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The Importance of Intent in Visa Applications

The Importance of Intent in Visa Applications

When you apply for a visa and have your interview, and usually again at the border when trying to enter the United States, you will be asked what your purpose is in coming into the country.  The main reason why this question is asked is to determine your intent in entering the country.  For visa purposes, there are 2 types of intent – immigrant and non-immigrant.  There are also some visas that have dual intent.

Non-Immigrant Intent

Having non-immigrant intent means that you do not plan on staying in the country permanently.  There are many non-immigrant visas, including visitor visas (B-1/B-2), work visas (such as H-2B), student visas (F-1), and others.

Immigrant Intent

Immigrant intent means that you plan to stay in the country indefinitely.

Dual Intent

Some visas allow the holder to maintain a valid non-immigrant status while intending on immigrating at some future time.  A good example of this type of visa is a fiance visa (K-1). The fiance visa allows the visa holder to come to the United States to get married, and then usually adjust status to a permanent resident after that.  Even though the person’s intent is generally to stay here permanently, they are granted the visa for the short term with a non-immigrant status.

Why Intent Is Important

Each visa has a specific purpose.  The purpose of a visitor visa, for example, is to enter the U.S. for a short period of time for business or tourism.  If you try to get a visitor visa while really intending on staying in the United States indefinitely, you are committing visa fraud, which could get you in big trouble.  The important thing is what your intent is at the time you apply for the visa and the time you enter the country. Of course, your intent could change once you are here. You could meet someone and fall in love and decide that you want to get married and live here with them permanently.  That is not a problem, if it happens after you are already here. However, if you arrive with the intent to marry someone and stay with them, but enter on a visitor visa and say that your intent is temporary tourism, you could get in trouble. It is very important to always tell the truth in your immigration petitions.

How to Show Non-Immigrant Intent

There are many things the government looks at when determining if your intent is to leave the country at the end of your visit.  They will be looking at ties to your home country, which can include:

-Owning a home or other property

-Having a job that you can come back to or an offer of future employment

-Having strong family and social ties in your home country

-Having strong ties to the community, such as frequent involvement in social and cultural groups in your area

-Having investments or other financial ties to your home country

None of these things by themselves will necessarily prove your non-immigrant intent.  The immigration official will look at the whole picture to see if they believe you will return to your home country after your visa has expired.  It is helpful to have an immigration attorney to guide you through the application process.

The Importance of Choosing the Correct Visa

If you are considering coming to the United States or petitioning for someone else to come, it is important to choose the visa that best matches your intent.  Choosing a non-immigrant visa when your intent is the stay in the United States can be very problematic. Many people ask why their loved one can’t just come to the United States on a visitor visa and then, for example, get married and adjust status after that.  If that is your plan from the beginning, you and your loved one would be lying when you say that you have non-immigrant intent in order to get in with the visitor visa. You may think, “How will they know?” If you get married shortly after arriving in the United States on a non-immigrant visa, there will be a presumption that you were being fraudulent when you applied for your non-immigrant visa.  Your application for adjustment of status would be subject to very strict scrutiny and is much more likely to be denied. A better option in that case may be to consider a fiance visa. Whatever your situation, it is always a good idea to consult with an immigration attorney to determine which visa would be best for you or your loved one.

Our Attorneys Can Help

If you are looking into options for which visa would be best for you or your loved one, contact us at Ernest Law Group to set up a consultation. Our experienced lawyers can help identify the best course of action, and guide you through every step of the process.

 Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author, Heather Silkstone.


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