4 basic rules to follow to keep your U.S. tourist visa
Once the U.S. Embassy approves your visa, it´s extremely important that you avoid any behavior or actions that could lead to your authorization being revoked. Keep the following in mind:
- If you have a tourist visa you must leave the country before the established date. Once you´ve accessed the United States with a tourist visa you must pay close attention to the “I-94,” the official document that records your entry and exit from the country. Before 2013 that document was on paper, but it has been digital ever since. The date entered in the I-94, which is now stamped, is the one that tells you when you should leave the country. You must leave that day or before, never after, even if the visa says otherwise. You must fully understand what the visa expiration date really means. The expiration date means, in general, that this is the last day that a foreign person can show up at an airport, seaport, or borderland post in the United States and apply for entry to the country.
However, in some countries, tourist and business visas are approved only for a single entry, or a limited number of entries to the country. In the case of Spanish-speaking countries, business or tourist visas (or a combination of both –B1/B2-) are usually approved for 10 years for multiple entries. The exception is Cuba where they usually approve visas with a validity of 6 months for a single entry, or sometimes, and only for B-2 visas, for 5 years with multiple entries.
- But you mustn’t confuse the visa expiration date with the deadline for legal stay in the U.S. once you´ve entered the country. If you arrive with a tourist or business visa, it´s very common that immigration officials grant you 180 days of legal stay, but you can get fewer days. That date is recorded on the I-94 document, and you can also find more information on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website, such as your entry and exit record.
- Avoid three to ten years of punishment for staying illegally in the country. Staying in the United States for longer than the allowed period of time may result in an entry veto for a minimum period of three years. Even staying an hour longer than allowed can lead to the annulment of the visa. This means that the next time you try to enter the country you won’t be allowed and in some cases, you won’t be able to request a new visa ever again.
In the past, people stayed longer and not much happened, but now there are important consequences for staying longer than allowed. The laws have changed and the entry and exit control systems too. If you like traveling to the US, follow the rules by the book and you´ll be all right.
- Avoid the risks of entering the country too often. There is no law or rule that specifies how long you have to stay outside of the United States before returning. It´s advisable that you apply your common sense and avoid very close trips or very long stays. The latter could produce suspicion from the Immigration Inspector, who could believe your real intention is to live in the country or to find a job illegally.
Some people, due to their personal circumstances, won´t be suspect. People with a significant amount of capital that enter and exit the US frequently because of business, or simply for shopping, probably won´t have any trouble, as long as their capital is legit, of course.
But others will instantly make the Immigration Inspector ask himself: Does this individual have enough money to pay for such a long vacation? Has the person stopped working or studying? Why does he or she spend such large periods in the U.S.? Is the person looking for a job? And so forth.