50

I travel mostly on behalf of my organization. And have been traveling to SE Asia, Europe & recently to the US.

I travelled to the US(NY) for the first time on a B1/B2 visa in the 1st week of May to return back in the 1st week on June approximately a month. No issues on this trip. No date for exit written on entry stamp.

I had to travel again to US (NY) in the month of July again for a period of around 30 days. But the immigration officer felt that I should be travelling on an L1 instead of a B1 since I am staying for longer duration in the US. He referred me for secondary screening where the officer after checking the purpose of my visit allowed me to enter and stamped my entry with just B1 written in red ink with no date for exit written. He checked with me the date when I would be returning but did not write s duration on my stamp. However he warned me that if I undertake a similar trip they would deport me and cancel my Visa. When I asked for what he meant by a similar trip I did not receive an answer.

Now I am required to travel to US again for a week in 2nd week of September and I am not sure if this qualifies as a similar travel. I am travelling on behalf of the same organization to visit a different client in a different city and this time staying only for a maximum of 1 week.

I have a multiple entry B1/B2 visa valid till 2027 Port of entry for 1st visit: JFK ( flying BA via London) Port of entry for 2nd visit : Abu Dhabi ( flying Etihad via Abu Dhabi)

Would appreciate informed suggestions as to can I travel. I have stayed for around 63 days this year in the US. None of my entry stamp have a duration of stay mentioned. I have stuck to my travel plans stated while questioned by the CBP.

  • 18
    Have you discussed this with your employer? If they can send somebody else on this trip, the whole problem becomes moot. (And, in any case, they absolutely need to know about your visa issues.) – David Richerby Aug 31 '18 at 7:14
  • 27
    The duration may be making them suspect you of working rather than e.g. attending meetings. I suggest reviewing B-1 Permissible Activities. Can you explain why you need to spend 30 days in the US doing only B-1 permitted activities? – Patricia Shanahan Aug 31 '18 at 7:15
  • 43
    We have other examples here of people's employers playing fast and loose with their immigration status. Keep in mind that your current job is likely temporary, but your immigration record stays with you for life; it's not worth damaging the latter to please the former. If US immigration are warning you that you shouldn't do this, ignore any attempts your employer may make to persuade you otherwise, and insist on proper (expensive) legal advice being taken and followed. – MadHatter Aug 31 '18 at 8:07
  • 19
    How can you have stayed for only 33 days this year if you have spent roughly all of May and all of July in the US? – Henning Makholm Aug 31 '18 at 12:14
  • 13
    Could you please edit your question to state your nationality and at least a rough description of what you were doing in the U.S.? As alluded to by Patricia, only certain business activities are permitted for B-1. Also, you say you've spent two different month-long periods in the U.S. this year, but then say you've only spent 33 days in the U.S. Could you please edit to clarify which of these is the case? – reirab Aug 31 '18 at 15:02
72

Take that warning seriously, it is in their records (and in your interest).

But the immigration officer felt that I should be travelling on an L1 instead of a B1 since I am staying for longer duration in the US.

That's then the best advice for you, unfortunately we won't be able to better that one. After having assessed your travels and having interviewed you they advised that L1 is the proper category then please go ahead and discuss that with your employer and apply for an L1.

There is no point looking to interpret things differently after having been given a clear advice by the most relevant authority.

I can spend some time to find some authoritative resources to support my answer but all those resources say that the final discretion to let you in the US lies with the officer interviewing you at the port of entry. The advice that you received was exactly from that very officer.

Now I am required to travel to US again for a week in 2nd week of September and I am not sure if this qualifies as a similar travel. I am travelling on behalf of the same organization to visit a different client in a different city and this time staying only for a maximum of 1 week.

It does qualify to be the same situation, I wouldn't risk thinking oh he just thought i was staying for too long.

Take their advice without any grain of salt.

My worthless 2 cents?

I have stayed for around 63 days this year in the US

They are right. 63 days business activity in only 2 trips in only 8 months does seem to be beyond what B-1 entitles an alien. I think the supervisors are going to say the same thing.

