Applying for a B1/B2 (Visitor) Visa as the Spouse of a U.S. Expat

I’ve been asked several times today about how the spouse of a U.S. citizen expat can apply for a B1/B2 (visitor for business or pleasure) visa. The question typically goes something like this:

I am a U.S. citizen. I have lived in China for 5 years. My wife has been denied a U.S. tourist visa twice, once before and once after we married. We rent an apartment here, she has her own business, and I am employed as an engineer for Ford. We don’t want to apply for a green card because we plan to continue to live in China for the foreseeable future. We just want to visit the U.S. For the first visa application, I wanted to introduce my then fiancée to my parents. (My father has since passed away). For the second visa application, I wanted to bring my wife to Boston to attend my brother’s wedding. Is there anything you can do to help?

Here are just several points:

1. Your spouse probably received a boilerplate refusal notice stating that a consular officer must deny a B1/B2 visa application if not persuaded that the applicant intends to visit the U.S. temporarily, has strong ties to their home country such that the applicant will be compelled to return home after that temporary visit, and will comply with the terms of their visa. This is according to section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

2. Often, spouses of U.S. citizens are denied by consular officers trying to prevent “abuse” of B1/B2 visas by spouses seeking to move to the U.S. rather than just visit. That’s a common problem because it’s quicker and cheaper to get a B1/B2 visa than to get a green card.

3. So to prove that the foreign spouse is not moving to the U.S., the citizen should also prove his or her strong ties abroad, such as proving employment, home ownership or lease, assets, and/or social ties abroad. These ties are evidence that the foreign spouse is not likely to move to the U.S.  Proving strong ties can sometimes be difficult. For example, if the citizen spouse is not employed abroad, doesn’t have a long-term visa, or just moved abroad. Also be prepared to prove it’s a valid marriage by submitting a photo album, evidence of children born of the marriage, evidence of commingled finances, etc.

4. Beware that the 214(b) ground of denial can be for more than just failure to prove strong ties abroad. As mentioned above, the officer must be persuaded that the applicant will comply with the terms of the visa. For instance, a 214(b) denial may result from an interview where the consular officer found the applicant to lack credibility due to giving vague answers to the officer’s questions. Or from an interview where the officer learns the applicant violated the terms of a prior visa. Not all applicants–or even their lawyers–get this point. See 9 FAM 302.1-2(B)(6) (“More Than Just Ties”).

5. The consular officer won’t be moved by the importance or urgency of your U.S. travel. To qualify for a B1/B2 visa, you need a legitimate reason for travel, such as tourism or a family visit, medical reasons, participation in a social event, engaging in commercial transactions, consulting with business associates, etc. Visiting the citizen spouse’s dying father or attending a family wedding certainly are legitimate reasons. But no matter how important or urgent your need for travel, the officer will still refuse the application if section 214(b) applies.

6. The identity of U.S. citizen spouses is relevant to the extent that they are known to the consular post because that makes their assertions more credible. But there’s no free pass. I’ve seen B1/B2 visas denied to the spouses of the president of the country’s American Chamber of Commerce, high-ranking members of the U.S. military, and executives at multinationals.

7. It’s critical that the foreign spouse not misrepresent to immigration authorities the true purpose of a trip to the U.S., hide the marriage to a U.S. citizen, or misrepresent information about whether the green card process has begun. This could amount to fraud or misrepresentation, which is a legal ground to deport a noncitizen and permanently prohibit readmission. If a consular officer or a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer at an airport or other port of entry determines that an applicant has willfully engaged in fraud or misrepresentation, the applicant may be denied a visa or “summarily removed,” meaning that the applicant is deported from the U.S. with no hearing before a judge.

8. If you’ve been denied the B1/B2 visa already, you know that the interview conditions can be difficult. The applicant has the burden of proof, meaning the responsibility to prove their eligibility. Section 214(b) says that the officer must “presume” you are ineligible unless and until you prove otherwise. Yet the interview can be as short as 1-2 minutes, so you don’t have much time to explain your case. Nor do officers have time to review many documents. This week, one applicant complained that she handed a whole folder of documents to the officer but the officer refused to look at any of them. Officers have neither the time nor the inclination to review a mass of documents. Officers are trained to believe that any document can be forged and that how the applicant handles the interview is more important than any documents.

