Integrity Legal

7th Sep 2009

Under Section 214b of the Immigration and Nationality Act, a Consular officer can deny a non-immigrant visa (J1, F1, B1, B2) if they believe that the foreign applicant has not overcome the statutory presumption that they are actually an intending immigrant. In some cases, a consular officer may grant a tourist visa application, but the foreign national will be refused entry upon arrival in the United States of America.

How can a foreign national be granted a visa and still be denied entry to the United States? There is a common misconception that visa application approval creates a “right” to enter the United States of America. In fact, Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) Officers have the discretion to turn away alien nationals if they believe that there is a ground of excludability. If a CBP officer reasonably believes that an ostensible non-immigrant actually has immigrant intent, then they have the right to deny entry and it is further within the officer’s discretion to use expedited deportation to remove the prospective entrant.

The following paraphrases the INA:

According to section 212(a)(7)(A)(i) of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), any immigrant who, at the time of application for admission:

is not in possession of a valid unexpired immigrant visa, reentry permit, border crossing identification card, or other valid entry document required by the Immigration and Nationality Act, and a valid unexpired passport, or other suitable travel document, or document of identity and nationality if such document is required under the INS regulations, or whose visa has been issued without compliance with the provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act is excludable [from the United States].

A waiver is available under INA §212(k) where the Attorney General is satisfied that the exclusion was not known to, and could not have been ascertained by the exercise of reasonable diligence by, the immigrant before the time of departure of the vessel or aircraft from the last port outside the United States and outside foreign contiguous territory or, in the case of an immigrant coming from foreign contiguous territory, before the time of the immigrant’s application for admission.

The powers of CBP officers described above illustrate the reason for seeking a proper visa rather than attempting to circumvent the Immigration rules. For example, there are some Americans who have a Thai loved one and they wish to bring them to the USA for the purpose of marriage and adjustment of status to lawful permanent residence. Generally a K1 visa (also known as a fiancee visa) would be the proper travel document for this purpose. However, some opt to pursue a US Tourist visa because the K1 visa has a processing time of approximately 6-7 months whereas a tourist visa generally takes a few weeks to acquire if the application is approved. Even if the visa application is approved, denial at the port of entry poses the risk of expedited deportation as well as the underlying monetary loss due to the fruitless visa application as well as travel expenses to get to the port of entry and be turned away. Removal from the United States can later be used to bar admission particularly if an Immigration officer finds that the entrant was intentionally misrepresenting themselves. In a situation such as this, the only way to remedy the inadmissibility could be the use of an I601 waiver.

Entry denial does not automatically lead to expedited deportation, the CBP officer has the discretion to allow the prospective entrant to withdraw their request for entry and leave at their own expense, but improper usage of non-immigrant visas does include the inherent risk of removal and those seeking entry to United States of America should bear this in mind when researching US Immigration issues.

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