Traveling to the U.S. is not just a great experience, it is also a privilege. The experience of traveling to America for any reason is coupled with a privilege – the opportunity to remain here based upon the terms of the visa under which you are granted entry.
At the airport or any other port of entry to the U.S., the immigration inspection officer will stamp your passport and provide you with an entry card, giving you the freedom to enter the U.S. The most important thing to check before you put your documents away for safekeeping is the “admitted until” date that is stamped on your entry card. Your authorization to remain in the U.S. ends on that date regardless of your reason for travel.
A few weeks ago, I consulted with a client that first came to see me in the summer of 2000 to discuss his options for staying in the U.S. He had entered the U.S. about three months before we met, with a visitor’s visa. He had taken trips to his relatives who resided in different states, before coming to Florida where he intended to spend a few weeks before returning to his birth country. While in Florida, he met with many of his cousins in his age group who were attending university and who convinced him to remain in the U.S. to continue his education.
Ten years later, my client soon sought to become an American citizen. He was able to exercise this option because he met the requirements for filing the application for naturalization. These requirements were met because he received proper counseling about his options before the time he was authorized to remain here expired.
If your are asking yourself “how long can I stay in the U.S. after I enter?” Your entry card states how long you are authorized to remain in the U.S. If you stay beyond this time, it is possible to lose the privilege of being readmitted into the U.S. unless you can demonstrate that there are extenuating circumstances that caused you to remain beyond the time you were given on the entry card.
Many persons also ask “can I change my mind, I want to go to school or I just want to stay longer?” You can exercise your right to change your mind. If you decide that you want to remain in America beyond the time on your entry card, explore your options as soon as you make that decision.
In the case of my client, he attended vocational school and at the end of the program, he obtained work authorization which allowed him to obtain practical hands-on work experience. During this time, he met and married a U.S. citizen who sponsored him to become a lawful permanent resident (a green card). Today, my client is on his way to becoming a U.S. citizen.
Call us for additional information at 954-714-8123 in our office in Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood or West Palm Beach.
Sherna Spencer is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.