9. Here are some of the ways that our law firm prepares for the difficult interview conditions. (Of course, our strategy differs according to the specifics of each case). In the Form DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Application, we use the question about prior visa denials to explain why this time the application is approvable. We commonly have the U.S. citizen spouse submit an invitation letter that we help to draft. Most importantly, we help the applicant prepare for the interview so he or she can anticipate what questions are likely to be asked and can plan how to answer in a way that is truthful and helpful for the case.

10. Applying for a family-sponsored green card is not necessarily a cure after being denied a B1/B2 visa. While the foreign spouse need not prove any intent to reside in the U.S. in order to qualify for a green card, still the U.S. citizen spouse must ordinarily prove “domicile” in the U.S., meaning that not later than when the foreign spouse immigrates the citizen spouse must make the U.S. home most nights with the intent to remain so for the foreseeable future. There are two notable exceptions to the domicile requirement. First, it does not apply if the citizen spouse can file a Form I-864W instead of a Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, on the basis of Social Security credits earned by the citizen spouse during the marriage, by the foreign spouse, and by the foreign spouse’s parents. Second, it does not apply if the U.S. citizen spouse is employed abroad by one of the following types of entities: (a) the U.S. Government; (b) an American institution of research recognized as such by the Attorney General “an American firm or corporation engaged in whole or in part in the development of foreign trade and commerce of the United States, or a subsidiary thereof”; (c) a public international organization in which the United States participates by treaty or statute; or (d) is a minister, priest, or missionary. In fact, if the citizen spouse is working for such an entity, the foreign spouse may qualify to apply for expeditious naturalization under section 319(b) of the Act immediately after getting a green card.

11. If you would like to schedule a consultation with our firm after a B1/B2 visa denial, we typically want to know as much as possible about the prior application(s). If you can, provide a copy of the Form DS-160; the appointment letter; any invitation letter shown to the consular officer; and a list of the questions asked by the consular officer with your responses.

52 comments

  1. Hello, I am a U.S. citizen working in China on a two-year renewable contract, I have been here a year and previously working in China and Ecuador since 2013. My wife (as of May 2018) was denied a b1/b2 visa in May when we wanted to visit my family over the summer. We met in Ecuador in January of 2017 and she moved to China to be with me in December of 2017. We are considering applying for a green card, but I do not wish to get in trouble because we have no plans to return to live in the United States for the foreseeable future. During her last attempt at a visa, she had a Chinese X1 long-term student visa that was expiring in August. Now she has a S1 family visa as a dependent. Both of our names are on our rental contract, but she does not work and her bank account has only temporary funds. I am wondering what would be the best process for my wife to be able to visit the United States. I understand that we would have to “establish domicile” in the US after receiving the visa – would ‘living’ with my mother, maintaining bank accounts, filing taxes, and returning to the United States twice a year (less than 6mo) count as establishing domicile? I’m very frustrated by this situation and your website is the first I have seen to cater to our situation. Thank you. Please advise us as to pricing and what course would be best in our situation.

    1. Zachary:

      As for the strategy option of applying again for a B1/B2 (visitor) visa, we like to look at the totality of the facts to help us make the decision. For example, we review the Form DS-160 (Nonimmigrant Visa Application), the supporting documents shown to the consular officer, the applicant’s immigration history, the Q&A (dialogue) between the officer and the applicant, the evidence of the validity of the marriage, the evidence of the applicant and U.S. citizen spouse’s ties to China, any U.S. tax returns for the applicant or U.S. citizen spouse, etc. With all that information, we can better analyze the odds of overcoming the prior B1/B2 visa denial.

      As for the strategy option of applying for a spousal visa, you are right that normally the U.S. citizen petitioner must re-establish domicile in the U.S. not later than when the foreign spouse enters with the immigrant visa. “Domicile” in the U.S. means that the that your actual domicile (i.e., the place where you sleep most nights) must actually be in the U.S., so just having certain ties to the U.S. like a bank account and filing taxes is not enough. There are some exceptions to the domicile requirement, such as if the U.S. citizen is working abroad for a U.S. company or if a Form I-864W can be filed instead of a Form I-864. For more on that, see Affidavit of Support Help Center.

      If you would like to explore these and other options in more detail, it would be a pleasure. Please see here to schedule a consultation: Consultation.

  2. I am a native born US citizen. My husband and I reside in Malaysia and will be expecting our first child in December. I will be traveling back to the US to give birth and want to invite my husband to this memorable moment for us. We are most interested in the B2 visa process. We have never filed for any type of immigration or non-immigrant visa for my husband in the past. What would be the chances of being approved?

