Entry Into the U.S.

A visa is like an invitation into the U.S. An alien who holds a U.S. visa must apply for admission at the border of the U.S. When at the border, the alien presents his/her visa issued by the U.S. consulate to the border officer along with his/her passport. A U.S. Customs and Border Protection(CBP) officer will inspect the alien's visa and passport to determine whether the alien will be admitted into the U.S. If admitted, the alien will be issued an I-94 and a date will be stamped on it indicating the authorized period of the alien's stay in the United States. At that point, the alien attains a legal status to remain in the U.S. (For information regarding the difference between a visa and legal status, please click here). A visa to the U.S. does not guarantee the alien will be allowed to enter the United States for the purpose designated by the visa or any other purpose.

There are two scenarios where an alien with a valid visa can be denied admission into the United States:

Scenario one–The intent for which the alien seeks to enter the U.S. is found to be different than the authorized purpose of the visa: When an alien applies for a visa at the U.S. consulate, he applies for a specific kind of visa that covers his/herstated purpose for visiting the United States. The forms and documentation the alien needs depend on the kind of visa the alien is seeking to obtain. If approved, the alien is given the type of visa that covers the intended purpose of his/her visit.

For example:

If the alien intends to visit the U.S. as a tourist, then the alien would obtain a B-2 visa which is the visa issued to tourists. In this case, the alien is given permission to apply for admission to the U.S. for the purposes of tourism. When an alien arrives at the port of entry into the United States, he applies for admission with the border officer who has the power to deny or approve his application for admission. The officer usually examines the alien’s visa and passport, asks the alien a series of questions, and may inspect the alien's belongings. In our example, upon being questioned, if the alien tells the officer that the intent of his visit is to study, then the officer can deny the alien's application for admission into the United States, and may send him back on the next plane home. In this scenario, the visa would also be revoked because it is deemed to have been obtained fraudulently. In this situation, the USCIS' determination is final and not reviewable.

Scenario two - Suspicion that the alien's intention for entering and staying in the US is different than the authorized purpose of the visa: In this scenario, the officer does not have concrete evidence, as in the last scenario, that the alien's intent to enter the U.S. is different than the authorized purpose of the visa. A CBP officer has the power to deny an application for admission even if his determination is based on suspicion and his evidence for the suspicion is circumstantial at best.

For example:

An alien attempts to be admitted to the U.S. in New York's JFK international airport with a valid B-2 tourist visa. Upon inspection, the USCIS discovers that the alien has $50,000 on his person. The USCIS border officer concludes, based on the alien's possession of a large sum of money,the alien intends to do business or to stay for a longperiod of time. Notwithstanding the alien's repeated assurances that he has no intention of doing businessor staying for a long periodin the U.S., the CBPdoes not change the ruling. In this instance, the alien can challenge the CBPofficer's decision to deny him admission into the United States by requesting a deferred inpection. This is possible because the denial is based on a question of fact or an interpretation of the facts. In the last example (scenario one), there was no question of fact, as the alien's intent was clear.

(Updated 10/09/12 by NT)

For more information on non-immigrant visas, please click on the following links: