or a year. But, as with other B-2 applicants, immigrant intent is not permitted. The consular officer and/or CBP officer at the U.S. port of entry must be convinced that the stay will be temporary and that the household member intends to return to his or her country of residence. This requirement remains when applying for an extension with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). So, even if the household member is accompanying an H1B or L-1 worker who plans to immigrate to the United States, the household member must still evidence a lack of immigrant intent.
Household Member Visas and Admission
If a consular officer issues a B-2 visa foil (commonly referred to as a visa “stamp”) to a household member, the officer may annotate the visa with the name and visa type and duration of the long-term nonimmigrant. If the household member already possesses a valid B-2 (or B-1/B-2) visa, however, there is no requirement that the individual reapply to get an annotated version of the visa. Whether the visa is annotated or not, the individual may request admission at the U.S. port of entry for up to one year. The applicant for admission should be prepared to present evidence of the relationship with the long-term nonimmigrant, along with evidence that the long-term nonimmigrant is in the U.S. in valid status.
Family members may accompany long-term nonimmigrants to the United States as B-2 household members, but the burden of proof is on the foreign national applicant. Consulting with an attorney is helpful for planning purposes. Legal representation in preparing an application package tailored to one’s personal circumstances is recommended.
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