    1. Hannah: It would certainly be a legitimate B2 activity for your husband to accompany you to the U.S. when you give birth. Your chances of being approved turn on factors listed in paragraphs 4 and 5 above, as well as your preparation for the interview as described in paragraph 10.

  3. I am getting married in Malaysia in a few weeks, and my faience will be keeping her last name. She has a valid B-2 visa, does she need to reapply after the wedding because she is married a US citizen, or can she legitimately continue to use the same visa?

      1. Thank you for this comment! I have been scouring the internet for similar information. I am a US citizen, and my husband is Malaysian. He had a B-2 visa before we married, and it is still valid. We have been wondering if he needs to get a different type of visa now that we are married. Since we have no intention of moving to the US (only visiting family a few weeks at a time), it sounds like he is okay to keep the B-2 visa.

  4. Hello. I’m a US citizen by birth but have been living and working in the Philippines and have dual citizenship. I’ve been married to a Filipino citizen for a year. I planned to bring her to the US for a vacation. But she was denied a tourist visa. The officer asked what her work is- she is doctor currently affiliated in several hospitals and has a clinic. She was asked for her travel history–she is a frequent traveller and went to Canada, Dubai, Japan, Korea, Singapore and other Asian countries. The consul looked at her canadian visa and was told she was there only for 10 days for vacation and to visit her relatives. She was asked what my work is and said i worked for a family-owned bakery. (My wife did not mention that i have a restaurant and a poultry farm.) Now, we are confused if she should apply again for a tourist visa or apply for a spouse visa. But she dont intend to migrate, and I cant petition her because I dont pay U.S. taxes. Thank you.

    1. Noel: I suggest that you speak with an immigration lawyer to carefully evaluate the potential strategy and odds of success for another B visa application. As discussed in the article, eligibility will turn in part on the strength of your ties to the Philippines and credibility that you do not intend to move with her to the U.S. Beware that some consular officers will judge the strength of your Philippines ties by reference to what employment/business ties you list in your U.S. taxes, and some officers will judge your credibility that you intend to comply with immigration laws by reference to whether you comply with tax laws.

      1. Hi Gary,
        Thanks so much for this it’s by far the most helpful space on the internet for this issue. I feel like I’m in a hopeless situation and don’t know what to do.

        I am a born and raised US citizen who also has dual citizenship of Poland.

        I am a “digital nomad” in the travel sector and mainly work in freelance writing and travel writing / travel videos. Almost all my work is based in and on Pakistan.

        I have been here for nearly a year, and visited for 4 months also in 2019. In May 2021, I met my boyfriend who I intend to marry and we have been living together ever since. He is Pakistani, and I know the officers won’t believe this but I LOVE Pakistan, and we want to settle here. There are 0 intentions to ever live in the US. If we lived anywhere else, it would be in the EU even though we are planning to settle here in Pakistan.

        We are not currently married or engaged. We are also both 25 which is a major issue. We DO NOT WANT TO IMMIGRATE TO THE US. I simply want him to visit and meet all my family, the majority of which don’t have passports and would never come to Pakistan.

        Is there any hope for a B1/B2? If we get married here in Pakistan and I can demonstrate having a national identity card and he owns land and is very close to his family (he has no family living in US) and community where we live in a remote region.

        Will getting married in Pakistan make things harder or easier for us? We really just want to visit, ideally for Christmas and Thanksgiving. I don’t understand why this is so hard for them to believe.

        We have hundreds of photos and of course I have a large online presence demonstrating my love for Pakistan and even interviews where I discuss how want to settle here. I can even speak the language. He is in between degree programs right now, but his family is quite well off for Pakistan income standards and could sponsor him or my family is willing as well.

        What is our best route? He speaks perfect English and I feel he will do well in the interview. He also doesn’t have any travel history. Should we go to some Asian countries first or it doesn’t matter?

        I thought about K1 but we may need to get married here first and we legit do NOT want to live in the US so why bother with the green card?

        I have heard that the EU is MUCH more spouse friendly. Would it be easier if he was able to get a Schengen post marriage and then try for the US visit?

        Could we also apply for the spouse visa even if we have no plans to live or work there….?

        Thanks so much for your assistance here. This is a very real relationship where we met in person randomly. I just want him to meet extended family that can’t travel. I genuinely can’t believe that as a a full American I can’t guarantee him to ever come. Would it also help if I had a bank account in Pakistan?

