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I just got denied a B1/B2 Visa as my reason for going to the US was to open my business. I still have a valid ESTA. Can I still fly with my ESTA? Can the homeland security immigration at the airport know about my visa refusal?

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    You should probably start by checking the status of your ESTA. I don't know if they automatically cancel ESTAs upon visa refusal, but if they do, at least you'll know for sure. If it's not outright cancelled, the chances you will be denied boarding or refused entry are quite high.
    – jcaron
    May 25 at 15:34
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    ‘Open a business’ sounds like working
    – Traveller
    May 25 at 15:45
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    Was the refusal under INA section 214(b), or something else?
    – Dennis
    May 25 at 17:36
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    @jcaron The ESTA doesn't need to be cancelled - the airline will receive a DO NOT BOARD message at check-in anyway.
    – Crazydre
    May 25 at 20:23
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    If you want to mention some of the activities you intend to undertake in the US while "opening your business," you can shed a good deal of light on the question, because that would help clarify whether the planned visit is in fact permissible in B-1 status.
    – phoog
    May 26 at 2:42
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Answer #1

Your problem now is that even though you had (not have, had) an approved ESTA, you now would be required to answer Question 7 with a YES, instead of a NO.

  1. Have you ever been denied a U.S. visa you applied for with your current or previous passport, or have you ever been refused admission to the United States or withdrawn your application for admission at a U.S. port of entry?

Note that this question refers only to visas and not ESTA applications. Even if you have had a previous ESTA application denied, you should answer ‘no’ to this question provided you have not been denied a visa, been refused entry or withdrawn a visa application in the past.

If you have withdrawn a visa application, you will likely be considered suspicious due to the assumption that your withdrawal was likely out of fear of being denied.

As soon as your answer to any of the 7 qualification questions changes from No to Yes, your existing ESTA is considered void, and you have to reapply for a new ESTA. Because you applied for a B1/B2 visa and were denied, your answer to Question 7 is now YES.

It is not guaranteed that answering YES to question 7 will automatically deny you a new ESTA, but the probability is considered very likely.

Answer #2

The US Customs and Border Protection is part of the US Department of Homeland Security and it (the CBP) runs the ESTA system. The US Department of State runs the Visa program. The Departments of State and Homeland Security have a memorandum of understanding to feed to and share information from IDENT, a single shared database. Therefore yes, if you were to attempt to enter an airport and pass through Customs to enter the US, the CBP Agents will know about your visa refusal. Guaranteed.

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    Actually visa applications are handled by the Department of State. It makes no difference, though, since all information about a person seems to go into a common database that both departments access.
    – Dennis
    May 25 at 15:12
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    Dennis, my apologies, you are correct. I have further researched for the 2nd answer.
    – CGCampbell
    May 25 at 15:25
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    @CGCampbell "f you were to attempt to enter an airport and pass through Customs" Won't happen, as OP won't even get on the flight without a visa (check-in staff will receive a DO NOT BOARD warning)
    – Crazydre
    May 25 at 20:21
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I suppose that it is possible that there is some set of business activities that are both describable as "opening my business" and permissible under a B-1 visa, but it seems like you would have to describe them in great detail to establish to the visa officer's satisfaction that they truly are permissible.

It's also likely that your visa application was refused because B-1 is simply not the appropriate classification for your visit. In that case, your visit is also not permissible under the VWP. In that case, it does not matter whether your ESTA is valid nor whether you can get a new one. In fact, this failed visa application may have saved you from a refusal of entry, because if you hadn't applied for the visa and instead had traveled with ESTA, and then described the purpose of your visit when asked by the immigration officer, you probably would have been sent back to your point of origin.

Your best course of action now is probably to hire a US immigration lawyer, preferably one who has experience with business visitors and investors. If your visit is in fact permissible in B-1 status, the lawyer can submit an application that makes this clear to the visa officer. If your planned activities are not permissible in B-1 status, the lawyer can tell you which visa category you should be applying for.

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  • I did already enter 2 times in the US with my Esta Visa same thing i told the Homeland Boarder Security and with my B1/B2 interview with my 1st store when i open it last 2019 but this time its my 2nd store. Im just confused because i only intend to oversee my 2nd store opening operations and training and im going to have a meeting with the admin.
    – Choy527
    May 26 at 14:05
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    @Choy527 well it's also possible that they refused the visa because of COVID-19 restrictions. In another comment, you wrote "there is a presidential proclamation of biden still in effect i think i wont be able to travel." Having a B visa does not exempt you from the scope of the proclamation. If the proclamation applies to you, that by itself could explain why the visa officer refused the visa application. All we can do is speculate. Your best bet here really is to consult a lawyer.
    – phoog
    May 26 at 14:50
  • Im fully vaccinated already and they know it and the refusal is the base on section 214b of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act.
    – Choy527
    May 26 at 16:10
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Why on Earth did you apply for a B1/B2 visa? Unless you're staying for over 3 months, there was NO reason to do that.

No, you've now messed up your immigration record and cannot use ESTA ever again. You'll have to get visas for the rest of your life, though on the bright side of things B visas are usually valid for unlimited entries within 10 years (with a 6-month duration of stay each time - can be extended)

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    @Choy527 The proclamation has a very specific list of exceptions. That list does not include people with a B-1/B-2 visa.
    – Chris H
    May 25 at 14:07
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    I'm really not sure a B-1/B-2 visa is the appropriate visa to go the US to start a business, is it? I'm pretty sure starting a business there (especially if you need to "stay more than 3 months") would be deemed "work", and that is not a permissible activity on a B-1/B-2. The right visa for this is more likely to be an E-2. Note that now that you have stated your intentions, be prepared to be grilled about the reasons for future visa applications and on entry into the US.
    – jcaron
    May 25 at 15:31
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    @Choy527 Oh yes, border control WILL know straight away that you were refused a visa. In fact, with airlines collecting advance passenger information, check-in staff will receive a DO NOT BOARD message, so you won't even be getting on the flight
    – Crazydre
    May 25 at 20:19
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    -1 because this answer provides no constructive feedback to the OP, it's just a rant May 26 at 4:38
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    @MarkHenderson the tone could certainly be nicer, but it does tell OP they can’t use their ESTA any more and will need a visa for all future trips to the US. Seems like a pretty clear answer to OP’s question to me.
    – Chris H
    May 26 at 5:45

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