Visas for Parents to Accompany F-1 Student to the U.S.

The B-2 (visitor for pleasure) visa is as flexible as a world-class gymnast. The State Department has announced that a B-2 visa may be used by parents to accompany a minor with an F-1 (student) visa to the U.S.

As background, its well known that an F-1 student’s spouse and children (under age 21) can get F-2 visas to accompany the student in the U.S. Children in F-2 status are able to attend public school in the United States.  Spouses in F-2 status may not work. Procedurally speaking, F-2 visa applicants will need to obtain a Form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant F-1 Student Status) from the F-1 student’s school but will not need to pay the SEVIS fee.

But what about other family members of the F-1 student besides the spouse and unmarried children? F-2 visas are unavailable to parents, in-laws, or adult sons and daughters of an F-1 student.

The State Department says that the B-2 classification is appropriate for noncitizens who are members of the household of another person with F-1 or other long-term nonimmigrant status. Other examples include cohabitating partners or elderly parents of temporary workers, students, or diplomats posted to the U.S.

Household members may be allowed to stay in the U.S. for the same period as the long-term nonimmigrant relative they are accompanying. For example, if an F-1 student is admitted to a 4-year high school program in the U.S., the parents may be able to stay in the U.S. for the same period. At the port of entry, they may request that the supervisor initially admit them for a period of one year. Extensions in increments of up to six months are available thereafter.

Here’s the rule:

9 FAM 402.2-4(B)(5) Cohabitating Partners, Extended Family Members, and Other Household Members not Eligible for Derivative Status

(CT:VISA-1; 11-18-2015)
(Previous Location: 9 FAM 41.31 N14.4; CT:VISA-2195; 10-14-2014)

The B-2 classification is appropriate for aliens who are members of the household of another alien in long-term nonimmigrant status, but who are not eligible for derivative status under that alien’s visa classification. This is also an appropriate classification for aliens who are members of the household of a U.S. citizen who normally lives and works overseas, but is returning to the United States for a temporary time period. Such aliens include, but are not limited to the following: cohabitating partners or elderly parents of temporary workers, students, diplomats posted to the United States, and accompanying parent(s) of minor F-1 child-student. B-2 classification may also be accorded to a spouse or child who qualifies for derivative status (other than derivative A or G status) but for whom it may be inconvenient or impossible to apply for the proper H-4, L-2, F-2, or other derivative visa, provided that the derivative individual intends to maintain a residence outside the United States and otherwise meets the B visa eligibility requirements. If such individuals plan to stay in the United States for more than six months, they should be advised to ask the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for a one-year stay at the time they apply for admission. If needed, they may thereafter apply for extensions of stay, in increments of up to six months, for the duration of the principal alien’s nonimmigrant status in the United States. You should consider annotating to indicate the purpose and length of stay in such cases.

While the B-2 visa is flexible, there are important limitations. Most importantly, like F-1 visa applicants, B-2 visa applicants must prove they meet the “nonimmigrant intent” requirement. This means they must have an unabandoned residence abroad to which they intend to return after a temporary stay in the U.S. Generally speaking, a “residence” refers to one’s main home where they sleep most nights and to which they will return after temporary absences. In deciding whether a B-2 applicant meets this requirement, the officer will consider whether they have such strong family, economic, cultural, and other ties to their home country that the consular officer is persuaded the applicant will return home upon completion of the stated purpose of the visit. For details, see Proving Nonimmigrant Intent for a U.S. Visa.

The U.S. Embassy in Beijing posts this FAQ:

Q.6 My child is studying in the United States. Can I go live with him?
While you can use your own B-1/B-2 visa (or travel under the Visa Waiver Program, if eligible) to visit your child, you may not live with your child unless you have your own immigrant, work, or student visa.

That FAQ is a fair interpretation of the law to the extent that a B-2 visa is only for persons who “reside” (live) abroad and are coming to the U.S. just temporarily. For a parent who wishes to accompany an F-1 student to the U.S. for multiple years, it can be hard to draw a distinction between prohibited intent to abandon their foreign residence (living in the U.S.) and permissible temporary stay in the U.S. Yet that’s what the B-2 applicant needs to prove to the consular officer.

Where the B-2 visa applicant seeks to accompany an F-1 student, you can anticipate that a consular officer will also scrutinize the student’s lawful status and nonimmigrant intent. If the student has violated status or lacks nonimmigrant intent, the B-2 visa application will likely be denied.

Another challenge is that B-2 visitors in the U.S. are not authorized to work. So a parent applying for a B-2 visa will need to prove sufficient savings to cover living expenses and the child’s tuition for the entire contemplated period in the U.S.

