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My girlfriend and I met online and she is a US citizen, living in the US. We have already met in person once; when I went to the US for 2 weeks earlier in the year to see her. She is coming to the UK to visit me this summer for 1 month and later in the year I want to go and stay with her in the US for 85 days. During this time, we will be staying with her parents at their family home and I should have between £4,000-5,000 saved. She is also happy to support me whilst I am there as she will continue to work, but I feel like this wouldn't pass as a good way of funding the trip at border control.

The plan is to quit my job before leaving and then find temporary Christmas employment when I return home. However, it is unlikely that I would be able to have any sort of job confirmation before I leave.

How likely is it that I will be turned away and not allowed to enter the US? I really cannot afford for this to happen because I would love to marry this girl and she has told me time and time again that she would prefer to live in the States, so it looks like I will be moving there if we do marry.

Also, what would happen if I was to be turned away at the border? As I understand, it would ban me from using the visa waiver programme again.

I believe in telling the whole truth at the border and will not take the advice of describing her as a 'friend'. I don't want to hinder my chances of seeing her in any way.

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    coming to visit someone you want to marry is considered very high risk for "just staying." You probably want to get professional help with this one because if you do it wrong, you'll be kept apart for years. – Kate Gregory May 11 '17 at 18:44
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    You don't need professional help for this. The fact of the matter is that if you're interviewed in any depth and you reveal what you have revealed here, you will almost certainly be denied. You can rather keep your job and then send in a resignation after you reach the USA safely. You need strong ties to the UK. – cHiEf Immigration vIoLaTer May 11 '17 at 19:37
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I agree with Crazydre's answer, assuming you are going with the 85 day plan.

With a few exceptions, such as college students spending the summer traveling but required to be back by September for Fall classes, people with strong ties to their home cannot be away from it for 85 days. You are planning to give up your job, and have not mentioned anything else that would make you go home. Your plan for temporary Christmas employment could be carried out almost as easily in the US as a visa overstay as by going home.

You should at least consider an alternative that will get you less time with your girlfriend than this one would if it works, but has a better chance of working.

Keep your life in the UK in full operation unless and until you get a fiance visa. Take as much vacation and unpaid leave as your employer will allow, and still write a letter saying you are an employee in good standing and expected to return to work on date X. Keep your living arrangements. A much shorter visit will be inherently less suspicious, because it is more consistent with intent to return home.

Invite your girlfriend to visit you next, and meanwhile keep in touch by Skype etc. You will be building a history of saying what you are going to do, and doing what you said, that will strengthen future entry and visa applications.

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How likely is it that I will be turned away and not allowed to enter the US?

Highly likely!. Especially given that:

The plan is to quit my job before leaving

So:

She is coming to the UK to visit me this summer for 1 month

Bring all documentation proving this to the US border, so they see it "goes both ways" so to speak.

Also, what would happen if I was to be turned away at the border?

You cannot enter visa-free ever again unless becoming a permanent resident, and will have a black mark on your record making it harder to get a visa, which is also harder in general than entering visa-free, given the much closer scrutiny you're subject to.

I believe in telling the whole truth at the border and will not take the advice of describing her as a 'friend'

It would not be credible in the slightest for an 85-day stay to be honest, so you're doing the correct Thing.

During this time, we will be staying with her parents at their family home and I should have between £4,000-5,000 saved

Save all bank statements starting from now, and get a letter of Invitation from your girlfriend's parents stating their relationship to you, as well as the duration and motive of your stay.

In general:

Attach every single piece of documentation proving any and all ties you have to the UK, put them in an A4 keeper, and be prepared to present them, along with the return ticket confirmation, on request.

Also I strongly recommend you to use an APC kiosk if available at the airport where you clear immigration. It will do the bulk of biometric and background checks for you, leading the officer afterwards to ask significantly fewer questions (according to anecdotal evidence)

ALSO:

Call the CBP and ask for their advice! While a lot of people will merely suggest an immigration solicitor, the fact is it is the CBP that decides whether you get in or not. They can be reached on +1-202-325-8000 Mon-Fri 2PM-9PM UK time, and you can ask the agent to connect you to a supervisor, given the complexity of this matter, which you must explain in perfect detail.

