United States: Period of authorized stay for holders of visitor visas (B1, B2 and B1/B2) (2016-February 2018)
In an information flyer on visitor visas, the Bureau of Consular Affairs of the US Department of State indicates that visas allow foreign citizens to travel to a port of entry in the US and request permission to enter the US (US Mar. 2015). According to the same source, "a 'visitor' visa is a nonimmigrant visa and generally is used to enter the United States temporarily for business (B-1), for pleasure or medical treatment (B-2), or a combination of these purposes (B-1/B-2)" (US Mar. 2015).
The website of the US Bureau of Consular Affairs states that "[a] visa does not guarantee entry into the United States," explaining that officials from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have, at the point of entry, the authority to grant or deny admission in the US to visa holders, including to B1, B2 or B1/B2 visa holders (US n.d.a). The Frequently Asked Questions, available on the website of the US Embassy and Consulates in Japan, indicates the following about the length of stay for B1, B2 or B1/B2 visa holders:
Validity of a visa relates only to the length of time the holder may travel to the United States and apply for admission. It does not determine the length of time you can stay in the United States. The length of time a visitor is permitted to remain in the United States is determined by the United States Customs and Border Protection Officer at the point of entry. Each traveler will be permitted to stay in the U.S. for a period of time that is fair and reasonable for the completion of the purpose of the visit. (US n.d.b)
Official sources indicate that B1 visa holders may initially be admitted for the period needed to carry out their business activities (US 14 July 2015; US n.d.c). The US Citizenship and Immigration Services website explains that the "initial period of stay" granted to B1 visa holders is 1 to 6 months, 6 months being the maximum, and that an extension of stay can be requested by the visa holder for up to 6 months (US 14 July 2015). The same source states that the "maximum total amount of time permitted in B-1 status on any one trip is generally 1 year" (US 14 July 2015). According to a recorded message on the automated voice system of the CBP Information Center consulted on 23 January 2018, if the B1 visa holder needs to remain in the US for more than "a few months," it is helpful to bring evidence as to why the visa holder requests more than a few months (US n.d.c).
The CBP automated voice system indicated that B2 visa holders are "automatically" given a 6-month length of stay in the US, though it can be shorter if the CBP officer thinks the holder is abusing the visa to become a "de facto" resident of the US (US n.d.c). B2 visa holders can apply for a 6-month extension of their length of stay in the US (US n.d.c).
Section 2(D) of the Tourists and Business Visitors subchapter of the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM), written for the staff of the US Department of State, indicates the following:
9 FAM 402.2-2(D) (U) Temporary Period of Stay
- (U) Although temporary is not specifically defined by either statute or regulation, it generally signifies a limited period of stay. The fact that the period of stay in a given case may exceed six months or a year is not in itself controlling, provided that you are satisfied that the intended stay actually has a time limitation and is not indefinite in nature.
- (U) The period of time projected for the visit must be consistent with the stated purpose of the trip. The applicant must establish with reasonable certainty that departure from the United States will take place upon completion of the temporary visit.
- (U) The applicant must have specific and realistic plans for the entire period of the contemplated visit.
- (U) In evaluating these cases, you should not focus on the absolute length of the stay, but on whether the stay has some finite limit. For example, the temporariness requirement would be met in a case where the cohabitating partner will accompany, and depart with, the "principal" alien on a two-year work assignment or a four-year degree program. (US 22 Feb. 2017)
In addition, section 402.2-4(B)(5) of the FAM, on "Cohabitating Partners, Extended Family Members, and Other Household Members not Eligible for Derivative Status," states the following:
(U) The B-2 classification is appropriate for aliens who are members of the household of another alien in long-term nonimmigrant status, but who are not eligible for derivative status under that alien's visa classification. This is also an appropriate classification for aliens who are members of the household of a U.S. citizen who normally lives and works overseas, but is returning to the United States for a temporary time period. Such aliens include, but are not limited to the following: cohabiting partners or elderly parents of temporary workers, students, diplomats posted to the United States, and accompanying parent(s) of minor F-1 child-student. B-2 classification may also be accorded to a spouse or child who qualifies for derivative status (other than derivative A or G status) but for whom it may be inconvenient or impossible to apply for the proper H-4, L-2, F-2, or other derivative visa, provided that the derivative individual intends to maintain a residence outside the United States and otherwise meets the B visa requirements. If such individuals plan to stay in the United States for more than six months, they should be advised to ask DHS for a one-year stay at the time they apply for admission. If needed, they may thereafter apply for extensions of stay, in increments of up to six months, for the duration of the principal alien's nonimmigrant status in the United States. You should consider annotating to indicate the purpose and length of stay in such cases. (US 22 Feb. 2017)
According to the Bureau of Consular Affairs website, CBP officials provide an admission stamp or a "paper Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record" to travellers who are allowed to enter the US (US n.d.a). However, a factsheet on I-94 expiration dates states that I-94 forms were "automated" for air and sea arrivals in May 2013, and foreign visitors to the US can obtain and print an electronic copy of their I-94 on the CBP website if needed (US n.d.d). Similarly, the webpage on the I-94 form on the CBP website indicates that foreign visitors travelling to the US by sea or air no longer need to complete Form I-94 or Form I-94W, the "Nonimmigrant Visa Waiver Arrival/Departure Record" form, though those who arrive at land border points of entry are still issued a paper Form I-94 by the CBP (US 5 Jan. 2018). Concerning non-immigrant travellers arriving in the US, the same source states the following:
Upon arrival, a CBP officer stamps the travel document of each arriving non-immigrant traveler with the admission date, the class of admission, and the date that the traveler is admitted until. If a traveler would like a paper Form I-94, one can be requested during the inspection process. All requests will be accommodated in a secondary setting. (US 5 Jan. 2018)
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
United States (US). 5 January 2018. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). "Arrival/Departure Forms: I-94 and I-94W." [Accessed 22 Jan. 2018]
United States (US). 22 February 2017. Department of State. "9 FAM 402.2 Tourists and Business Visitors and Mexican Border Crossing Cards - B Visas and BCCs [Redacted]." Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM). [Accessed 23 Jan. 2018]
United States (US). 14 July 2015. Citizenship and Immigration Services. "B-1 Temporary Business Visitor." [Accessed 23 Jan. 2018]
United States (US). March 2015. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs. "U.S. Visas." [Accessed 22 Jan. 2018]
United States (US). N.d.a. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs. "Visitor Visa." [Accessed 22 Jan. 2018]
United States (US). N.d.b. Embassy and Consulates in Japan. "Business and Tourist Visas (B1, B2 Visas)." [Accessed 23 Jan. 2018]
United States (US). N.d.c. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Information provided via an automated voice system on 23 January 2018. [Accessed 23 Jan. 2018]
United States (US). N.d.d. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). "I-94 Expiration Dates." [Accessed 22 Jan. 2018]
Additional Sources Consulted
Oral sources: US – Consulate in Montreal, Customs and Border Protection Agency, Embassy in Ottawa.
Internet sites, including: ecoi.net; UN – Refworld.