An example of a strong B-2 visa application may be where there are compelling reasons for the child to study in the U.S., such as in a special education program or a gifted program that is not available in the home country. In such compelling situations, a U.S. consular officer may understand that a parent may be willing to take a prolonged (but still temporary) leave from a job in his or her home country just so the child can take advantage of the unique educational opportunity.

There may be other ways to achieve the same result. For example, the parent may apply for a U.S. work visa, such as an H-1B, J-1, L-1, or O-1, and the child may be able to apply for either the F-1 student visa or the dependent visa corresponding to the parent’s work visa (H-4, J-2, L-2, or O-3).

Feel free to schedule a consultation with our firm to discuss this in further detail.

U.S., China Agree on Longer Visa Validity

crowded-air-space The U.S. and China have mutually agreed to increase business and tourist visa validity to 10 years and student and exchange visa validity to 5 years. That according to President Obama’s announcement (video)  on November 10 at the 2014 APEC summit in Beijing.

Both governments put the policy into effect immediately. But China hasn’t even fully implemented its prior 2005 agreement to increase visa validity to 1 year, creating a question as to whether most Americans will get the new long-term PRC visas. Continue reading “U.S., China Agree on Longer Visa Validity”

Webinar: The B-1 Business Visa—How to “B” Resourceful (Oct. 23)

cbpThis 90-minute web seminar will be recorded live on October 23, 2014, from 2:00 pm-3:30 pm eastern time.

The B-1 visa for business visitors provides short term business travelers with a unique opportunity. The B-1 option has its benefits, as well as its limitations. Exploring all the different ways that the B-1 can help a business visitor might surprise you: from individuals travelling to consult with business associates and prospective E-2 investors to certain athletes and professional entertainers. Join our experts for a discussion of all things B-1. Learn more.

Chinese Turning to American Surrogate Mothers

pregnant-womenChinese couples who are unable to have children are turning to a surprising place for help these days: America. By hiring American surrogates, Chinese couples get around a ban on surrogacy in China. Also, by having a child born abroad, parents skirt the one-child policy and get a U.S. passport for their child. These same factors drive so-called birth tourism. Continue reading “Chinese Turning to American Surrogate Mothers”

Snowden Incident May Sink Hong Kong Participation in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program

hong kong visa waiver snowdenA Senate bill would allow Hong Kong to be considered for the U.S. visa waiver program, facilitating entry for residents of this special administrative region of China.

But Congress may not be willing to pass the bill in light of Hong Kong’s 2013 decision to let NSA leaker Edward Snowden depart for Moscow despite a pending U.S. extradition request. Continue reading “Snowden Incident May Sink Hong Kong Participation in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program”

Chongqing Girl with Cancer Battles Visa Issues to Get U.S. Medical Treatment

Anni Wan, a 16-year-old from Chongqing diagnosed with cancer in her chin, was given three months to live. That’s when an American friend helped her seek out doctors at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and get a B1/B2 (visitor) visa for medical treatment from the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu. Continue reading “Chongqing Girl with Cancer Battles Visa Issues to Get U.S. Medical Treatment”

Guerrilla Diplomacy: The U.S. Government Sparks a Fury on Sina Weibo (China’s Twitter) about Visa Reciprocity

The U.S. Consular Mission is frustrated by its failure to convince China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to reciprocally increase visa validity for visas for business visitors and tourists. Now, it appears that the U.S. is engaging in guerrilla diplomacy: encouraging Chinese netizens to speak out on the issue.

Continue reading “Guerrilla Diplomacy: The U.S. Government Sparks a Fury on Sina Weibo (China’s Twitter) about Visa Reciprocity”

State Department Press Conference on Meeting the Growing Demand for U.S. Visas in China

The U.S. consular mission in China adjudicated more than one million visas during fiscal year 2011, with an approval rate of “nearly 90 percent,” said Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs Chuck Bennett at a November 8 press conference. That represents a 35%  increase in visa issuances over last year. Continue reading “State Department Press Conference on Meeting the Growing Demand for U.S. Visas in China”

U.S. Retailers Upset About Long Visa Waits for Chinese Travelers


June 9th’s Wall Street Journal reports that visitors from China are big spenders in the U.S. (averaging over $6000 per person) but visa red tape means they often opt for Europe.

“U.S. retailers are feeling left out, thanks to a clunky visa process that can force would-be tourists to wait months for permission to travel. Last year, 38% of Chinese travelers on long-distance trips visited Europe, according to the U.S. Travel Association. Just 13% came to the U.S.”

