In the past several weeks we have been discussing immigration violations and waivers because we always receive a lot of questions from individuals who have gone to consular interviews thinking that everything was fine, that they were doing everything right during their application process, only to receive a denial – or from individuals whose significant other was trying to enter the United States on a tourist visa and got turned away.
Today, we want to bring your attention to another one that could have a huge impact on your fiancé or spouse visa process: working on a tourist visa.
So, can you work on a tourist visa?
The short, easy answer is no. The purpose of a tourist visa is exactly as it sounds. It’s a visa for someone who is coming to the United States for tourist reasons: a vacation or a visit. It does not authorize you to work in the United States.
This means that you can’t travel to a location within the United States and then perform services for a company or an individual at that location. Typically, if you are working for a company located outside of the US and do remote work for that company while on vacation, it will not cause issue with your tourist visa.
What happens if you came to the US on a tourist visa and you worked?
A lot of times when you’re coming to the US on a tourist visa, you’ll get sent to something called Secondary Inspection. If you were previously in the country on a tourist visa, left for a while, and were returning to the US, you would likely have to answer questions from an immigration agent about the intentions of your visit. It’s important to remember that you must always be honest with them.
If they find out that you were working previously, they can revoke your tourist visa immediately and refuse you entry into the country, forcing you to return home.
What if you have worked on a tourist visa and you’re going through the immigration process?
The Immigration and Nationality Act, a very long book that is the bible of immigration laws, has a long list of problems that a person can have in their immigration history. Many of these issues incur a punishment called a bar, which is a temporary or permanent ban on re-entry.
Working on a tourist visa is one of these listed problems. The Immigration and Nationality Act states that if your tourist visa gets revoked because you were working, you’ll be given a 5-year-bar.
If you’re married or engaged to a United States citizen, there is a way to overcome this problem – it’s longer and more complicated but we have helped many clients do this. The first step is applying for a permission to reapply for immigration benefits and the second step is filing a waiver to ask for forgiveness. This process must be done and immigration has to approve both your permission to reapply for an immigration benefit and your waiver as part of the fiancé visa process or the spouse visa process. Only then will you be able to enter the country on your fiancé visa or green card.
There are, of course, many nuances. This is specifically what would happen in a spouse or fiancé visa context but there is a case type called “adjustment of status” that happens here in the United States and that would include a waiver process as well. The process and the steps are a little different, however.
If you have been working on a tourist visa, it is important to be aware of the consequences. Reach out to an immigration attorney if this has happened to you or if you know that this is in your past so you can make sure you’re taking the right steps and preparing your case properly.