Indeed, we feel that our world seems getting smaller. The new norm is ‘global’ — be it in business or in love. Travel abroad has become a ‘must’ for businessmen in order to keep up and promote international trade. With the advent of the Internet and prevalence of the social media, long-distance love affairs are breezy.
One client talks with his fiancée on Skype every day, and it is just like they’re living together, privy to each other’s daily affairs. Progress in third-world countries has given rise to entrepreneurial growth. Successful small-scale business owners can easily convince consular officers of their need to travel to the United States to market products or learn new strategies. In the course of one’s visit to the U.S., true love is found, but this may cause an immigration problem.
Almost three decades ago, for citizens of some countries, a tourist visa (B1B2) is nearly impossible to obtain. This type of visa allows one to enter the U.S. as a visitor for business and/or pleasure. But times have changed. In the spirit of globalization and promotion of international trade, it is very likely that a budding entrepreneur can apply for and obtain a multiple-entry,10-year B1B2 visa. If a romance gets mixed up with business, the business itself could become a ‘collateral damage.’
But is it really “damage” in the real sense of the word? It depends. Not if the change of circumstances would enhance the alien’s business prospects, i.e., the alien-spouse can re-establish/extend the business in the U.S. It is ‘damage’ if the alien has to totally give up the money-making business venture located outside the U.S.
To relocate or stay put when the U.S. citizen partner suddenly proposes marriage (and forget all about the entrepreneurial success) is a hard decision to make.
Recently, I have clients asking about other options (aside from staying and later adjusting status) available if they hold on to their multiple-entry tourist visas while continuing to manage their business (or at least find time to close shop or assign management to another), without losing the love of their life or the marital relationship.
Entering the U.S. on a B1B2 visa is not a permission to enter in order to marry. But the foibles of human nature can lead to a marriage proposal and the start of a life with the U.S. citizen-spouse. Do you stay or do you pass?
In the meantime, the foreigner’s business responsibilities across the globe cannot be ignored. The decision to get married is not an immigration issue. In fact, it is a right protected by the Constitution. Immigration issue steps in only when the marriage is not entered in good faith.
The distinction whether the marriage was entered in good faith or not is hard to establish. If the decision is to marry and start a life together as a couple in the U.S., then the process required would be adjustment of status.
Determining the foreigner’s intent upon entry into the U.S. is crucial. Was there an intention to go home before the permission to stay expires? Was a round-trip ticket purchased before coming to the U.S.? Are there medical or criminal concerns that would prevent the foreigner from being granted an immigrant visa by a consular officer (at the U.S. embassy abroad) whose decision to bar a foreigner’s entry is not appealable?
If the option is to adjust status, at least both are in the U.S., and whatever waiver should be filed, The married couple are physically together while the petition is being adjudicated. Going back home before the permit stay expires and processing the spousal visa through a U.S. embassy abroad (consular processing) can be a more practical option. The wait is not a long one as a spousal visa is immediately available (approximately 9-12 months).
The wait will actually allow the alien spouse to settle business affairs in preparation for residence abroad.
Some people have the best of both worlds, being born in a country with visa waiver status, but the realities of immigration are evolving. Hardly any place is unreachable for now, though you have to choose wisely.
(Note: Maria Rita Reyes-Stuby is a licensed attorney in Michigan. She is a graduate of the University of the Philippines College of Law. She specializes in immigration and practices in Las Vegas, Michigan, California and other states. Bernadette Bretana, a graduate of the Ateneo Law School and Ms. Stuby are licensed attorneys in the Philippines. Please call @702-403-4704 or email her at [email protected] or go to www.mrstubylaw.com for any questions on this article.)