Since the new administration has taken office in the United States, the immigration system has been in constant flux. This second installment of a three-part series provides further insight into pointers to follow when thinking of applying for a visa to come to the US.
1. Know how long you can stay in the United States once you enter
It is key to understand that the date of expiration of the visa used to enter the United States is not necessarily the date you are required to leave. The Arrival and Departure Form (I-94) was a small square paper placed inside the passport that was stamped with a required departure date upon entering the United States. Even though it was sometimes difficult to keep track of, having this paper was an easy reminder of when you were required to leave.
However, now the I-94 is digital and can only be accessed online here. Since this is the only way of knowing when you must leave the US, you should always check it immediately because the date that you think you have to leave might not be the required departure date. For example, if you hold a B1/B2 visa that does not expire for 10 years, it does not mean you can stay in the US for 10 years. It is likely that you will only be given six months or less each time you enter on this visa.
How long you can stay in the US is at the discretion of the border patrol officer, not what the visa says. Also, many times the border patrol will accidentally input the wrong date into the system: if you do not check this, you might overstay without even knowing it, causing possible refusals of entry in the future.
2. Nothing is sacred at the border
Since President Trump has taken office, searches by border agents at airports have increased substantially, especially of electronic devices including cell phones, laptops, and iPads. Although some have argued this is a violation of a person’s privacy rights, the courts have long held that those protections do not apply at the border and at airports because of the government’s compelling interest in combating crime and terrorism.
The information obtained from these devices or something else found in a carry-on bag or luggage could lead to the officers’ deciding that your intention is not in line with the type of visa you are entering on. For instance, if you state you are coming into the United States to visit Disneyland, but have a signed contract to perform at a venue in the US, this could lead to a denial of entry and a cancellation of the visa. It is critical that you are aware of the limitations of a particular visa and be sure that whatever you have with you is in line with that intention.
3. Don’t lose sight of the big picture
We all have dreams and goals that we look to accomplish during our lifetimes. However, there is a time and place for each to come to fruition. Therefore, don’t rush into a situation that may meet your short-term goals, but will destroy your long-term plans.
For example, if you have an opportunity to perform at a small venue in the United States, but are not yet ready or qualified to obtain the appropriate work visa, don’t risk coming in as a visitor (when you know you are required to have a work visa).
Don’t try to convince yourself that nobody will find out, or that it is not really work since you are not getting paid. What if the venue advertises the show? What if fans or audience members post on their social media a video or picture of your performance? The fact that you were working in the US without proper authorization is now all over the internet and can be seen by an officer at the border or an adjudicator reviewing a future petition for a work visa. You have now worked in the US without authorization, which could be used as grounds for a denial in the future.
Also, keep in mind that the performances in the US that were not authorized should not be used as evidence in support of a future petition. Therefore, why do it? If the big picture is to work long-term in the US, properly prepare and plan, so when an opportunity does arise, you are ready for it and qualified to get the visa you need.
Look out for Part Three of How to get a US artist visa in the Age of Trump coming soon.
If you missed the first instalment, you can find it at How to get a US visa in the Age of Trump: part one.
Andrea Szew is the founder and managing attorney of the prestigious US immigration law firm Szew Law Group, which specializes in immigration and international business.
Andrea has been an attorney for over 20 years and has focused on immigration for the last 15.
She has obtained visas for hundreds of artists, producers, production companies and crew members throughout the entertainment industry, including music, motion picture, television, and live stage productions.