What is a Visa Waiver Program? Hi, I’m Jim Hacking, immigration attorney, practicing a law here in Saint Louis, Missouri. From time to time, people contact our office wondering if we can help them with their love ones getting a visitor visa to come to see them in the United States. Some people have a real problem getting visitor visas to the United States, and so a lot of times, people want to know how can we help them.
We don’t typically get involved in visit visas and while there’s been a great deal of difficulty on the part of the person coming to get it, but in a lot of ways, the State Department has so much discretion that visitor visas are one of those practice areas within immigration that we don’t typically get involved in because we can’t really guarantee any result better than the individual who’s applying on their own. The reason for this is that the State Department has such wide latitude and they can decide whether or not to give a visa or not, that it’s hard from here, in America to really notice them along, and to get them, to issue a visa.
The embassy is typically looking at things like how likely is that the person is going to return to the United States, how many assets that do they have, do they have real reasons to want to return home. They also want to make sure that the person is not going to apply for some kind of an immigrant visa while they’re here in the United States. This leads a lot of our clients particularly those from the Middle East and from South Asia to have a real difficulty getting visit visas for their love ones, it can be parents even, or brothers, and sisters.
We’ve had situations where people apply again and again to get visit visas and to only find their hopes dash when they go to the embassy, and so that’s a real problem for people.
The Visa Waiver Program does allow people from certain countries to come to the United States up to 90 days as long as they have a non-refundable return ticket back to their home country. The Visa Waiver Program has been in place for a while now, and it allows people to not have to go through the trouble of going to the embassy to get a visa, to come visit the United States.
Basically, if you’re on the approve list of countries, you can come for up to 90 days and stay in the United States as a visit without having to go get the visitor visa, so it’s a real benefit to people from those countries. Now, some might argue that those countries are indiscriminately or discriminately chose, so that people from countries on the list get in, and those that don’t, and some people think that’s not fair, and I agree with them. I think that the Visa Waiver Program is politically motivated in, and really when it’s who can come to the United States, and makes it difficult for people from certain countries.
Now, I will say that the State department is adding on to the Visa Waiver Program and allowing more people to come to the United States on the Visa Waiver Program, but it’s still has a long way to go. One thing to keep in mind is that there’s certain rules about people who come to the United States on the Visa Waiver Program. One is that you’re ineligible for a lot immigration relief if you come on a Visa Waiver Program unless you apply for adjustment of status based on an immediate relative petition, so don’t think that if you come on a Visa Waiver Program that you’re going to be able to adjust status because the rules are very strict on that.
The rules are also strict on arguments that you can make when you’re here on the Visa Waiver Program if you find yourself placed in deportation proceedings. A [inaudible 00:03:43] come on the Visa Waiver Program strips you of a lot of the protections that are available to people who come on a natural visa. If you’re in the United States on a Visa Waiver Program option, or if you’re thinking about coming to the United States and you have questions, feel free to give us a call, 314-961-8200, or you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks.