Are you able to travel to the United States if you have ESTA or a tourist visa while your application is pending?
Fiancé visa wait times are very long right now. As of January 2021, it’s over seven months, so it is understandable that some couples want to visit each other between those wait times.
Yes, you are able to travel to the United States and visit your significant other while your application is pending. The reality of traveling to the United States on ESTA or a tourist visa is that your entry to the United States is discretionary. That essentially means that the officer who you come into contact with at your port of entry when you’re entering the United States has the discretion to decide whether or not they believe you really are just coming to visit for a short amount of time.
With ESTA and a tourist visa, you are meant to come and visit for a short amount of time and not to stay here indefinitely while you’re waiting for the petition.
“If I am allowed to come and visit, what can I do to help that officer understand that I am just coming here to visit and help them with their discretionary decision?”
If you have traveled to the United States before and have a history of coming to the United States for short visits and being in compliance with immigration laws and leaving on time, that’s very helpful for your record. That’s something that they would take into consideration.
With regards to other tips on traveling to the United States and how to be proactive and be prepared, it’s just a matter of making sure you are prepared to answer the officer’s questions when you’re entering the United States. It’s always good that if they’re asking you a question, you just answer that question. You might feel nervous or compelled to tell a whole story and give them tons of information but that’s not necessary.
It’s necessary to be honest but answering the question briefly and just very matter of fact letting the officer know that you have no intention of overstaying if they’re asking you about your intent or why you’re coming.
“What kind of evidence should I bring or what other things can I do to be proactive?”
If you have a job in your country where you’re currently living, it’s nice to have proof of that. If your employer can provide you with a letter, sometimes they might be giving you time off for that trip and so, having an employer write a letter saying how long you’ve been employed there and that you’ve been given time off and that you’re expected to return to work on a certain date and any other proof of your ties to your country of origin can be helpful.
It’s not something that you should carry and hand all of the evidence immediately. It’s more of having it in case they have additional questions. It can be a red flag if you’re over prepared and giving them evidence and a whole long narrative about your intent to come and visit.
It can just be a matter of telling the truth, letting them know you’re only coming here to visit. You should have your round-trip ticket showing that you plan to leave on a certain date and having some evidence as a backup can be helpful as well.
We work with our clients when they do make trips to the United States and sometimes provide them with letters and things like that. It is good to be proactive but the short answer is yes, you can legally travel. Your entries are discretionary so they can decide to not let you in but legally, you can travel while your application is pending.