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U.S. Visa Waiver Program – Wonderful Privilege or Serious Risk?

The Visa Waiver Program (“VW”) is a program available to select countries wherein an individual traveling to the United States to visit need not first obtain a visa from his or her local U.S. consulate.

At first glance, who would not be excited about the option of skipping the headache of applying for a visa at the U.S. Consulate before traveling.  However, the purpose of this article is to explain some of the drawbacks that need to be considered depending on a foreign national’s intentions when they travel to the United States.

First, when an individual travels on a VW, they must have one purpose to visit and return in less than three months. U.S. Customs Border and Patrol (“CBP”) will not admit anyone with a VW more than 90 days per U.S. regulations.  So what happens if you meet the love of your life on day 1 of our visit, and you want to explore staying longer, or even get married.  On a VW this is strictly prohibited. We have had actual clients in this situation.  Individuals on VW must promptly return home no matter what and on time to avoid serious implications including deportation or removal from the United States.

Secondly, we have had clients who come to us after they have already overstayed their VW.  In this situation, even if one marries a United States Citizen, the VW foreign national has little to no room for mistakes.  In other words, if the VW foreign national overstays their visa, marries a U.S. citizen and there is even one slight error in the application, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) can automatically deport or remove that individual from the United States with no right of appeal. This is largely because in order to receive a VW, the foreign national agrees to waive any rights to appeal.

Based on the above, VW individuals must be very clear and honest about their intentions to travel. If a VW wants to marry, work, consider extending their time in the United States if needed….consider applying for a visa and opt out of the VW program.  Just because you are a citizen of a VW country does not mean you have to use this option to travel to the United States.

Finally, if there is a VW overstay, a foreign national should immediately seek expert U.S. immigration counsel to interact with USCIS.  Interacting with USCIS includes: Speaking with USCIS about the overstay, applying to adjust status based on marriage, any possible interaction with CBP.

We invite you to contact us by email or telephone with your immigration questions or concerns. Our telephone numbers are listed on our website.

ScottMond Law Firm

www.scottcclaw.com

info@scottcclaw.com

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