Schifanelli Law, LLP
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First of all, a visa is required for lawful travel to the U.S. In most cases, a foreign national must apply at a U.S. consulate in their home country (or the nearest U.S. consulate if none is located in their home country or the person is already travelling abroad). Visas are usually issued for temporary travel to the U.S. (i.e. not for permanent immigration), but they also include "fiancée visas" or "permanent resident visas" for those people who have the legal basis and intent to permanently immigrate to the United States.
Some citizens of certain countries don't need to apply for a visa at a Consulate if they are only intending to stay in the U.S. for less than ninety days and don't intend to work. They travel under the Visa Waiver Program, and as long as one doesn't abuse the privilege, they can simply board a plane and go through customs upon their arrival in the U.S.
Tourist and Visitor B visas (B-1 & B-2)
The "B" visas are for temporary travel, usually for less than six months. The B-1 is for "Business Visitors," and allows one to come to the U.S. in connection with business activities like participating in meetings, professional seminars, etc. or to look for office spaces, negotiate business contracts, and such. It is not, however, to come to the U.S. to start work for a U.S. employer.
The B-2 is probably the most common visa issued and is for other visitors and tourists coming, for example, to visit with family or friends, or simply to "see the sights."
Work Visas (H-1, H-2)
Work visas are likely the second most common category of visa for potential travelers to the U.S. Work visas require a U.S. employer petitioner that is offering a specific job opportunity for a foreign national. These visas applications undergo a somewhat complicated approval process in the U.S. before the traveler can go to a U.S. Consulate and receive it.
After being here for a while, it's not uncommon that a visa holder will want to extend her stay in any given visa status. Extensions are normally granted if the visa holder can demonstrate to USCIS that, at a minimum, she has a good reason for requesting the visa extension, plans to leave after the extension expires and has the means to do so, and (most importantly), has the money or financing available so she won't need to work during her extension.
Similarly, a visa holder may want to change her visa category altogether. For example, when someone in B-2 visa status wants to legally go from tourist to student visa status (F-1 visa); or a worker in H-2B visa status wants to stay after his lawful period is over as a Tourist in B-2 Visa status.
If you are in the U.S. with a valid visa and want to change or extend your visa status, you may be thinking of doing it yourself or with the help of your friends. However, there are many opportunities to make mistakes. The consequences of losing and/or overstaying your authorized stay because of simple mistakes are major and can result in being out of status or unable to secure another visa at a U.S. Consulate in the future. Contact us for a consultation with an Immigration Lawyer in Maryland before you take any steps to extend or change your visa status.
Contact Schifanelli Law, LLP at 410-263-0028 for an initial consultation with an experienced Annapolis immigration lawyer.
2450 Riva Rd., Suite 201, Annapolis, Maryland 21401.