        1. Taylor: Since the key for your boyfriend will be to prove strong ties to Pakistan and that he will be merely visiting the U.S. with you, the information he provides about you probably shouldn’t focus on being a “nomad” but instead on your strong ties to Pakistan. Your interviews where you discuss settling in Pakistan sound like they may be helpful. Yes, travel, especially to countries with visitor rules similar to the U.S. (Canada, EU, UK, Australia, New Zealand), can be helpful to later qualify for a U.S. visa. It would take some strategizing to figure out if marrying would be helpful prior to applying for the visitor’s visa. For example, on one hand, if you can prove strong ties to Pakistan, the marriage could be helpful to proving his nonimmigrant intent. But on the other hand, traveling to the U.S. for an “engagement” party could be helpful if you could prove the need to return to Pakistan for the actual wedding which has been meticulously planned. Most of our clients prefer to go through the relatively quick process of applying for a visitor’s visa before considering other options such as a K-1 fiancée or spouse visa.

  5. Hello Gary,
    I have married to a Chinese citizen, and we are currently coming up on our two-year wedding anniversary. We plan to stay in China for the foreseeable future but would like to visit the US. My wife was denied a B visa before we were married, but hasn’t tried since. We have been advised by a local agent that a person married to a US citizen cannot apply for a B visa. Is that true?

  6. My girlfriend (a Brazilian national) and I have been dating for about a year and a half and recently got engaged. We’re currently living in Lisbon (and have been for 7 months, with an apartment lease and everything) and are in the process of obtaining permanent residence in Portugal. She has been denied a tourist visa twice while we were living in Brazil. We’d like to try again to get her a tourist visa so that she can meet my family. My sister in law has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and I really want my fiance to meet her. Do we even have a chance of being approved? We’re quite scarred by our first two experiences and really don’t like the idea of trying again… even though we’d be married… and even though we’re trying the process in Portugal (which carries less of a racial stigma than Brazil). Any help?

      1. In Portugal, we are here on a tourist visa but have extended with SEF (with the help of our Portuguese lawyers) to buy us time to apply for the residence permit. We’ve submitted our permanent residence applications and are waiting on a time slot to speak to SEF about our applications. Also, I have received my social security number, but my fiance is still waiting.

        I’m not entirely sure if our visa allows us to work, but I’m fairly certain it does. I work as a freelance software developer. Also, I’ve set up a company, where my fiancé works doing pet sitting and dog walking and I do the accounting. But the vast majority of our income (currently) is from my software development, until she gets more clients.

        If you think we have a shot at a tourist visa application once we’re given our permanent residence cards, I’d love to speak to you about this further. We have lots of questions!

        1. Patrick: If your fiancé applies for a B1/B2 visa at the U.S. Embassy in Lisbon, one of the officer’s key jobs would be to determine whether your fiancé has nonimmigrant intent, meaning that she intends to return to live abroad after visiting the U.S. If your fiancé argues that her plan is to return to live in Brazil, then the officer would probably not issue that visa on the grounds that the officer sitting in Lisbon has no way to understand or verify her ties to Brazil. In contrast, if your fiancé argues that she intends to return to live in Portugal, the officer will try to understand you and your fiancé’s ties to Portugal. If you and your fiancé currently have tourist visas (not yet permanent residence), the officer may not consider that a strong tie. Similarly, unless you both can prove you have authorization to work in Portugal, the officer may consider your ties to Portugal to be weak. Finally, as you are a freelance software developer, then to show your strong ties to Portugal you’ll want to show compliance with local employment and tax laws. In sum, you and your fiancé are new in Portugal, making it difficult to prove strong ties there. If you want to try again to apply for the B1/B2 visa, you may want to schedule a consultation with our firm strategize about how to maximize your odds of success.

  7. I am a U.S citizen expat in Morocco and my Moroccan spouse got her tourist visa denied back in November 2018. The officer was pretty nasty in terms of questions asked, are you pregnant? And she was not at that time. Do you know that you cannot give birth in America?… This was a frustrating outcome as we have no intent of going back to the U.S for the time being. In October 2019 our baby was born and he just got his U.S passport. I would like to travel with my wife and baby this coming summer to introduce them to my friends and family. Would re-applying for a tourist visa for my wife again be risky? This is an awkward situation as I can’t apply for a green card for her since we have no intent of moving to the U.S.

