March 5, 2010


How To Get A U.S. Visa (Hana R. Alberts, 03.04.10, Forbes)

The Department of State offers a veritable alphabet soup of visas for so-called temporary visitors, meaning those who do not intend to immigrate permanently. The two most common types are the B-1, for business, and B-2, for tourism or medical treatment. For the former, you must be conducting business that benefits a company based outside of the U.S. Valid reasons include traveling to attend a conference, negotiate a contract or meet with clients or consultants. (There's also a combined B-1/B-2 visa, which is also popular.) About 3.5 million visas of these types were issued in 2009, according to government data, down from almost 4 million in 2008. Nearly 30% of applicants were refused visas.

The steps to obtain a visa are myriad; the caveats extensive. First, figure out if you need one. Then, find your nearest consulate, collect the documents you need, ace the in-person interview and successfully navigate past immigration officials at the airport. (For details, see our step-by-step slide show.)

To help ensure approval, emphasize these crucial points throughout the process: the exact purpose of your trip; your plans to stay for a specific, limited period; sufficient funds to cover expenses while there; and evidence of a residence outside the U.S. as well as social and economic ties abroad that would compel you to leave the U.S. and return home in a timely fashion. [...]

Potential setbacks remain even after a consulate or embassy approves the visa. Department of Homeland Security officials are charged with securing America's borders, and they are the ones who question all foreign visitors at the airport.

"The situation can turn on the right or wrong word, so the business traveler needs to be aware of potential pitfalls before speaking with an inspecting officer," says Sean G. Hanagan, a partner in Jackson Lewis' White Plains, N.Y., office. that it forces those who try following the rules into periods of illegality too. There are no "legal" immigrants.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 5, 2010 7:29 AM
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