Visa versus I-94

  • A visa and I-94 are different. It is good to know what each one does.
  • The visa is inserted within a passport by a consular officer at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad.
  • The visa is used to enter the U.S. It does not control how long one may stay nor does it guarantee entry.
  • The Visa expiration date is the last day to enter the U.S.
  • The I-94 controls the length of stay and is issued by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at the port of entry or by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for extensions or change of status filed in the U.S.
  • The I-94 can be printed online from CBP's website and is legal proof of status and when one's authorized stay will expire.

B-1 / B-2 Visitor Visa

  • Must have a valid purpose – meetings, conventions, short-term training, contract negotiations, visiting family, and tourism.
  • Must apply at a U.S. Consulate abroad.
  • Does not authorize work in the U.S.
  • Must be paid by the overseas company and demonstrate ties to home country.
  • CBP will give an I-94 for 6 months. But business trips should generally be limited to 3 weeks and tourism to 8 weeks. Otherwise, CBP may hassle the individual on the next entry.
  • EVUS (Electronic Visa Update System): New CBP program requiring one to register on-line once the B-1 Visa is issued by the U.S. Consulate but prior to flying to the U.S. Applies only to China at this time. Must re-register every 2 years.

ESTA Visa Waiver

  • Only certain countries are eligible to use ESTA.
  • Must pre-register online with ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization).
  • May enter the U.S. for up to 90 days without a visa for business meetings, conferences, training, and tourism. But CBP prefers much shorter trips.
  • If entering for business, must be paid by an overseas company and cannot work in the U.S.
  • Cannot change status in the U.S.
  • Carry documents on the airplane in case questioned by CBP: Invitation letter, verification of employment letter proving employment abroad, and bank statement to show sufficient funds.
  • Social Media: Use discretion on social media. CBP does research to help determine a traveler's intent.

E-2 Non-Immigrant Investor

  • Allows non-immigrant investors to live and work in the U.S. based on a qualifying investment.
  • Requires an E-2 treaty between the U.S. and their country of nationality. Only certain countries are on the treaty list.
  • Investors, managers, and essential employees may apply to work in the U.S. for the E-2 company as long as they are citizens of the same treaty country.
  • U.S. company must be at least 50% owned by foreign nationals with nationality from the treaty country.
  • Investment must be substantial, at risk, and irrevocably invested ‒ $250K is the average investment.

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