    1. OBY: Sorry to hear about the visa denial. Now that your wife ahs given birth, the officer will no longer be concerned your wife is going to the U.S. to deliver the baby. But now the officer may be concerned your family is trying to move to the U.S. with the B (visitor) visa. I know nothing of the strength of you and your wife’s ties to Morocco, but if they are decent, you may be well-served to reapply.

  8. I am a 52-year-old dual U.S. and Jordanian citizen. I’ve lived in Jordan for 11 years. I have 4 U.S. citizen children here from a prior marriage. I work here and own a home here. I don’t have a home in the U.S.

    I’ve remarried. My new wife is also working and in graduate school in Jordan. Is it an option for her to apply for a B1/B2 visa to visit the U.S.?

  9. I am a native-born American expat and will be moving back to the States temporarily this year. My German fiancé plans to take a six-month sabbatical to spend time with me and get married in the US. Our original plan was for him to apply for a B1/B2 visa since he’s a civil servant in Germany and has no intention of immigrating to the US. However, given the current travel bans due to the virus, would it be easier for us to marry first so that he’ll be able to spend his sabbatical in the States? If so, would that require me to apply for a spousal visa?

    1. Jenny: For your fiancé to qualify for a B1/B2 visa, there is no requirement that you first marry. Nor, if you decide to marry, does that disqualify him from getting a B1/B2 visa.

  10. Hi I am Filipina,married to a US citizen here in the Philippines. My US spouse wants me apply a tourist visa instead of spousal Visa because the reasons that he still doesn’t have a permanent residence there and spousal visa takes a long time before it can be approve. Can I visit him on tourist visa?

  11. I am a US citizen for naturalization I am recently married with my girlfriend for the last
    twenty years, We have a son 8 years old US citizen, I am State employee
    for twenty two years. my wife would like apply for a visa B to visit me
    with my son at least twice a year until I get my State retirement in three
    years, Our intention when this happens is to live in our country. I forgot to mention my wife has her own business she is clothing designer.

  12. Is there any way that a pregnant foreign (Chinese) spouse could enter the US, even temporarily, if her Green Card is still processing?

    March 2020 we filed the I-130 for initiating her US permanent resident visa, but we are stuck in the notorious ‘waiting period’ and just want her to meet our US family.

    We even filed for a K-3 visa, but have not got any updates. Anyways, I’ve heard that the K-3 visa’s purpose is usually never even fulfilled.

  13. I am a US citizen living in Tunisia on a tourist visa, studying Arabic through a language center. I am engaged to be married to a Tunisian man, and we intend to continue living in Tunisia after marriage. I would like for him to travel to the US to meet my family, and we are considering the best visa option. He has never applied for a US visa before and he has lived in Tunisia all of his life (he has a bank account, rental contract, university degree, etc). He currently works as a freelance tour guide. In marriage, I intend to support his tourism business and continue language classes.

    Ideally, we would like for him to have a B1/B2 visa, so we have the option to visit my family annually for a few weeks in the summer. Do you think we are good candidates for such a visa? If yes, should we marry in Tunisia before/ after receiving the visa, or is it possible for us to have a wedding ceremony in the US? If we are not good candidates for the B1/B2 visa at this time, should we apply for the fiance visa in order to visit the US and then return to Tunisia without starting the green card process? Would we be able to apply for a B1/B2 visa later?

    1. JAM:

      As to your fiancé’s eligibility for a B1/B2 visa, your above factual summary omits what is perhaps the most important factor: the strength of your ties to Tunisia. See paragraph 3 above. (You do mention that you are studying in Tunisia through a language center, but you don’t mention any facts that make this sound like a long-term commitment.)

      Regarding your fiancé’s employment, I can’t tell from your description whether doing “freelance” work is a strong tie to Tunisia. Has he been doing this for a long time? Has he made investments in this business that make it hard to walk away from? Is he making a relatively good income from this?

      As to where to marry, the B1/B2 visa can be used to marry in the U.S. See Part 3.3 of this article: Proving Nonimmigrant Intent for a U.S. Visa. The K-1 visa is possible option, but it’s a lot of work just to be able to go to the U.S. for 90 days if your fiancé doesn’t intend to immigrate. You may want to reduce the visa-related drama by separating the visa issue from your wedding plans: apply for the B1/B2 visa just to introduce your fiancé to your family before marriage, or to visit the U.S. after marriage in Tunisia.

