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I know there are lots of previous questions about visiting boyfriend/girlfriend in the USA and I did look over them. They are very helpful. My case is a little bit different, so that I think it might be useful to start a new question.

First of all, my girlfriend is not a US citizen. She is the same as I am, a Chinese citizen. She is currently doing research on a J1 visa in the USA. I was a J-1 visa holder from last November to this June. We met in the city where we were conducting research, and fell in love. After June, I went to the country where I am doing my PhD (not the USA or China). We are planning a three-week trip this December in the States.

I do have a valid ten-year B1/B2 visa. I applied for it several years ago as I was attending a conference. Since I have this visa, I can enter the States.

However, when I answer the CBP at my port or entry, their first question would be what's my purpose. What should I say? I am not trying to hide anything. Do you think having vacation with my girlfriend would be appropriate? My question differs from the previous questions in the forum in two senses:

First, my girfriend is not a US citizen or green card holder. Second, we are not meeting in the city where she is doing research, but in Honolulu.

I have several worries:

  1. I have heard so many stories that visiting a girlfriend in the US is a red flag to CBP.

  2. I have already spent 7 months in US with a J1 visa. Would they think that's already too long? This trip is 3 weeks with B1/B2 visa.

  3. My onward ticket is to China since I will have another five weeks holiday with my parents in China.

  • Given all you have said, you stand a good chance of being scrutinized. Landing in a different state from where you will meet her. Already 7 months in USA within a year on J1. Be very careful – user 56513 Nov 7 '18 at 23:23
  • Thank you very much for your comments. The reason that we meet in a different state, is that we are going to travel together... – Mike Chen Nov 7 '18 at 23:26
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    Landing in a different state is not unusual. There are many states, and it is not always feasible, possible, or affordable to fly directly to the state of your final destination. – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Nov 8 '18 at 1:27
  • @RoddyoftheFrozenPeas, thanks for your comments. It's not the case that she will pick up me in a different state, which sounds crazy as she will spend extra money. But the reason that we meet in a different state is that we will travel together in that state, and another nearby state, and finally fly back to her place. – Mike Chen Nov 8 '18 at 1:40
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It is not always a red flag to say you are visiting a girlfriend or boyfriend. But it is a red flag to try to hide anything. The officers are well trained to look for signs of stress that most people exhibit when they are trying to hide something.

You should expect scrutiny at the border, but if you can prove you are returning to a PhD program in a third country, I think you should be allowed to enter. You may wish to bring documents from your university that prove you are enrolled in this program.

Some other documents you may wish to have are your hotel booking, and your girlfriend's mobile phone number. On rare occasions, the US immigration officer may call the person you are meeting to ensure they are aware that you are arriving and will meet you.

  • Hi Michael, thank you very much for your comments. I will bring my enrollment letter and possibly the approval letter of holiday from my home university. I am not trying to hide anything, but afraid of my English causes any trouble. Normally when people say "visit gf", do people mean visit the precise place the gf lives in? Our plan is to travel to two different cities than she lived (that's why we met in Honolulu). Though the final week will be the city she is doing research. What's the proper English to describe this situation as an answer to the purpose to US? – Mike Chen Nov 8 '18 at 0:55
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    I would say that you are going to have a holiday with your girlfriend in Honolulu and that she is meeting you there. – Michael Hampton Nov 8 '18 at 1:03
  • If you have trouble communicating at the border, you may also request a translator. But your English is good enough that I think you won't have a problem. – Michael Hampton Nov 8 '18 at 1:09
  • Thank you so much Michael! I think I will say to the CBP at the beginning that "I am having a vacation/holiday with my gf". No specific mention to Honolulu as our trip is not limited to Honolulu. Then I will expect questions about my gf, our trip and so on. But since I tell the full truth at the beginning, I am not afraid of anything. Thank you. – Mike Chen Nov 8 '18 at 1:15
  • Thanks for editing your answer. The interesting thing is my gf will wait me at the Arrival of Honolulu International Airport as her flight will arrive 30 minutes earlier than my flight. She does not need to clear the custom as she will fly within US.. – Mike Chen Nov 8 '18 at 1:18

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