As an immigration lawyer in Houston and a U.S. citizen, I realize that many people who grew up here seem to think that a person who wants to go somewhere can just go – we watch TV shows about people moving to other countries and never see episodes where they’re not given their visas.
Why do people trying to legally come to the United States get denied that opportunity?
This past week, the denial of visitor visas to a Tibetan women’s soccer team made international headlines. It appeared that the team was deemed not to have a “good reason” to come to the United States to participate in a soccer competition to which they had been invited. While there are questions about the political motivations for denying a Tibetan team visas, the situation illustrates the huge amount of discretion consular officers have to deny visitor visas to applicants.
Our firm gets lots of inquiries from people who know what they want: to come to the U.S., to get a green card, to work for an employer, etc. But those intentions by themselves aren’t enough to know the best course of action. It’s important for people seeking entry into the U.S. or immigration benefits to understand if their actions make sense with their visa classification or the other applications they submit.
As the Tibetan soccer team’s situation shows, your intent will be inferred from the documentation and actions you take. So if your intent is to immigrate to the United States and live here long-term, it’s important to understand that applying for a visitor visa may result in a denial.
Or not – if you are issued a visitor visa and you want to remain in the U.S. long term, you may have issues at the port of entry, or when filing a subsequent immigration application. Understanding the idea of immigrant intent and when it is permitted is the first step in deciding your best course of action.