      I’d be happy to have a consultation with you to get to the bottom of these issues.

  14. Gary – wow! What a great page, and thorough answers that you’ve provided. I’d really appreciate your feedback as well: I am a US citizen, married to a Tunisian citizen, and we are both residents of Qatar. My husband has been living and working here for 3 years, and I’ve been living and working here for 1.5 years. We both make a comfortable income here (he works in sales, and I work in the oil/gas industry) and we rent our apartment. My husband owns a small piece of land – but in Tunisia. We have both traveled to Turkey and Oman in the past 2 years. We have no intention of moving back to the USA because we love earning tax-free income and receiving free health care 🙂 However, my grandparents are getting quite old and I really want him to meet them on a B2 visa. Our US visit would only be 2-3 weeks long, because we have to return to our jobs. At this point, he has applied for the DS-160, paid the fees, and we’re hesitant to schedule the interview: he’s quite nervous. Any advice is appreciated.

    1. Hi Chelsea: Your husband may want to schedule a consultation with our firm. During the consultation we can learn the facts of the case and propose ideas for improving how it is presented to the consular officer. Also, we can do a practice interview with your husband. That may help him prepare and calm his nerves by giving him experience of what the consular interview is like.

  15. Gary, thank you so much for sharing all of this. I’m a US citizen living and working in Qatar with an open contract, my wife is a Yemeni national and is on a visit visa in Qatar since last year (Qatar immigration isn’t issuing residencies at the moment), we’ve been renewing her visit visa every month until they start issuing residencies again. We’ve been married since late 2019 and have 2 boys here with us and are both US citizens. We would like to visit NY with the kids in August for 2 weeks, I don’t wanna apply for her green card because I have no intentions on moving back anytime soon. We filled out a DS160 for a B1/B2 visa and waiting an interview mid July. What are her chances of being approved? I’ve been hearing that if she applied from Yemen she would have a better chance but the US embassy in Yemen is closed and the country is a war zone. And if she gets denied, will that jeopardize her chances of getting a spouse green card in the future? Please help

    1. Alex: The good news is that denial of a B1/B2 (visitor) visa for the U.S. is unlikely to negatively impact future immigration to the U.S. The reason is that the most common reason for B1/B2 denials is failure to prove nonimmigrant intent, i.e., strong ties to one’s country of residence. Naturally, proving nonimmigrant intent is not a requirement for an immigrant visa. One important tip, though, is that your wife should be assiduously honest in her B1/B2 visa application because if the officer suspects she is lying that could complicate a future immigrant visa application.

      The bad news is that it may be difficult to prove strong ties to Qatar when your wife’s visa is issued on a month-to-month basis. That doesn’t sound like a very permanent home in Qatar. Of course, visa status is only one type of tie. Others include family, social, and economic ties, for example. You may want to consult with an immigration lawyer to get a prediction about overall how helpful it would be to consider deferring the B1/B2 visa application until she has a more long-term visa status in Qatar.

  16. I too can relate to many of the comments. My wife is Chinese and she has a son in China along with two condos. When she applied for a tourist visa the officer ask a couple of question and then said she was done. No visa.

  17. Hello, I am a US citizen living and working in Singapore as a contractor for the US govt. My spouse is a Philippine citizen. We were married in Singapore, and have a 10 month old daughter. They both reside in Singapore as dependents under my work visa. Our daughter received CRBA for US citizenship and received her US passport. I have accepted an offer from my company to relocate to Spain under the same contract supporting the US govt. I will bring my wife and daughter to Spain and both will be sponsored to live in Spain under my employment. I would like for my wife to get a tourist visa so that we can visit family in the USA on our way to Spain. But she obviously doesn’t have strong ties to return to her home country of Philippines. She previously applied for a US tourist visa in Singapore a few years ago when we were dating, and was denied. I’m curious what the odds are that the officers will take the same strict view of home country ties, or take our plans to continue living abroad into consideration.

