Appointments

Tourist Visas

One of the most difficult parts of being an undocumented immigrant in the United States is the inability to visit your family in your home country.  Consequently, many people ask me if their relatives could visit them in the United States, perhaps with a tourist visa.

Individuals wishing to visit the United States temporarily must apply for a tourist visa at the U.S. consulate in their home country.  Applicants can visit http://www.usembassy.gov to find the appropriate consulate.  Although applicants from certain countries do not need a visa as they are part of the visa waiver program,[1] this column focuses strictly on individuals who need a visa.

For most countries, applying for a tourist visa requires completing an electronic visa application and scheduling an appointment online.  This is the easy part.  The hard part is demonstrating to the consular official conducting the interview that the applicant has every intention of returning to their home country upon completion of their authorized stay (usually six months).  And it’s not just telling them you will do so.  It’s proving to the official that there would be no reason for you to stay in the United States based on your ties to your home country, your economic stability and other factors that show your life is good enough in your country so why would you want to stay here?  Many people think all they need to show is an invitation from someone in the United States, but such evidence is secondary to the real question on whether you plan to return.

The most convincing evidence an applicant can show is financial – proof of stable employment in your home country, bank account statements, and proof of home, land or business ownership.  Another factor is the relatives the applicant has in the United States and their legal status.  For example, an applicant who is engaged to or a parent of a U.S. citizen is a strong negative factor because the official may believe you will just travel to the United States and try to process your permanent residence application here.  Undocumented relatives living in the United States is another strong negative factor because the official may think you would do the same just to be with your family.  Likewise, previous unlawful presence in the United States is a problem.  Lying about these facts on the application is the worst thing you can do as any fraud or misrepresentation could permanently bar you from the United States for any reason.

Of course, no one can really say whether or not the official will approve the visa application.  The only way to know is to apply, but make sure to arm yourself with as much documentation as possible to prove you have no intention to stay in the United States.


[1]  The current list of countries included in the visa waiver program are as follows:  Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japen, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Korea, San Marino, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom.

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