Here is a modified transcription of the first part of Chris’ talk to the Sarasota Association of Realtors. Enjoy the video below!
When thinking of the immigration process we like to picture the Mississippi River. On one bank you are in your country of origin, in the other you are a citizen of the United States. Immigration Law is all the stepping stones in between the two banks.
There are two main categories of foreign nationals living in the United States. Temporary Residents and Permanent Residents or people with Green Cards. Students, athletes, visitors and investors are all considered temporary residents.
The most common temporary residents are Visitors. Traditionally foreign nationals have to get a visa to come to the US as a visitor. The US government has tried to make it easier for citizens of certain countries to enter here as visitors by establishing the Visa Waiver Program, sometimes called ESTA. People from 36 countries – mostly European, some in Asia – can come to the US without a visa and stay for 90 days. Canada is not part of the Visa Waiver Program believe it or not! They have their own category.
Say you want to stay for longer than 90 days at a time. A B-1/B-2 visitor visa would allow you to stay in the States for 6 months at a time. How many times can you use a B-1/B-2 visa during a year? The truth is, there is no clear answer. The government has left it vague on purpose. The simple rule of thumb is to spend as much time out of the US as you do in it. When making plans to enter the US look back at how much time you spent here during the last calendar year, if more than 6 months, you might not be seen as a visitor any longer and be denied entry. Always come with a round-trip ticket, utility bill, or proof of residence in home country. This should help you get through customs without problems.