    1. Allen: I don’t know why your wife was previously denied a U.S. visa without talking to her. Still, the fact that you subsequently married may be a strong enough change of circumstance to persuade an officer that she has strong enough ties abroad to qualify for a B1/B2 visa. Most importantly, a B1/B2 visa applicant need not show strong ties to their country of NATIONALITY. Instead, the strong ties must be to a RESIDENCE abroad. Here’s the guidance from the State Department to consular officers about that:

      9 FAM 401.1-3(E)(2) Residence Abroad Defined
      (CT:VISA-1202; 01-12-2021)

      a. The term “residence” is defined in INA 101(a)(33) as the place of general abode; the place of general abode of a person means their principal, actual dwelling place in fact, without regard to intent. This does not mean that an applicant must maintain an independent household in order to meet the requirement of a residence abroad. If the applicant customarily resides in the household of another, that household is the residence in fact. NOTE: Only the following visa categories are subject to residence abroad requirements: B, F, H (except H1), J, M, O2, P, and Q. When adjudicating this requirement, it is essential to view the requirement within the nature of the visa classification. See the 9 FAM guidance related to the visa classification for the relevant discussion.

      b. The applicant must demonstrate permanent employment, meaningful business or financial connections, close family ties, or social or cultural associations, which will indicate a strong inducement to return to the country of origin.

      c. The residence in a foreign country does not need to be the alien’s current residence. For example, an applicant who has been living in Germany may meet the residence abroad requirement by showing a clear intention to establish a residence in Canada after a temporary visit in the United States.

      d. Suspicion that an applicant, after admission, may be swayed to remain in the United States because of more favorable living conditions is not a sufficient ground to refuse a visa as long as the applicant’s current intent is to return to a foreign residence.

      e. You may properly issue visitor visas to applicants with immigrant visa (IV) applications pending or, with IV petitions pending with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You must be satisfied that the alien’s intent in seeking entry into the United States is to engage in activities consistent with B1/B2 classification for a temporary period and that the applicant has a residence abroad which they do not intend to abandon. While an active immigrant visa application or petition is reflective of an intent to immigrate, it may not be proper for you to refuse issuance of a visa under INA 214(b) solely on that basis, unless you have reason to believe the applicant’s true intent is to remain in the United States until such a time as an immigrant visa (IV) becomes available.

  18. Hello Gary,

    Thank you so much for taking the time to read and answer each of these comments! I am in a similar situation as everyone here. I would like to describe my situation and understand if a consultation with you would help our chances. I am a US citizen, my husband is Bulgarian. We married in Bulgaria 4 years ago and have lived here the whole time. He had applied for a tourist visa before meeting me to visit a friend in the US. He was denied. Then when we were dating he tried again and was denied. Then after we married, we tried yet again to attend my brother’s wedding together and a third time he was denied. We have shown documents proving his employment status, our ownership of our apartment here, etc…. We have no idea why it wasn’t enough for them. The only thing I can think of is the timing of everything. Maybe it looked like we married just for him to get in the US quickly. But that couldn’t be further from the truth! Bulgaria is our home and we have no plans to move to the US. However, I would like for him to be able to visit with me when I go see my family again eventually. I have visited several times now alone. At this point, it’s as if the embassy is forcing us into applying for his green card just so that he can see my hometown and visit with me. It’s absurd! Now with covid, it seems the embassy isn’t even offering routine tourist visa interviews. Please advise, would it even be worth trying a 4th time? It has been 3 years since the last interview for him…. I feel at a loss of what to do and if it will ever be possible for us to visit my family together. Thank you again for your time!!

    1. Lara: It may be worth doing some investigation with the State Department about why he was denied B visas 3 times before. If the Department can articulate a reason, we can work to overcome it. If the Department can’t articulate a reason, that may be a green light to reapply. In the alternative, applying for an immigrant visa may be an option–see paragraph 10 above. Feel free to schedule a consultation to discuss.

  19. Hello Gary,

    I am a US citizen with Moroccan and French nationalities. I have lived with my Moroccan husband in France since 2018, and in 2020 he applied with his Moroccan passport for a B2 (visitor) visa that got denied. We think that the reason of the refusal is that he had only one year left in his French residence permit. (He was denied the visa once the officer checked it). He’s going to get a Franch passport soon through naturalisation. We don’t want to apply for a green card because our life is in France. I just want him to visit the US and spend some time with my family… Do you think he has more chance in the future to get a visa with his French passport?

    As for his ties to France, he has had the same job since 2018, we have some money saved in our accounts and we just had a baby 4 months ago, but we don’t own a house yet. We do have a lease in both our names …

    Thank you very much for taking the time to read my comment!

    Maria

    1. Maria: Sounds like your husband’s new French citizenship with be an additional strong tie to France, which is evidence of nonimmigrant intent. If he gets the visitor’s visa, he may subsequently be able to get an ESTA approval and be admitted to the U.S. for 90 days under the visa waiver program.