With that in mind, U.S.-based retailers like Polo and Saks Inc. are lobbying the State Department to ease the visa process for Chinese visitors. Reducing wait times is a primary goal. Getting a visa interview in Beijing currently takes about 57 days, according to the State Department. In Shanghai, it can take 65 days.

Chinese visitors love to shop in the U.S. Nearly 94% went shopping here, beating out restaurants, sightseeing and museums as the most popular activity.

U.S. Visitor Visa Approval Rates for Chinese Still Climbing

The U.S. Department of State has announced that the Fiscal Year 2010 adjusted refusal rate for B (visitor) visas for Chinese nationals is 13.3%.

That’s a continuing, significant improvement over prior years:

2010: 13.3%
2009: 15.6%
2008: 18.2%
2007: 20.7%
2006: 24.5%

In comparison, here are the 2010 refusal rates for some other countries:

Brazil: 5.2%
India: 26.8%
Mexico: 11.1%
Poland: 9.8%
Russia: 10.1%
Taiwan: 2.2%
Thailand: 13.5%
Ukraine: 31.8%

By far the most common reason that B visas are refused is failure to prove that the U.S. visit will be temporary and that the applicant doesn’t intend to abandon his or her residence in China.

I could speculate regarding the potential reasons for China’s climbing approval rates:

a. Changes in the relative strength of the U.S. and China economies has lessened the incentive for people  to apply for B visas with the hope of remaining permanently in the U.S.

b. Falling numbers of unauthorized immigrants from China living in the U.S. makes the U.S. Consular Mission in China more comfortable issuing B visas.

c. The rise of other immigration alternatives for Chinese, such as Canada and Australia, means that there is less pressure for unqualified persons to seek B visas.

Any factors I’m missing?


1. DOS figures include B-1 (visitor for business), B-2 (visitor for pleasure), and B-1/B-2 visas.
2. “Adjusted” refusal rate includes as approvals cases where the case is initially refused (such as for lack of evidence) but later approved upon reconsideration.
3. Fiscal Year 2010 runs from Oct. 1, 2009 to Sept. 30, 2010.
4. Don’t be fooled by the relatively high refusal rates for countries whose citizens are allowed visa-free travel to the U.S. (e.g., Great Britain and Northern Ireland 25.5%). Many people applying for visas from such countries are doing so because of past U.S. immigration violations or other negative factors such as criminal histories.

U.S. Visa Invitation Letters for Sale—$16,000 a Piece


The U.S. State Department has announced it is searching for Philip Ming Wong, a fugitive who has been indicted for his role in a visa fraud scheme.

“Operation Shell Games” Targeted Brokers Who Supplied Chinese Citizens with False Documents and Fraudulent Visa Applications 

United States Attorney Joseph P. Russoniello and Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) Special Agent In-Charge, Patrick Durkin announced that PHILIP MING WONG has been indicted for his role in a non-immigrant visa fraud scheme.

According to an indictment filed on September 9, 2008, PHILLIP MING WONG and his coconspirators are alleged to have operated three Bay Area companies, which existed mostly on paper and conducted no legitimate business from 1999 through 2001. PHILLIP MING WONG and his coconspirators are further alleged to have sold invitation letters from these three false or shell companies to 119 ordinary citizens of China for fees ranging up to $16,000 a piece. Lastly, it is alleged that these citizens then applied for non-immigrant visas at the American Embassy in China, using the false invitation letters and masquerading as Chinese business people doing commerce with the three false companies. In many of the 119 cases, the United States Embassy in China accepted the invitation letters sold by PHILLIP MING WONG and his co-conspirators, and issued non-immigrant visas to the Chinese citizens posing as business travelers.

PHILLIP MING WONG was indicted on one count of Conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371, eight counts of Visa Fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1546, six counts of Harboring Aliens for Financial Gain, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1324, and one count of Money Laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956. The maximum statutory penalty for these violations is five years imprisonment per count.

“Operation Shell Games” is yet another example of the Diplomatic Security Service’s vigilance in combating visa and passport fraud. We investigate multi-defendant criminal enterprises that broker in false visas, false immigration forms, and other false documents, to keep imposters and criminals out of the country,” Special Agent In-Charge Patrick Durkin of the Diplomatic Security Service, San Francisco Field Office stated.

PHILLIP MING WONG is considered a fugitive and is believed to be residing in Macao, the People’s Republic of China. Anyone with information about PHILLIP MING WONG’s whereabouts or any other false or fraudulent visa scheme is encouraged to contact DSS at (415) 705-1176.

Please note, an indictment contains only allegations against an individual and, as with all defendants, the defendants must be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Hat tip to the Experience Not Logic blog.