Can I Visit the U.S. as a Tourist After My Work Visa Expires?

If you wish to enter the U.S. on a B-2 visa after you have been in the U.S. on a work visa - such as an H-1B visa or L-1 visa - you may have some difficulties.

The B-2 visitor visa allows foreign nationals to come to the U.S. to engage in tourism activities such as visiting Disney World, going to the Grand Canyon, visiting relatives, attending events, and so forth.

Typically, obtaining and entering the U.S. on a B-2 visa is very simple. Thousands of foreign nationals do it every year. However, in a few situations, entering the U.S. on a B-2 visa may be difficult. This article addresses the difficulties you may encounter if you wish to enter the U.S. on a B-2 visa after you have been in the U.S. on a work visa (such as an H-1B visa or L-1 visa).

After Being in the U.S. on a Work Visa, Should I Expect Difficulties Entering in B-2 Status?

One of the most important concepts to keep in mind when coming to the U.S. -- in any status -- is the doctrine of immigrant intent.

Per U.S. immigration law, all aliens who enter the U.S. are viewed as intending immigrants; which can create problems when they are applying for a nonimmigrant visa. It means that U.S. consular and port of entry officers are supposed to assume that you intend to remain in the U.S. indefinitely, in defiance of the terms of your temporary visa, while you do your best to prove the opposite in order to get that visa. You will have to show solid evidence of your ties to, and firm plans to return to, your home country.  This is called having nonimmigrant intent.

The issue of immigrant intent may come to the fore if you were previously in the U.S. on a work visa and then seek to enter the U.S. in B-2 status soon after. The consular or port of entry officer may think that you do not really intend to return to your home country, but rather are looking for any possible way to spend time in the U.S. -- perhaps intending to find another job. 

Unfortunately, there is no specific time period that will ensure you do not have trouble entering the U.S. on a B-2 visa. However, the longer the time period between your previous stay with a work visa and your entry on a B1/2 visa, the greater your chances of successfully entering the United States. For example, let’s say your H-1B expired on August 1, 2014, so you left the U.S. on July 31, 2014.  You now want to enter the B-2 status.  It would be more to your advantage to enter the U.S. in January 2015 as opposed to in October 2014.

The consular and port of entry officer has access to your previous immigration history in the United States.  So, for example, if on a previous trip you previously entered the U.S. in B-2 status and then changed to H-1B, L-1 or another status, the port of entry officer that you are hoping to do the same thing on this trip.

What's the Best Way to Prove Nonimmigrant Intent?

There are no surefire ways to convince the consular or port of entry officer that you have nonimmigrant intent. However, there are several things you can do to help explain that you truly do intend to return to your home country.

The officer deciding whether to grant your visa or U.S. entry may ask you about your plans and what you are going to do while in the United States. Typically, the more details you can provide about your plans, the better. You'll look more like you really do intend to engage in tourist activities if you can not just say you plan to "see the sights," but can show an actual itinerary. It is also helpful to give a reason why you are touring the U.S., such as, “I have always wanted to go to Disney World, so while I am in the U.S. I am going there for three days.” 

Finally, you can show evidence of your future activities back in your home country. For example, you could say, "While I wish I could stay a little longer, I have to be back in my home country for an important business meeting next week.” Better yet would be to show a document with the meeting agenda and your name as an expected attendee.

When questioned, the most important thing to remember is BE HONEST.  Do not misrepresent your plans or intentions for your trip.  Just try to answer the questions as completely as you can, and be sure to highlight your specific tourist plans.

If you've got friends that you'll be visiting, a letter of invitation may help as well.

I'm in the U.S. in B-2 Status and I Want to Change Status – What Do I Do?

If you are already in the U.S. in B-2 visitor status and you want to change to a new nonimmigrant visa status, you have to be careful regarding your timing. As explained above, if you previously changed statuses very shortly after you entered the U.S. in B1/2, your change of status application may be given higher scrutiny, which could result in a denial. Specifically, you might be accused of having misrepresented your nonimmigrant intent at the U.S. port of entry. This could have extremely serious immigration circumstances for you.

Time frames are exceptionally important in immigration law. It is highly recommended that you contact a skilled immigration attorney if you are in the B-2 status and you wish to change statuses.

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