  20. Hello Gary,

    Thank you for the informative post and helpful replies.

    I am a U.S. citizen and my wife is Japanese. We were married in the U.S. in 2011, and my wife received a green card at around that time. We moved to Japan in 2013 and have lived here since. My wife abandoned her green card around 2015. We have two dual-citizen children who are enrolled in local schools. We own our home, and I am employed by a Japanese company indefinitely.

    We would like to spend a “year abroad” in the U.S. and then return to Japan. The specific purpose is to enroll our children in a local school for one academic year. The general purpose is to expose our children to an important part of their heritage and provide an opportunity to bond with their grandparents and extended family. I would continue to work remotely for my current company.

    I am interested in your views about the feasibility of my wife applying for a B-2 visa for a 12-month visit. My rudimentary understanding is that the length of stay is less important than demonstrating that it is finite. However, most of the examples I have come across of spouses traveling on a B-2 visa (including many of the posters above) involve a much shorter duration of stay. I also worry that my kids’ enrollment in a local US school may be interpreted as intent to immigrate.

    Thank you very much for your time and consideration.

    1. Ben: Sounds like important evidence for your wife to qualify for the visa may include (a) agreement between you and your company that you can work remotely from the U.S. for one year; (b) explicit arrangements with your children’s Japanese school for them to be readmitted upon return to Japan, including plans for what they need to do to avoid falling behind in the Japanese curriculum; and (c) explicit arrangement with the U.S. school that your children will be there for just 1 year.

      Also, it’s possible to request that CBP admit your wife in B2 status for a period of 1 year rather than the default 6 months, although the downside is that a CBP officer could make an officer question whether she is a legitimate visitor.

      1. Gary, thanks again for your input. As an update, my wife has received her B1/B2 visa. We were able to schedule an interview at the Tokyo embassy for a couple days after submitting the D-160 form online. The interviewer did not review any of the materials we had prepared, and the application was verbally approved after the 5-minute interview. We received the visa about a week later.

        We plan to bring copies of the same materials when entering the US in case there is more scrutiny from the CBP officer.

  21. Hi Gary,
    I have no specific question but just wanted to show my appreciation for this page and all of your answers. I am sure they are invaluable to countless visitors who never end up commenting. We will use your services for sure! Have a great day.
    Laszlo

  22. I am a second generation US citizen, and my daughter was born abroad. Living in China now. I didn’t spent 5 years in the US before being 18, so I cannot pass my citizenship automatically. My wife and I were planning to visit my sister in the US with my two daughters and all of them got their visa rejected. I am aware that they can refuse my husband’s visa, bit are they allowed to deny my 5 and 8 years old daughters visa?

    1. Johnny,

      I am sorry to hear that your wife and daughters were refused B1/B2 (visitor for business or pleasure) visas. It’s true that any applicant who, in the opinion of the consular officer, doesn’t qualify will be refused a visa–even the spouse or child of a U.S. citizen. If you are seeking advice about your options in the wake of those visa refusals, feel free to Schedule a Consultation.

      And, by the way, the current physical presence requirement for a U.S. citizen married to a foreign national to pass on citizenship to their child born abroad is that the citizen parent must have been physically present in the U.S. for five years, 2 of which were after age 14. For more, see Guide to Acquisition of U.S. Citizenship by Birth Abroad.

  23. Hey Gary,

    Ive been living and working in Vietnam since 2017. That year, I married a Vietnamese citizen. I’m hoping to get her a B2 visa to visit the US, as I’ve been working here long term and we have no desire to live there. She has a great job at a large corporation where she’s on the management team, she owns land as well as a 1% share of the corporation she works for. However, it seems it’s almost fool’s gold to try and get a visitor visa for a spouse. Are there any other types of visas we could apply for? Thanks for taking the time to answer all these questions.

    1. Evan: Take a look at this: Quick Reference to Nonimmigrant Visas. What you’ll see is that each visa is to enter the U.S. for a very specific purpose. There may be no other visa that meshes well with your goal of visiting the U.S. Also, take a look at this: Proving Nonimmigrant Intent for a U.S. Visa. What you’ll find is that many visa types are similar to B visas in that the applicant must prove they are going to the U.S. “temporarily” and that they have a foreign residence to which they intend to return. If your wife has a good case for a B1/B2 visa, at least the application process is fairly simple and the application timeline is fairly short.

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