  • 10
    Excellent point. The most relevant advice has already been provided from the competent authorities. – Burhan Khalid Aug 31 '18 at 8:23
  • 7
    To be more explicit: "similar travel" probably refers to trying to use a B1 again, where-as using an L1 wouldn't be a problem. Although I have absolutely no idea what the difference is between the two, and when you should apply for which (surely they weren't saying "never ever use a B1 again under any circumstances", because then what would be the point of even having it?) - it might be beneficial to clarify this. – NotThatGuy Aug 31 '18 at 12:22
  • 8
    @NotThatGuy B1 is business visit, with tight restrictions on work, as distinct from meetings. L1 is an intra-company transfer visa that allows a US business to bring in an employee of a non-US affiliate of the US company to work in the US. – Patricia Shanahan Aug 31 '18 at 13:28
  • 4
    @HankyPanky A local CBP officer can occasionally be wrong (I know cases of this happening), and I'd call the CBP contact centre if I were OP and ask to talk to a Supervisor, then have them write an E-Mail confirmation of what's been said – Crazydre Aug 31 '18 at 14:20
  • 9
    It sounds like you should've been on an L1 visa all along, and they got wise on trip 2, but decided to let it slide so as not to ruin your life unfairly, since they know you were relying on your employer. Now they've served you notice, it's all on you - expect no quarter. – Harper Sep 2 '18 at 0:33
46

You need to call the CBP immediately at +1 202 325 8000, ask for a supervisor (tell them it's a complicated and serious matter and that you must be 100% sure to receive the right answer).

Tell them your passport number and last admission number (can be looked up here), and tell them exactly what the officers in New York told you.

Ask them to check their records (if possible), and ask if you should apply for an L-1 or can keep using your B-1/B-2. (Of course, describe exactly what you'll be doing.)

Then insist that they write you a clear, detailed E-Mail confirming what you've said on the phone, either so you can show your employer (if they say you should get an L-1) or so you can show local CBP officers (if they say you can keep using your B1/B2 visa).

  • 3
    @HankyPanky It's the CBP that decides whether you get in, not the embassy – Crazydre Aug 31 '18 at 14:38
  • 16
    The CBP officer at the port can be wrong, as another answer said, but you can appeal. However, an appeal, if granted, is not much consolation after you’ve already been deported and missed whatever you were supposed to do. So this “get an e-mail” is good advice, and show it to your employer, who also doesn’t want you to miss whatever. – WGroleau Aug 31 '18 at 14:55
  • 4
    Do you have good reason to think that asking this question of CBP will result in a helpful response, and if so, on what grounds? Because I can easily imagine CBP just saying "it's not our job to tell you how to comply with the law, go hire a lawyer". – Nate Eldredge Aug 31 '18 at 21:22
  • 3
    @NateEldredge My experience too, until I insist on being connected to a superior. – Crazydre Aug 31 '18 at 21:28
  • 6
    And remember also that the in-writing/email copy of the description of what kind of visa you need is worth absolutely nothing in terms of legal protection if the advice they give you is wrong. It only helps for convincing underlings to double-check the rules. CBP "agents" are not agents of the US government in the legal sense of the word and, as such, no agreement or explanation you get from them is binding. If they mistakenly tell you that you'll be fine on a B1/B2 visa, it is your responsibility to know that they made a mistake and you will be punished for any failure to correct their error. – Perkins Aug 31 '18 at 23:46
16

As you probably known, there has been a lot of fraud involving H1-B visas, and the US government is (sort-of) cracking down on it.

As a result, various outsourcing companies have been bringing in half-priced foreign workers under the B-1 visa. This has, predictably, caused people coming here on B-1 visas to get extra scrutiny.

What happens next depends a lot on what exactly you are doing. If it is sales meetings or training, then you need to carry documentation of what the exact purpose of your visit shall be.

If you are going to be writing code for a database or for a user interface, then you will need to get an L-1 visa.

My personal opinion is that you need to talk to an immigration lawyer. If a Border Agent gets the idea that you are traveling on funny papers, then they will put you on The List, probably for the rest of your life.

  • There has always been a fair amount of B-1 abuse. They're just getting more serious about it now. – Loren Pechtel Sep 1 '18 at 0:27

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.