If they tell you "we can't tell because it depends on each case" (although they have usually been helpful to me) explain that you cannot afford slipping up because you didn't attach the proper evidence, and that you need help preparing yourself.

FINALLY:

Even once inside the US, you're never 100% "safe". At least within 100 miles of the border, the CBP conducts internal immigration spot checks on roads as well as public transport. In the worst case (although it rarely happens so don't overthink it), they could ask you the same questions all over again and conclude that you lied/are lying about the motive/duration of your stay, and should not have been admitted in the first place. In that unlikely event, you would be put into removal proceedings, and as a visa-free visitor, you have no right to an immigration judge.

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    "you cannot enter visa free ever again": unless you become a US permanent resident (or a Canadian or Bermudian citizen, but that doesn't seem to be in the cards). "Frequent" immigration checks within 100 miles of the border are pretty much actually limited to the area within 100 miles of the Mexican border. Border Patrol has been active near the Canadian border, but they're not particularly so at the moment from what I can tell, and the prevalence of their enforcement there has never been similar to that in the southwest. – phoog May 11 '17 at 20:14
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    Also, BP officers are unlikely to presume immigrant intent -- once the nonimmigrant has been admitted, there's no longer a statutory requirement to make such a presumption. The nature of a BP investigation is typically to identify people who are out of status; they don't generally go into questioning whether the status was obtained fraudulently. Of course they could do that, I'm just saying that the chance it would actually happen is virtually nil. As OP makes it clear he intends to follow the rules, he will not be out of status because he will leave after 85 days. Nothing to worry about. – phoog May 11 '17 at 20:17
  • @phoog Hence my saying "in the worst case" because they have the authority to do this, no matter how rarely it's exercised – Crazydre May 11 '17 at 20:18
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    I did see that you noted that this would be the worst case, but that's not particularly helpful without also noting the probability of the worst case coming to pass. Also, I particularly don't think the BP would be able to go after someone for suspected lies about the duration of their stay if their status hadn't yet expired. If you're in status when you encounter them, you will not have a problem. – phoog May 11 '17 at 20:23
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    Do you advise the OP to lie about the planned duration of stay? If the OP gets an employer letter covering an 85 day stay, there is no need to resign. If the OP's employer writes a letter say something like "BMcQ10 is taking a three week vacation in October, expected back at work on October 30th" it is going to be inconsistent with the actual plan. – Patricia Shanahan May 11 '17 at 23:02
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Regardless of how much trouble you will experience during the interview, there is a simple action that would make your journey 100% painless. Instead of flying directly from the UK to the US, make sure you fly through the CBP preclearance facilities in Ireland. That way you can simply walk away and go back home without much extra expenses if you're refused entry at the virtual US border. Likewise the US immigration agents won't detain you and you won't have to wait for your flight home in a miserable detention facility.

You can also do the same if you fly through Canada, however it will be a lot more expensive to get a flight back if you're rejected.

  • Will it not cost him the air ticket, assuming he bought the cheapest, thus non refundable. Just asking. – DavChana May 29 '17 at 17:32
  • @DavChana sure, but a fresh return ticket back to the UK will be 100 pounds at most, plus he won't be detained and/or humiliated by the CBP. If he's rejected he turns around, gets his luggage back, and takes a 30 minute flight back home. – JonathanReez May 29 '17 at 17:39
  • Oh ok.. so in both cases he will loose his original return ticket of USA, but instead of buying a fresh one way to UK from US, he just need to get one from Ireland.? – DavChana May 30 '17 at 13:51
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    @DavChana correct, plus he won't waste any time in immigration detention. This should also boost his confidence during the interview. – JonathanReez May 30 '17 at 14:43

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